The 8Rs Redux: How National Trends Can Inform Local Responses

by Vicki Williamson
Dean, University Library, University of Saskatchewan

Last December, I blogged about the value of big picture library trend reports in the smaller context of your local library. In this blog, I continue that same theme.

Over a decade ago, ground-breaking research into the Canadian library workforce was published. The original study of the Canadian library workforce (The Future of Human Resources in Canadian Libraries, 2006, is also known as the “8Rs Study”) was widely disseminated; marked the first time that human resources issues were so thoroughly and widely examined across Canada; and, was always intended to be used as a baseline from which future research would be compared. Follow-up research for the research libraries sector across Canada is now a reality with the recently completed (and soon to be released) report from the 8Rs Redux CARL Libraries Human Resource Study, 2015.

The 8Rs Redux, for libraries that are members of the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL), has delivered a quantitative mapping (within a 10-year timeframe) of the many ways in which CARL libraries and their staffing requirements have changed, as well as how they have responded to changes in their operating environment. I am very pleased to have been a co-investigator with the 8Rs Redux Study, led by Kathleen DeLong, Principal Investigator, and Marianne Sorensen, Co-Investigator, as it provides a strong body of evidence to inform future workforce planning locally and nationally.

The 8Rs Redux Study tells us many things, but overall it shows that: “Retirements, alongside the hiring of younger librarians and the restructuring of some roles and the attrition of others, has resulted in a noteworthy turnover of CARL library staff and a slightly larger and younger librarian workforce, many of whom are learning more new tasks in challenging and interesting roles that increasingly encompass specialised skills and that engender comparatively high levels of job satisfaction.”

The soon to be released final report will provide many other insights into the current make-up of the CARL workforce around the themes of staff characteristics; organizational context of change; recruitment; retirement; professional and paraprofessional population and role change; librarian competency and competency change; education and training; and, quality of work life and job satisfaction. The 2015 study shows that 8Rs have grown to be 9Rs, with role change joining the 2005 identified workforce themes of recruitment, retirement, retention, remuneration, repatriation, rejuvenation, re-accreditation, and restructuring.

But to get to that local library-specific context, what does this national longitudinal data have to do with workforce planning at the local level? Well for a start, it provides the opportunities to review whether our local cohort characteristics reflect those at the national level. If they do, then what does that mean in terms of workforce planning, recruitment, and training and development? If not, then what local factors impact our library, and why are those national trends not obvious in our environment?

A welcome addition to the 8Rs Redux Report (2015) is the inclusion of a strategic human resources planning implication section for each of the major report categories. This section should be helpful to deans/directors, human resource managers, and others involved with library human resources planning. For example, the section within the retirement theme poses questions about succession planning that may need action both the local and national levels.

Overall, the final report from the 8Rs Redux CARL Libraries Human Resources Study (2015) contains a wealth of evidence-based data and information to help inform the ongoing development of the CARL workforce.