The Historical Connections Among Academic Status for Canadian University Librarians, Academic Freedom, and the Requirement for Research and Scholarly Work

by Frank Winter, Librarian Emeritus
University of Saskatchewan

You know how the oddest things start to niggle in your mind? As I followed from afar the revision of the University of Saskatchewan Library’s Standards for Promotion and Tenure triggered by changes in the most recent collective agreement to a system of three ranks from four, I began to obsess about the “and” in the core requirement for an appropriate body of “research and scholarly work.” Grammatically, “and” is a coordinate conjunction used to join two equal things. Does the “and” mean that research and scholarly work are somehow different, not the same? If they are not different, why do we keep using both? Perhaps it is nothing to worry about because we share an unvoiced understanding of what research and scholarly work mean and how they are used in promotion and tenure cases?

I began re-reading the literature of research and scholarly work in Canadian university librarianship to determine how these words were used. It appears to me that the words “research” and “scholarship” or “scholarly work” have been used interchangeably in seminal work by, for example, Fox (2007) and Schrader, Shiri, and Williamson (2012). Broadening my reading to include work by scholars in other disciplines I noticed the same lack of distinction. The terms were used in a manner that was, it seemed to me, more stylistically than semantically meaningful.

A useful discussion is contained in an article published by Ruth Neumann (1993). Her work describes findings from interviews of a group of senior Australian academic administrators from a wide variety of disciplinary backgrounds on their perceptions of “research and “scholarship.” The paper’s abstract reports that,

‘Research’ has three major attributes: new knowledge, enquiry and publication of results and views. ‘Scholarship’ was perceived to be part of the research process, providing the context for good research by adding the element of breadth to the depth of ‘research’. In addition, ‘scholarship’ describes the manner of pursuing a serious, sustained line of enquiry as well as the dissemination process. (Neumann, 97)

Neumann’s paper was published after Boyer’s widely discussed reframing the discourse of scholarship and research in his report entitled Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate (1990). Boyer’s report briefly documents the rise of research in the evolving mission of the American university and the effects of this rise on the system of American higher education. As is well known, he suggests reframing scholarship into four “separate but overlapping functions… the scholarship of discovery; the scholarship of integration; the scholarship of application; and the scholarship of teaching.” The scholarship of discovery is what is traditionally known as research. For Boyer, faculty must “first establish their credentials as researchers.” (Boyer, 16)

I began to investigate if I could determine how research and scholarly work came to enter the standards for promotion and tenure for Canadian university librarians. I was greatly assisted by papers by Leona Jacobs and Jennifer Dekker in a recently published collection entitled, In solidarity: Academic librarian labour activism and union participation in Canada (2014). It turns that that there is a long and interesting history that is intimately connected to Canadian university librarians’ quest for academic status.

The Canadian Association of College and Research Libraries, predecessor of the Canadian Association of College and Universities Libraries (CACUL) flagged research as an essential component of academic status for librarians at least as early as 1969. CACUL continued to advocate for academic status throughout the 1970s. During this time the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) became university librarians’ most effective advocate and ally (Dekker, 2014). This work came to fruition with the joint CAUT/CACUL Guidelines on academic status for university librarians (1976). The Guidelines use the phrase “research and scholarly work.”

CAUT/CACUL Guidelines Part I Appointments, Section F: Criteria for Permanent Appointment and Promotion Section 3: Other criteria to be included should include: (a) Research and scholarly work. (20)

Part IV Salaries and Benefits, Section C: Research and Travel Funds, 1 Librarians should have access to research and travel funds on the same basis as other academic staff, 2 Librarians should have access to released time for research projects mutually agreed upon by the librarian and the library administration. (21)

Propogated by the CAUT/CAUCUL Guidelines and CAUT’s model clauses, “research and scholarly work” starting appearing as a category in Canadian collective agreements and standards for promotion and permanent status (or tenure) from the 1970s onwards. This formulation, with the later addition of “creative work,” continues to the present day.

Even after considering the discussion above, does that “and” matter all that much? In a bracing paper entitled “Librarians as teachers, researchers and community members,” Meg Raven, Francesca Holyoke, and Karen Jensen write in their discussion of librarians as researchers,

The [CAUT] Model Clause [on Scholarly Activities of Academic Librarians] serves two purposes. The first is the inclusive understanding of ‘research, study, educational and other scholarly activities’ which ‘brings benefits to and enhances the reputation of the University, the profession and the individual librarian.’ This understanding permits setting aside the discourse on research as a type of scholarly activity: here the assumptions will be that scholarly activity and research are synonymous. (2014, 133)

Well, this position is certainly arguable but I would be concerned if it muddies the fact that some original published research is going to be required of individual librarians as one of the components of their promotion or tenure cases. Research and scholarly work have a long and important place in the history of the struggle for academic status for Canadian university librarians. Academic status and academic freedom have, over a much longer period of time, been understood to involve published research. For librarians, academic status, academic freedom, and research (and thus publication) have been inextricably connected for decades. You cannot have one without the other two.

Discussions such as those by Boyer and Neumann make it clear that, although they are intimately related, there is a meaningful distinction between how research and scholarship are understood and how they are used in promotion and tenure documents. And I know that there is also a growing grey literature of other documents associated with existing collective agreements and promotion and tenure standards explaining what is meant by each category and giving examples of what would be considered research and what would be considered scholarship.

It is clear also from the discussion above and reflected powerfully in an editorial by Scott Walter (2013) that university librarians are only one component of a dynamic university environment. Research and scholarly work in their overarching meanings, how they are understood for the varied disciplines on each campus, and the specific language of collective agreements and tenure and promotion standards have evolved over time and continue to evolve. There is, however, a bedrock understanding of the place of and the consequent requirement for research and scholarly work in the academy. In conclusion, then, I would argue that the “and” is meaningful. Both are required although they serve both overlapping yet distinctive functions.


Boyer, Ernest. (1990). Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Canadian Association of College and Research Libraries/ Association canadienne des bibliotheques des college et d’universitie. (1969). Position classification and principles of academic status in Canadian university libraries. (Ottawa: Canadian Library Association).

Canadian Association of College and University Libraries and Canadian Association of University Teachers. 1976. Guidelines on academic status for university librarians. CAUT Bulletin ACPU 24(5) (March 1976) 19 – 22.

Dekker, Jennifer. (2014). Out of the “library ghetto:” An exploration of CAUT’s contributions to the achievements of academic librarians. In Jennifer Dekker and Mary Kandiuk, eds., In solidarity: Academic librarian labour activism and union participation in Canada. (Sacramento, CA.: Library Juice Press), 39 – 60.

Fox, David. (2007). The scholarship of Canadian research university librarians. Partnership: The Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research, 2 (2). Available at

Jacobs, Leona. (2014). Academic status for Canadian academic librarians: a brief history. In Jennifer Dekker and Mary Kandiuk, eds., In solidarity: Academic librarian labour activism and union participation in Canada. (Sacramento, CA.: Library Juice Press), 9 – 37.

Neumann, Ruth. (1993). Research and scholarship: Perceptions of senior academic administrators. Higher Education, 25, (2), 97-110; doi:0.1007/BF01384743.

Raven, Meg, Holyoke, Francesca, and Jensen, Karen. Librarians as teachers, researchers and community members. In Jennifer Dekker and Mary Kandiuk, eds., In solidarity: Academic librarian labour activism and union participation in Canada. (Sacramento, CA.: Library Juice Press), 127 – 149.

Schrader, Alvin M., Shiri, Ali, and Williamson, Vicki. (2012). Assessment of the research learning needs of University of Saskatchewan librarians: a case study. College & Research Libraries 73(2) 147-16;, doi: 10.5860/crl-235.

Walter, Scott. (2013) The “multihued palette” of academic librarianship. College and Research Libraries 74, 223-226; doi:10.5860/0740223.

This article gives the views of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

On Online Conferences

by Donna Frederick
Services to Libraries, University of Saskatchewan

As I prepare my presentation for the Library 2.015 conference, I am reminded of recent comments about online conferences. These comments range from how some librarians enjoy the variety of topics and perspectives offered to those who felt that these conferences were amateurish and low-impact. The debates I have heard remind me somewhat of arguments I have heard about open access publishing. Given that I have attended free online conferences for five years in a row and presented at them four times, I feel that I can now confidently compare and contrast the different types.

I have presented at both “in person” and “online” conferences. There are some key differences between the two. These differences don’t necessarily make one type better or more important than the other. “In person” conferences do generally have a stricter vetting process for proposals, this makes sense for a conference which involves physical space, sessions which occur at a specific time and a limited number of attendees. It would be a waste to rent a room for a session which very few people attend. If the number of presentations is bloated out of proportion with the number of conference attendees, the “empty” room is likely. Careful selection of the most suitable proposals makes sense. With online conferences, presenters are required to submit proposals which are reviewed by a committee before being accepted but the criteria is not as strict and, as far as I understand, there is no official limit on the number of sessions.

My favourite in person conference is definitely ALA. Once a year I meet with colleagues and experts from within my specialization. I communicate with many of these librarians via email and social media during the year. I find it valuable to meet with them in person. There is nothing like being in the room when the Library of Congress discusses a controversial new standard change. Given that I often don’t have the chance to speak to those who have a deep understanding of or interest in the fine details of my work, I relish animated and energetic interest group talks. I have found it motivating to speak to those who have written the books and journal articles I have read. I wouldn’t suggest that it would be good for the ALA conferences to be replaced entirely with an online conference. To do so would truly be a loss.

But what about online conferences? I have to admit that the first time I gave a presentation to a blank computer screen was a strange and alienating experience. This is coming from a person who completed a master’s degree online! With the online conference, the magic often shows up after the fact. Maybe 20 or 30 people will be present in the virtual room while I give the presentation, but I have discovered people will continue to watch the recorded sessions two or three years after they were first given. My Library 2.0 presentations have led to many interesting email and social media discussions. Various doors have been opened to me and I have made some valuable professional connections. With the in person conferences where I have presented, I received some follow-up email but not anywhere near the volume I received for my online conferences.

In terms of being an attendee at an online conference, there are a few unpolished sessions but most are worth watching. I find the keynote speakers are generally well-known and respected librarians. Quality research and reports of highly interesting projects from around the world are common. One of the key issues is that some of the librarians who present at Library 2.0 are those who for one reason or another may not have the resources to travel to and present at the larger conferences. I find that the recordings are a definite strength because I can gradually work through the sessions which might be of interest for months after the conference. If I start watching a session which is not of interest, then I move on to the next one.

In summary, I think that online conferences play a significant role in leveling the playing field for ideas from libraries and librarians from around the world. It’s important to recognize the value of the opportunities to share ideas and experiences and not write the conferences off because they are free or because the diverse array of presenters include students and less experienced librarians.

This article gives the views of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.