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Educating from the Margins: Academic Librarians and Academic Freedom

By Alexis Logsdon and Danya Leebaw

Abstract:

In this article, we highlight how academic librarians’ distinct and often precarious role on campus, together with our profession’s focus on the parent concept of intellectual freedom, complicates librarians’ ability to enact academic freedom in their daily work. After a brief review of the literature, we share findings from our original research into this topic. We then offer two scenarios that showcase how the familiar, routine work of librarians is subject to scrutiny and pushback in ways that have been normalized and rationalized by higher education colleagues. Throughout the article, we attend to how social identity and positional power affect higher education workers’ experiences of academic freedom. Ultimately, we argue that academic freedom limitations for academic librarians matter in their own right, and also illuminate problems with precarity in higher education as a whole.

View the entire article "Educating from the Margins: Academic Librarians and Academic Freedom."

Comments

Your topic is such an important one, and one we really grappled with here at the University of California. I'd be curious what you think of the result--a new section that we added to our systemwide academic personnel manual to extend protections to "non-faculty academic appointees". It's here: https://www.ucop.edu/academic-personnel-programs/_files/apm/apm-011.pdf

I had hoped that UC's work on this issue might inspire other schools to follow suit, but I'm not aware of that yet happening.

Thank you for your response and question! I am familiar with the impressive work that the UC Librarians did to advocate for academic freedom protections for librarians and ultimately win these protections for not only librarians, but other professional academic staff. In fact, Alexis and I led a session with the librarians' union at their annual assembly earlier this year on thinking through these new rights in practice, brainstorming and discussing potential scenarios where academic freedom might be at issue. We are very inspired by you and all the UC librarians who did this work! And I too hope that over time, other librarians see this as an option at their own institutions.

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