Open Access Tenure: Librarianship Review from the Other Side

This fall, I’ve had the opportunity to sit on the other side of the table for the Evaluation of Librarianship for another tenure track faculty member of the University Library. It’s the third seat I’ve held at this table: interviewee, candidate being reviewed, and now interviewer.

A process reminder: we go through two rounds of Evaluation of Librarianship at MPOW, first during third year and then again during fifth year. So I’ll have another round of it next fall. The committee is formed in the early fall. Only people further along the path than I am can serve on my committee–so my tenure track coworker who started in June isn’t eligible to serve on anyone’s, and I can’t serve on the fifth year (5y) committees, but I can serve on the third year (3y) committees.  I have the option to request to my dean that someone not serve on my committee.  I’m not sure how frequently that happens, but in the occasionally strife world of academic politics, it’s nice that they provide that option.

As candidate, however, I do not choose who is interviewed. I can make suggestions about who they might want to talk to but they don’t have to take them.  At my third year, they interviewed someone from the College of Dentistry; it is my hope that they will again at my fifth year. From my impressions, frequent interviewees are supervisors/ees, research mentors, and immediate department peers.

I was interviewed for a colleague who is no longer at UIC a couple of years ago.  We have a standard list of questions that the committee sends out (it lives on our intranet) and that is intended to start the conversation. It isn’t required that one sticks to script and people’s different working relationships certainly lead the conversation to other things, but it’s nice to have some areas to cover and ideas of what should be discussed. I’d written myself a lot of notes about the colleague before I went in, mostly so that I had a list of the major projects or points that I wanted to mention. It’s something like being in a job interview, only you’re being interviewed for someone else’s job.  There’s a solid punch of nerves with participating.

And now I sit, notebook in hand, interviewing others. It’s a serious task for all of us, though one I would say is approached with optimism.  The goal is to solicit all of the great things that a colleague is doing and has done over the past few years as well as to identify opportunities for more development. The colleague I’m currently sitting for is not someone that I work with every day, so it’s a chance for me to get to hear about other aspects of the library.  There are 3 of us sitting on the committee and we’ll conduct 3 interviews.

We’re through two of the three interviews, one more to go and then the chair will draft a report, to which we other two will add our comments. It will then be sent to the candidate for review/comments (in case we  wrote something down wrong–we’re all taking notes by hand, it’s possible–or the candidate would like to clarify something) and then it will go forward to the University Library Promotion and Tenure Committee in January.

For me, due to the differences between this colleague’s work and mine,  it’s hard to figure out some of the equivalences. Does x participation on my forms equal y on theirs? How do we evaluate impact of z and how do we avoid only looking at checkbox-y kind of things?  Also, it’s frustrating to me that librarianship reports of tenured faculty aren’t available to me to read for examples–if I’m ever called to write one, I’ll only have my own and the ones that I’ve helped to write to turn to.  I could see holding the mid-probationary ones back, but I also think my full promotion dossier that goes to campus should be available –at least in print if someone wants to read it.

Something to argue for once I get tenure….