Contingent appointments in academic libraries: management challenges and opportunities

Publication Date11 Nov 2019
AuthorMarta Bladek
SubjectLibrary & information science
Contingent appointments in
academic libraries: management
challenges and opportunities
Marta Bladek
Lloyd Sealy Library, CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice,
New York, New York, USA
Purpose Academias overwhelming reliance on non-tenure track, or contingent, faculty is a well-known
fact. While the status and working conditions of contingent classroom faculty have been well studied and
documented, the corresponding trend in academic libraries has not been explored as deeply. As this paper
reviews the limited LIS literature on the subject, the purpose of this paper is to provide administrators and
managers with a deeper understanding of the benefits and drawbacks of contingent appointments. It also
offers strategies for fostering a workplace culture that recognizes contingent librarianscontributions and
promotes their professional growth.
Design/methodology/approach An overview of scholarly and professional literature on contingent
librarianship, this paper is based on published research studies and academic articles; given the prominence
of anecdotal and personal writing on the subject, columns and first-person essays from trade publications, as
well as library-related blogs and job search sites, are also included.
Findings Contingent librarians have been a steady presence in academic libraries for the last few
decades. The trend is continuing. There are specific practices that can be applied to effectively manage
contingent librarians.
Originality/value The paper offers academic library administrators and managers a concise yet
comprehensive overview of the issues related to contingent appointments.
Keywords Management, Administration, Academic libraries, Librarians, Contingent librarians,
Part-time librarians, Temporary librarians
Paper type General review
Academias overwhelming reliance on contingent faculty is a well-known fact. Contingent
faculty, as defined by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), are
part-time and full-time faculty hired off the tenure track (American Association of
University Professors, 2003). In their comprehensive overview of the literature and research
on the phenomenon, Kezar and Sam (2013) identify two distinct phases that have resulted in
non-tenure track faculty teaching the great majority of students at American colleges and
universities today. The expansion of community colleges in the 1970s coincided with the
unparalleled hiring of part-time faculty whose numbers have been growing since (Kezar and
Sam, 2013, p. 25). The 1990s, in turn, marked an increase in the number of full-time
non-tenure track faculty teaching at four-year institutions (Kezar and Sam, 2013, p. 26).
The AAUP has been documenting the accelerating trend of non-tenure track appointments.
The most recent data available, for the year 2016, indicates that across all US institutions
73 percent of faculty across all higher education institutions are not on the tenure track
(American Association of University Professors, 2018).
In contrast to the well-researched and documented status of contingent faculty, the
corresponding trend in academic libraries has been studied less. Librarians have faculty
status and are eligible for tenure only at about half of colleges and institutions (Walters,
2016). Academic libraries are affected by the same financial constraints as their host
institutions, including limited budgets to hire full-time tenure-track or permanent faculty
(Gremmels, 2013; Walters, 2016). And yet, in-depth research and statistical data on
Library Management
Vol. 40 No. 8/9, 2019
pp. 485-495
© Emerald PublishingLimited
DOI 10.1108/LM-06-2019-0032
Received 6 June 2019
Revised 10 September 2019
Accepted 20 September 2019
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
in academic

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT