With their current contract expiring in September 2018, UC librarians went into bargaining negotiations with the UC Office of the President (UCOP) this month for a new contract. Among their list of priorities is a salary increase and more financial support for research and professional development.

The University Council-American Federation of Teachers (UC-AFT) is the union representing librarians and lecturers in the UC system. UC-AFT vice president of organizing Roxi Power said librarians are looking for equal treatment relative to their peers in other higher education institutions.

“The UC is not really keeping up with most of the university systems in the country when it comes to supporting librarians as the professionals that they are,” Power said. “[…UC librarians] are trying to find salary parity with the CSU system.”

The past round of negotiations in 2013, resulting in the current contract, introduced major changes to the salary scale. In the previous scale, an assistant librarian could earn one of three wage amounts, while in the current scale they can earn one of nine. Librarians are typically reviewed every two or three years, after which they get a raise. This gives workers in the system a more natural progression path, which UCSC librarian Ken Lyons said is beneficial, but not enough. He said a baseline increase to salaries for librarians is a top priority.

In an email statement, UCOP wrote, “We recognize and appreciate the critical role of UC’s librarians in advancing the university’s teaching, research and public service missions. Our goal is to reach a long-term deal that includes competitive pay, continued quality health care and excellent retirement benefits.”

Compared to CSU librarians, UC librarians are non-senate academics, meaning they cannot sit on the academic senate, while CSU and community college librarians are tenured faculty, Lyons said.

Seen as more temporary positions, non-senate academics are not given the same treatment as tenure-track faculty. They aren’t allowed sabbatical leave, do not have voting seats on the academic senate and aren’t allowed to own copyright for their work.

These working conditions caused retention rates among UC librarians to dramatically decrease in recent years, Lyons said, as many librarians leave the UC for higher paying jobs elsewhere.

“I got started here in 2001, and there were 30 librarians,” Lyons said. “It dropped down to 16, so basically we lost half of them. In the last three or four years they’ve hired four or five librarians, but that’s still nowhere near where we were 17 years ago.”

Librarians are expected to make contributions to the profession, usually by participating in committees and working with regional, state and national library organizations. They also conduct and publish research, and educate students on information literacy.

As the number of librarians at UCSC has gone down, so has the amount of services provided by the library, said UCSC associate librarian Rachel Jaffe. The university is trending toward hiring librarians who have more specialized skills with a focus in technology, but that doesn’t replace the services available in the past, Jaffe said.

“There’s this assumption that [students] aren’t going to notice what they never had,” Jaffe said. “[They say] ‘We don’t offer instruction, but they don’t know any different. We don’t offer the reference hours we used to, but they don’t know any different. We don’t offer the level of descriptive metadata associated with our digital collections anymore, but they won’t know the difference.’”

The first of the current bargaining sessions was held at UC Berkeley, and the second at UC Irvine. A third meeting is expected to happen June 19 at UC Davis.

“I would like for UC to have a deeper understanding of what libraries and librarians provide,” Lyons said. “[…] I would like UCSC in particular to recognize that librarians really underpin the mission of this campus.”