ISSG met to discuss workload equity among the New Brunswick Libraries Faculty. We recognized from the beginning that this is a highly complex and contentious topic. Nonetheless, we felt that, considering a degree of imbalance in workload at present and the probability that more will be expected of us in terms of reference and instruction in the near future, this is an important issue to address. As a general principle we all agreed that, in the long term, it is preferable to approach this in a holistic fashion; that although we should strive to make workloads relatively equitable, we should also consider the strengths and preferences of individual faculty members in reaching that goal. If, for example, a colleague is skilled at and prefers providing more one-on-one reference at a reference desk, he or she would be expected to provide less bibliographic instruction or online reference. At the same time, most of us felt that it would be unproductive and inappropriate to attempt to quantify what we do, to establish equivalencies between different tasks and try to balance workloads numerically.
We decided that, as an initial step, we should address the more manageable issue of uneven participation in instruction for courses in the English Department's Writing Program, 201s and 301s. Jeris presented statistics from the NBL Instruction Statistics database that make evident an imbalance in workload in instruction generally. From 2004 to 2007, for example, four colleagues each provided more than one hundred bibliographic instruction sessions, while seven provided twenty or less. Some did none at all. Jeris also explained how she currently solicits instructors for the English 201s and 301s. Before the beginning of each semester, she attends a workshop for the instructors, at which time they schedule library sessions for their classes. Some of them will request librarians with whom they have worked in the past. For the rest, Jeris will ask colleagues who have expressed an interest in participating to teach sections that seem to match their interests and subject expertise. One steering group member observed that this reliance solely on volunteers perpetuates the imbalance in workload for instruction. It was also suggested that some colleagues might be "over-volunteering," accepting much more than their fair share of classes.
The steering group discussed possible reasons for the reluctance on the part of some of our colleagues to participate equally in bibliographic instruction. Some may feel that, as subject experts, they should not be expected to help teach "lower-level" classes like the 201s and 301s. Others may be frustrated with the level of support provided for new forms of online instruction and still others may simply lack the energy and commitment to contribute at an equitable level. Whatever the reasons may be, it was agreed that, at least in principle, the NBL Faculty recognizes the value of bibliographic instruction at all levels. One part of the solution to the problem is to simply try to do more with less. We will, for example, develop digital alternatives to traditional, face-to-face instruction and if we succeed in "embedding" library instruction in the undergraduate curriculum currently under development in the School of Arts and Sciences, we may eliminate some of the redundancy in instruction for undergraduates. Another important part, however, is to have all New Brunswick faculty participate equitably in instruction at all levels. The statistics that Jeris presented need to be further refined, but they seem to indicate that a significant number of our colleagues should contribute more fully.
The steering group felt strongly that, as a faculty body, we need to firmly establish the principle that we all share the responsibility for bibliographic instruction, that it is a basic part of what we all do as librarians. This fundamental expectation might be expressed in the form of a vote on a formal resolution at a meeting of the New Brunswick Libraries Faculty. Such a commonly accepted standard would at least create a degree of "peer pressure" to contribute ones fair share to instruction. It was noted, for example, that no one ever denies that he or she is obligated to provide service at a reference desk. We should foster precisely the same attitude towards instruction. The steering group also recognized, however, that this is not exclusively a faculty issue. Peer pressure will certainly help, but the new Associate University Librarian for Research and Instructional Services has an important role in convincing individual librarians to contribute equitably to instruction as well as to other commonly shared tasks.