U.C. Librarian Peer
Review: Another Model for Faculty Self-Governance
by Terence K. Huwe and Ginny Irving
Development of U.C. Librarian Peer Review
Different Duties, Different Procedures
How U.C. Librarian Peer Review Works
The APM and Local Procedures
Safeguards and Appeals
Applicability to Other Settings
The concept of tenure is receiving a great deal
of attention, not only within academic institutions, but also in
general public debate. Critics argue that tenure was meant to protect
academic freedom, but it all too easily becomes a contract for lifetime
employment with no accountability. In response, apologists for tenure
point to the peer review process as the guarantor of quality and
professional autonomy. They argue that, instead of doing away with
tenure, the peer review process should be strengthened in order
to keep the faculty accountable, both to administrators and to colleagues.
The May/June issue of Academe, the bulletin of
the American Association of University Professors, was devoted to
the "crisis" in tenure.1 In articulating a defense of
tenure's virtues, the many contributors repeatedly emphasize self-governance
through peer review. Any alternative, they argue, would limit academic
freedom and give administrators too much power. Yet, in an article
about faculty responsibility, philosophy professor Richard N. Stichler
points out that failure to confront incompetence when it occurs,
"discredit[s] the profession's claim to effective self-governance
and provide[s] support for those who want either to abolish tenure
or impose post-tenure review."2 Consequently, the professoriate
must find new ways of demonstrating accountability or risk a surge
of new regulation, changes in the tenure system, or its dissolution
Faculty members need look only as far as the library
to see another tenure strategy for oversight of academic professionals.
In particular, the formation of peer review practices for librarians
at the University of California provides an interesting example
of how accountability and performance evaluation can be integrated
into tenure practices. Academic personnel policies covering U.C.
librarians combine peer review practices with administrative review;
this article will explore the strengths and weaknesses of this system.
U.C. librarian peer review is just one of many
systems for self-governing groups, and it may not be the only solution
for faculty members in colleges and universities. However, this
system does emphasize ongoing performance evaluation while preserving
academic freedom. As such, it may offer some insight for teaching
faculty who are challenged to justify their rights and privileges.
It also may offer a reasonable model for secondary school teachers
who face increasing demands to demonstrate their effectiveness over
the length of their careers. Combined administrative and peer review
also can challenge faculty members to be more conscious of their
career and professional development, although the greater role of
administrative reviewers may be unacceptable to many faculty.
DEVELOPMENT OF U.C. LIBRARIAN
U.C. librarian peer review arose during the 1960s
and 70s when changes in the economy and in society triggered a public
debate about information management at colleges and universities.
During those years, the demand for professionally trained librarians
vastly outpaced the workforce, and the "information explosion" was
in full bloom. The rapid introduction of new technology brought
new responsibilities that were piled on top of traditional, print-based
styles of information management, as well as the library's mission
to preserve knowledge over the long term. Librarians responded by
taking on much-expanded duties, as well as growing budgets.
Academic status was first formalized at the University
of Illinois, and most colleges and universities followed this lead.3
Many universities (such as the California State University) drew
no distinction between librarians and faculty members. Community
colleges and "teaching" colleges in particular follow this system
of making no distinction between professors and librarians.
The University of California, however, followed
a different path. U.C. President Clark Kerr formalized academic
status for librarians but drew a marked distinction between professors
and other types of academic employees, like librarians or lecturers.
U.C. has long viewed itself as competing with elite, private universities,
and faculty recruitment and retention is a matter of vital importance.
As a public institution, the university is not entirely free to
pay "superstar" salaries to world-famous researchers. Because of
this, the university has long argued that membership in the academic
senate - which defines the "ladder rank" faculty - should be limited
to professors who teach and conduct research for a living. By differentiating
between professors and librarians, the university was preserving
the exclusivity of the professoriate, and also recognizing that
a career in professional librarianship might require different incentives
and rewards. In essence, the university has viewed library work
as fundamentally pedagogical, but distinct from classroom or laboratory
Consequently, U.C. professors, as members of the
academic senate, have a distinct and separate status within the
academic ranks, which is defined by membership in the academic senate.
This is an important distinction. As a research university, the
University of California pledges to share governance of the university
with its academic senate. Librarians differ from other academic
employees in that they are covered by a collective bargaining agreement.
Moreover, they are the only group of academic employees, other than
professors, who practice peer review. The peer review procedures
for U.C. librarians are modeled after the faculty procedures but
have been revised substantially to reflect the different nature
of their work.
DIFFERENT DUTIES, DIFFERENT
U.C. faculty members are subject to peer review
by the academic senate. The senate manages tenure and peer review
through a committee structure. Decisionmaking authority rests with
the chancellor and vice chancellor of the campus, but the recommendation
of the senate budget committee is extremely influential. Review
focuses on the research and scholarly activities of the candidate,
and secondarily on classroom effectiveness.
U.C. librarian peer review closely resembles faculty
peer review, but it is managed by the Librarians Association of
the University of California. Like the academic senate, LAUC is
charged with advising the university librarian and chancellor on
each campus, and also the president of the University of California.
LAUC's version of the senate budget committee is called the Committee
on Appointment, Promotion and Advancement, a body selected by the
local LAUC executive committee on each U.C. campus. CAPA follows
guidelines that are structured to recognize not only research and
scholarly work but also job performance in the candidate's "core
assignment." In librarian peer review, emphasis is placed first
on performance in the librarian's primary job, but to advance into
the upper ranks, outside professional and research activities and
public service are required. Details of CAPA's role, and the interplay
of administrative review within the peer review process, are described
Because librarians are represented by a union,
the University Federation of Librarians-University Council-AFT,
the peer review system for librarians does not address any issues
covered by collective bargaining.4 The memorandum of
understanding between the university and the union preserves several
of the features that standard tenure confers on the U.C. faculty.
These include provision of special travel funding, research funding
for scholarly work, administrative leave, unpaid leave, and several
other rights and privileges. Funding for travel and research is
calculated on a per capita basis for each campus; therefore, larger
campuses (like UCLA and U.C. Berkeley) receive a larger share of
funding because they employ more academic librarians.
HOW U.C. LIBRARIAN PEER REVIEW
The librarian payroll series at the university
is divided into three ranks, assistant, associate, and full librarian.
The series recognizes "dual pathways" of professional growth; this
means that rank-and-file reference librarians, branch managers,
and persons managing very large departments (over 25 staff with
multiple professionals) are all paid according to the same salary
scale. The rationale for dual pathways of professional development
was to reward not only librarian managers but those librarians building
a career based on public service or the acquisition of constantly
deepening expertise in specific subject disciplines or new technologies.
Recruitment of new librarians ordinarily is conducted
via national searches, in order to attract the most qualified candidates.
Appointment can be made at any level within the ranks but typically
is limited to the assistant and associate ranks. Candidates are
interviewed by a search committee and also by a subcommittee of
CAPA. This step ensures that peer evaluation is part of the recruiting
When candidates are appointed, they become "potential
career" employees. Incumbents in the assistant rank have up to six
years to gain "career status," the tenure analogue, and incumbents
in the associate rank have up to four years. Incumbents are reviewed
annually at the lower ranks; as they progress, the review cycle
is extended to two years, and then three years (see Tables I and
II)TABLE I. TABLE II.
All reviews require the construction of a "dossier"
by the candidate's review initiator (usually the librarian's supervisor)
that describes the candidate's progress and achievements, according
to four basic criteria: competence in the "core assignment," professional
service outside the library, university and public service, and
original research or other creative work. Several documents are
compiled, including the candidate's self-evaluation, the review
initiator's evaluation, and, in some cases, subsequent administrative
reviewers' evaluations (assistant university librarians or deans,
for instance). Confidential letters (optional for regular merit
reviews) may be solicited by the review initiator either from a
list provided by the candidate or, less commonly, by the review
initiator independently. Publications, reports, research guides,
URLs for web sites developed by the candidate, and other writings
of the candidate are included. The complete dossier provides reviewers
and the final decisionmaker with an overview of the incumbent's
Candidates for advancement have broad leeway to
decide how to structure their careers, and can choose to emphasize
any or all of these areas of broader contributions beyond the core
assignment according to their skills and interests. It is expected
that professional activity will have substantial relevance to the
core assignment; for example, a Slavic studies cataloguer likely
would be active in national and international professional groups
devoted to Slavic studies.
Apart from merit reviews, which are conducted according
to a timetable, there are two major milestones in the career development
of U.C. librarians. These are promotion between ranks and granting
of career status. A librarian may request a promotion review when
he or she feels ready to seek advancement to the next rank, or else
seek promotion according to the timetable described in Table I.
A promotion review requires the development of a dossier that evaluates
the candidate's entire career, including past achievements and future
goals. It is particularly important to include confidential letters,
publications, and other supplementary materials to strengthen the
dossier. Assistant librarians who are seeking promotion to the associate
rank are required to combine a promotion review with a career status
The career status review is the most important
review of a U.C. librarian's career because it grants security of
employment and signals the university's confidence in the abilities
of the librarian. If career status is denied, the librarian must
seek other employment within one year. Dossiers for career status
also include a full review of the candidate's entire career, confidential
letters, supporting documents, and any other material that might
help reviewers and final decisionmakers.
Promotion and career status reviews receive extra
attention throughout the process. In addition to the candidate's
self-evaluation and administrative evaluation, an "ad hoc committee"
is formed to review the dossier. The committee, comprised of three
campus librarians, provides CAPA with a confidential recommendation.
CAPA reviews all dossiers and manages the peer review process with
the help of campus academic personnel officers, who oversee academic
employees but not staff employees. CAPA makes a recommendation on
all dossiers, paying special attention to the additional recommendations
of ad hoc committees. After all reviews are completed, CAPA forwards
the completed dossier with the CAPA recommendation to the final
decisionmaker (the university librarian in most cases). In instances
where an academic librarian is employed by a library in a professional
school, research institute, or other setting that does not fall
under the jurisdiction of the university librarian, the vice chancellor
may be the final decisionmaker.
THE APM AND LOCAL PROCEDURES
The academic personnel manual, governing all academic
appointees at the University of California, contains standardized
procedures concerning confidentiality, composition of review committees,
criteria for appointment and advancement, time spent at each rank
and step, personnel records, etc. These procedures must be followed
in librarian peer review cases on all U.C. campuses. In addition,
each campus has its own local procedures, which often provide more
detail than the systemwide APM.5 It is important to note
that librarians always have had an important role in developing
and consulting on the procedures for their own review. Librarians
were consulted, through LAUC, when these review procedures were
first adopted in the 1970s, and librarians continue to propose and
be consulted about amendments and additions to both the systemwide
and local procedures.
SAFEGUARDS AND APPEALS
The deliberations of all reviewers are strictly
confidential, and the recommendations of CAPA and ad hoc committees,
and the determination of the final decisionmaker, must be based
on information contained in the dossier. Both CAPA and the final
decisionmaker have the right to request additional information if
they are unable to reach a decision; however, this information must
be added to the dossier, the candidate and review initiator must
be notified that the information has been added, and the candidate
must be given an opportunity to respond. At the end of the review
process, candidates have the right to see "redacted" copies of all
confidential documents in their dossier, which enables them to read
the confidential letters and recommendations of CAPA and the ad
hoc committees (without seeing the names of the authors). Candidates
also are afforded the right to request and respond to confidential
information prior to certifying that the dossier is complete (before
reviewers receive the dossier). Candidates also may name individuals
who they believe will not provide a fair assessment of their accomplishments.
If the final decisionmaker disagrees with CAPA's
recommendation, he or she is required to inform CAPA of this difference
of opinion. This enables CAPA to reiterate its support or criticisms,
or to reconsider its original recommendation.
Candidates who are denied merit increases, promotion,
or career status may ask for a "reconsideration" by the decisionmaker.
If they again are denied, they may appeal to the vice chancellor.
If they are denied relief by the vice chancellor, they have exhausted
the options provided by the peer review process. At that point,
they may be able to file a grievance and seek a remedy with the
support of the University Federation of Librarians-University Council-AFT
local chapter. Alternatively, they may pursue legal action against
the university. These subsequent options are not monitored or influenced
by the peer review process.
As the process clearly shows, U.C. librarian peer
review combines administrative and supervisory reviews with academic
evaluation by one's own colleagues. The assembly of dossiers is
labor intensive and requires at least some degree of self-assessment.
This affords U.C. librarians several opportunities to review their
career goals, build respect among their colleagues, and stay in
touch with shifting administrative priorities. As challenging as
the process may be, it can also be an affirming experience, and
offer the opportunity for candidates to step outside the heavy pressures
of daily academic life and reassess accomplishments and goals.
Unlike faculty peer review, which focuses on research
and publications, librarian peer review is highly focused on the
quality and impact of the librarian's actual performance on the
job. However, while an outstanding performance in a core assignment
may prove sufficient for advancement into the middle ranks of the
series, the academic personnel manual stresses that librarians are
expected to make substantial contributions to the university, in
their professional and subject areas, through participation in professional
associations and on university committees, and through research
and publications, in order to advance to the higher steps of the
series. Consequently, the peer review process challenges librarians
to push themselves, stay current with changes in the profession,
and build a network of supportive colleagues. In essence, the structure
of U.C. librarian peer review specifically has been designed to
encourage productivity and accountability. Accountability flows
both to colleagues (with whom candidates must work collaboratively)
and to administrators, who are concerned with the overall mission
of library services.
In addition to engendering librarian accountability
and career growth, U.C. librarian peer review provides important
checks and balances to guard against capriciousness in advancement
based on favoritism or non-advancement based on retaliation. Biases
of review committees or final decisionmakers are less likely to
emerge where both peer and administrative reviews take place. Moreover,
the requirement that final decisions be based on material contained
in the dossier to which the candidate has access upon request, guards
against decisions unsupported by reliable evidence.
Because U.C. librarian peer review involves so
many opportunities for administrative input, administrative reviewers
have substantial influence over the process. If administrative reviewers
coordinate their evaluations before the dossier is submitted, they
may be able to increase or decrease a candidate's chances for advancement.
However, because so many reviewers are involved, it is difficult
to completely dispense with objectivity.
Most important of all, the final decisionmaker
is the university librarian (or the vice chancellor, in some cases)
and not the peer review committees, and the recommendations of the
committees are not binding, although they normally are given great
weight. Requests for reconsiderations and appeals go to the original
final decisionmaker in most cases, calling into question their efficacy
in providing a genuine review of the case. Librarians who are either
unpopular with the administration or viewed as low producers by
the administration may face greater challenges despite the safeguards
of peer review. Likewise, "favorites" may find that their path to
advancement is smooth.
Although librarians are academic employees, the
fact that they are not members of the academic senate lessens their
role in shared governance of the university. The Librarians Association
of the University of California is charged with advising the president,
chancellors, and university librarians, but these administrators
are not specifically enjoined to share governance with librarians.
APPLICABILITY TO OTHER SETTINGS
Writing in Academe, Charles E. McClelland, a professor
of European Studies at the University of New Mexico, states, "Today's
American Association of University Professors is heir to at least
3 traditions: university-magisterial (black gown), labor union solidarity
(blue collar), and discipline-professional (white smock)." He argues
that faculty members may be viewed by important constituents as
disregarding one or more of these other traditions. Each of these
traditions carries different expectations, but tenure practices
emphasize the university-magisterial tradition over the second two.
While U.C. librarian peer review closely follows traditional tenure
practices, at its heart lies an important recognition of the "blue
collar" solidarity of the workplace and "white smock" adherence
to a code of practice defined not by the institution but by the
Academic work in libraries may take many different
shapes, ranging from management of complex digital libraries, to
reference service and subject specialty skills, to cataloging rare
books. In order to demonstrate effectiveness in such a variety of
roles and duties, U.C. librarians and administrators have developed
a system that recognizes that accountability is essential. Many
teaching faculties - not only in colleges and universities but also
in secondary schools - have chosen to emphasize scholarly work in
tenure review. Yet, teaching faculties also have many responsibilities
other than teaching and research.
U.C. librarian peer review recognizes a balance
of factors that identify excellence, and it relies on periodic performance
evaluation over an entire career. Three suggestions follow that
are based on some of the features of the U.C. librarian peer review
process. These suggestions might have relevance not only for college
and university faculty members but also for secondary school teachers
who are faced with changing expectations.
Recognize that periodic review can boost professionalism.
Periodic performance reviews are not necessarily a threat to independence.
By requiring that holders of tenure analyze, explain, and evaluate
the impact of their work on their jobs and institutions, peer review
actually can improve networking, career development, and good relations
with others. It also can help tenure holders to view their own careers
as dynamic, instead of thinking of them as static. Reward practitioners
for remaining 'in practice.' Secondary school teachers often must
leave the classroom to advance their careers or get a raise; likewise,
college administrators may, in many cases, earn far more than teaching
professors. Peer review practices should reward individuals for
ongoing education and skills development, and link improved compensation
to practitioner skills (like classroom teaching).
Emphasize self-governance, by including the 'blue
collar' and 'white smock.' The AAUP takes the position that peer
review is the best guarantor of quality. To succeed, members of
the AAUP must create better linkages between their teaching activities
and their communities. The costs of both secondary and higher education
are sufficiently high to assure constant public scrutiny; faculty
members not only need to be aware of this, they need to be willing
to take advantage of the situation politically. Political success
must be based on accountability, and accountability should be based
on balanced peer review practices.
Faculty members at all types of institutions face
a growing demand by the public, the professions, and managers to
prove that they are accountable. Revising peer review practices
to fully reflect the large array of duties performed by faculty
is one important strategy that might address this concern. Periodic
"post tenure" reviews that challenge faculty members to explain,
analyze, and justify their activities are another method to boost
accountability. U.C. librarian peer review practices contain these
features while guaranteeing academic freedom and work practices.
Faculty groups that are facing growing challenges to justify their
tenure status should evaluate U.C. librarian peer review and consider
proactive amendments to their own tenure arrangements to forestall
increased demands for faculty regulation.
TABLE I. U.C. LIBRARIAN REVIEW PERIODS
STEPS WITHIN RANK
Assistant librarians must achieve "career status" in six years.
Associate librarians must achieve career in four years. Full librarians
must acheiev career status in three years.
TABLE II. ELEMENTS OF DOSSIERS AND REVIEW
Elements of Dossier
- Candidate's Self Evaluation
- Immediate Supervisor's Evaluation (must
be signed by supervisor and candidate)
- Administrative Evaluation by department
head (if applicable)
- Certification Form
- Document Checklist
- Letters of Recommendation by Colleagues
are solicited by the review initiator)
- Letter of Recommendation by Ad Hoc Committee
(promotion and career status decisions only)
- Letter of Recommendation by CAPA
The Review Cycle Process
- All librarians informed of their rank,
status and review options annually
- Candidates compile all elements of dossier
- Review Initiators may solicit letters
- Candidates and Review Initiators must
meet and discuss performance
- Dossiers submitted to academic personnel
- Ad Hoc Committees review dossiers (Career
Status & Promotion only) and draft letter of recommendation
- CAPA reviews all dossier and drafts definitive
- University Librarian (or Vice Chancellor)
makes decision and notifies candidate
- Requests for Reconsideration or Appeals
must be made within sixty days after the final decision
1 "The culture
of tenure: The responsibilities of the community of scholars." Academe
83 (No. 3), May/June 1997, p. 1-92.
2 Stichler, Richard N. "Academic freedom
and faculty responsibility in disciplinary procedures." Academe
83 (No. 3), May/June 1997, p. 1-92.
3 LAUC: The First 25 Years: A History
of the Librarians Association of the University of California, 1976-1992.
Carson, CA: LAUC in association with Dumont Press, 1993.
4 The Memorandum of Understanding between
U.C. and the University Federation of Librarians-University Council-AFT
may be found at http://www.ucop.edu/humres/contracts/lib/.
5The relevant sections of the APM and
the local procedures for U.C. Berkeley librarians can be found at
the website of the Library Human Resources Department of U.C. Berkeley.
The URL is http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/LHRD/lib.html.
Terence Huwe, MLIS, has served as director of library and information
resources at the Institute of Industrial Relations, U.C. Berkeley,
since 1989. He is the 1997-98 chair of the Committee on Appointment,
Promotion and Advancement (CAPA), Librarians Association of the
University of California, Berkeley Division.
Ginny Irving, J.D., MLIS, has been a reference librarian at U.C.
Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law Library since 1985. She is completing
her third and final year as a member of CAPA, and is the outgoing