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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 altogether.

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.


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 pedagogy.

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.


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 below.

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.


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 process.

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 activities.

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 review.

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 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.


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.


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 profession.

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.





Review Period
-One Year-
-Two Year-
-Three Year-
Note: 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.



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 of recommendation
  • Candidates and Review Initiators must meet and discuss performance
  • Dossiers submitted to academic personnel offices
  • Ad Hoc Committees review dossiers (Career Status & Promotion only) and draft letter of recommendation
  • CAPA reviews all dossier and drafts definitive recommendation
  • 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

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

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 1996-97 chair.

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