Archivists on the Issues: An Update on UCLA temporary librarians

Archivists on the Issues is a forum for archivists to discuss the issues we are facing today. Today’s post comes from current and former UCLA Temporary Librarians. While all the contributors to this post currently hold or held archivist positions at UCLA, the term “librarian” is used since that is way the institution classifies these positions.  At UCLA, the term librarian is used to refer to a variety of academic staff. All staff under this umbrella term are afforded the same protections. For these reasons, the terms archivist and librarian are used interchangeably throughout the text.


Since writing an open letter to UCLA Library administration in June 2018, we have received support from colleagues from all over the country. Thank you. Our situation at UCLA, and the grievance filed on our behalf by our union UC-AFT, are still unresolved and we wanted to post a brief update.

The Situation

2013 MTV Movie Awards - Red Carpet

As archivists who are classified as temporary librarians, we are well acquainted with the many reasons why the practice of hiring on temporary contracts is problematic. Over the past five years, and maybe more, our department Library Special Collections (LSC) has had more temporary archivists than permanent. This undermines the professionalism, expertise, and worth of archivists, it damages our personal lives, it diminishes institutional knowledge, it inhibits long-term decision making, and it disrespects our donors, users, and collections. These reasons and more are detailed further in the temporary archivists’ open letter to UCLA Library administrators.

LSC is continuing to capitalize on promises of “processing, preserving, and making [collections] accessible” to attract funding during UCLA’s Centennial Campaign. LSC’s funding and staffing priorities, however, tell a different story: one in which curatorial and collection development positions are given the lion’s share of endowments and funding, while archival work is addressed only once, through the creation of a relatively paltry general “fund to support the processing of high-priority collections.” (And let’s call that what it is: funding for more temporary hires to deal with processing that administration has promised to high-priority donors without regard for our staffing constraints and existing priorities.) The UCLA Library continues to respond to core and ongoing departmental needs by systematically under-staffing the Collection Management unit of LSC, which manages the work of archivists and catalogers, with precarious temporary positions, while ignoring and denying the effects of such a practice.

LSC continues to create and fill curatorial positions while its Collection Management staffing reaches critically low levels, as archivists’ contracts continue to expire. Administration has attempted to obscure this by blurring archival responsibilities in the department’s recent positions, in this way undermining professional boundaries and devaluing the work of processing archivists, as well as creating an undue burden for these positions and providing no roadmap for processing work in the long term. The concentrated effect of these decisions and hiring practices is to deprofessionalize our jobs as archivists- and, given UCLA’s size and status, is bound to have far-reaching effects on our profession as a whole.

Grievance process

Our union UC-AFT filed a grievance on our behalf in May 2018. The grievance alleges that UCLA Library is in violation of Article 18 of our contract, which details specific conditions for the hiring of temporary librarians. We have exhausted Steps 1-3 of the grievance process, as well as a preliminary “informal” meeting that occurs prior to Step 1. At each step of this process, we have reiterated the ongoing and permanent nature of our work and cited the widespread professional support that our case has garnered. At each step, Library Human Resources (LHR), UC Labor Relations, and, most recently, the UC Office of the President (UCOP) have denied our requests, citing a variety of ever-changing justifications. As of earlier this month, UC-AFT has voted to bring our grievance to arbitration.  

To date, we have not received any direct response or acknowledgment from library administration. This lack of response has been particularly disappointing.

UC-AFT includes abuse of temporary appointments in bargaining

UC-AFT Unit 17 Librarians have been engaged in bargaining with the University of California since April 2018. At its fourth bargaining session in July, UC-AFT proposed changes to Article 18 of our MOU, regarding Temporary Librarian appointments. Drawing on our experience, the Temporary Librarians helped draft the language changes and gave testimony on the necessity of the proposed changes.

The current contract language on Temporary Appointees addresses the issue by attempting to limit the scenarios in which temporary appointees are appropriate. However, UCLA continues to abuse and misapply this article by exploiting various loopholes, which we felt were necessary to close. The suggested changes include limiting the situations in which hiring temporary appointments are appropriate to three scenarios: filling in for a librarian on leave, filling in for a temporarily assigned librarian, and time-limited projects fully funded by extramural funding (i.e., grant funding) or external funding (e.g., donor-funded). They also seek to require UC to inform temporary appointees whether they will be re-appointed within a specific timeframe, as well as give more notice if they will be released early — the latter coming with the right for the employee to have an informal hearing before the release. We felt it was important for the UCOP team to hear firsthand from temporary librarians about the deleterious effects of exploiting the temporary provision and hope that the UCOP team values hearing directly from affected staff.

Future updates

If you would like to continue to get updates on the UCLA temporary archivists, please sign up here:

Links to additional information/coverage

Daily Bruin articles:

Professional support:

Leadership of the DLF Working Group on Labor’s Statement on UCLA Archivists

SCA Statement in Support of Temporary Archivists at UCLA:


One thought on “Archivists on the Issues: An Update on UCLA temporary librarians

  1. Pingback: Archivists on the Issues: An Update on UCLA Temporary Librarians – UC-AFT Librarians Blog

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