The terms and conditions of employment for professional librarians and archivists at the University of Waterloo (Waterloo) are outlined within campus policies, procedures, and guidelines, and the Librarians' and Archivists' Employment Handbook (the Handbook). Our working conditions are unique when compared to those of our colleagues at other Canadian universities, which often leads to persistent misconceptions about the experiences of our members. It was published following the outcome of a vote in March 2021 about seeking affiliation with the Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo (FAUW).
The following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) were prepared by the Librarians' and Archivists' Association of the University of Waterloo (LAAUW) to provide an honest overview of our work environment and to clarify some of the more common points of confusion. The intended audience includes current professional staff members, potential employees, and colleagues at other academic institutions.
Frequently Asked Questions
In all cases below “you” refers to Librarians and Archivists working at Waterloo.
Are you faculty?
No. All professional librarians and archivists at Waterloo are considered staff and are represented by the University of Waterloo Staff Association.
Are you unionized?
No. We are not unionized but operate as a collectively organized employee association. Currently, only the Food Services and Plant Operations workers are unionized; they are represented by CUPE Local 793. The University of Waterloo Police Services members voted in favour of joining OPSEU in 2020. The Graduate Students’ Association is currently (April 2021) leading a union drive for graduate teaching and research assistants and sessional instructors. More information is available on their website: Organize uWaterloo.
Do you have academic status?
Yes and no. We are not faculty members. The Handbook provides support for many of the elements that academic status provides. Its contents draw significantly from the language and procedures of academic status measures held by librarians and archivists at other Canadian institutions.
Do you have tenure?
No, but most librarian and archivist appointments are permanent in nature and are subject to a probationary review by professional peers following the first year of employment. Librarians and archivists are hired into career-track positions and advance through the ranks following the processes outlined in Appendix B: Professional advancement procedures and criteria of the Handbook.
Do you have academic freedom?
Yes. Waterloo’s Policy 33 – Ethical Behaviour states that “That the University supports academic freedom for all members of the University community. Academic freedom carries with it the duty to use that freedom in a manner consistent with the scholarly obligation to base teaching and research on an honest and ethical quest for knowledge. In the context of this policy, ‘academic freedom’ refers to academic activities, including teaching and scholarship, as is articulated in the principles set out in the Memorandum of Agreement between the FAUW and the University of Waterloo, 1998 (Article 6).”
Note: Policy 33 is currently under revision – a lengthy process that has involved consultation across campus, including representation from UWSA.
Do you have access to professional development funding?
Yes. Each year librarians and archivists can apply for professional development funding. Applications for funding are submitted via the request for funding for professional development form. Funding is generally granted up to a yearly cap, with opportunities to fund above the cap possible at the discretion of Library Executive (see Section 2.1 of the Handbook for information about LibExec). As of 2021, the most recent yearly cap is $1900. Funds do not roll over at the end of a fiscal year.
When applying for professional development opportunities, an individual and their manager can ask Library Executive to consider that it be funded out of the training budget, or that it be funded outside of the professional development process due to it being undertaken at the request of the Library. These opportunities are not counted towards the use of the yearly cap.
Do you have access to sabbatical or research leave?
Yes, but it is not an entitlement/guarantee, nor is it expected to be taken in order to advance. Librarians and archivists can apply for a research leave according to the process and evaluation criteria outlined in Appendix C of the Handbook.
Study leaves must be applied for at least 6 months in advance. Applications are evaluated by a committee of the applicant’s peers, along with their manager, the Associate University Librarian, Administration and Strategic Initiatives, and the University Librarian.
Librarians and archivists can also take research days. The Handbook provides for 24 research days a year, or 2 per month. Librarians and archivists are granted research days at the discretion of their manager.
What does advancement/promotion look like?
Promotions are defined in Section 4 of the Handbook, which outlines the mechanisms under which a promotion can occur. The advancement process is fully documented in Appendix B: Professional advancement procedures and criteria.
In brief, a committee of an advancement candidate’s peers, along with their manager, the Associate University Librarian, Administration and Strategic Initiatives, and the University Librarian reviews a dossier for advancement against a set of ranks and criteria. In addition to having a history of fully satisfactory job performance, the candidate must demonstrate evidence of rank appropriate achievement in at least two of the following areas: service, professional development (includes research), specialized knowledge, or leadership. It is not expected or required that a librarian or archivist engage with or excel in all the evaluation criteria over the course of their careers– members can choose an advancement path that best suits their professional interests and strengths.
What are the benefits of this model?
More solidarity with staff, both inside and outside the Library.
Librarians and archivists are part of the UWSA, as are all library workers, and other advanced-degree staff on campus such as those working at the Writing Centre, Centre for Teaching Excellence, and Centre for Extended Learning staff.
Good faith negotiations with Library Administration.
Housekeeping revisions of the Handbook happen on a regular basis, and a substantive review is required to take place at least every five years. The review committee consists of the University Librarian; Associate University Librarian, Administration and Strategic Initiatives; four Librarians/Archivists representing various areas of the Library and chosen by the LAAUW; and consultants, as appropriate. Substantive revisions to the Handbook are reviewed by the Vice President, Academic and Provost, and the Associate Provost, Human Resources. This structure has encouraged productive and collegial negotiations and has provided an opportunity for a variety of librarians and archivists to be involved in the process of defining our working conditions since 1980.
Focused, direct negotiation with Library Administration.
The Handbook and related revision process provides LAAUW with the opportunity to work directly with Library Administration on issues that impact our members. This means we negotiate with people who understand our working conditions and the goals of the organization allowing for more effective dialogue and gains. Negotiating the terms of our working conditions as part of a larger body, like FAUW, would position LAAUW members as a minority within an association aimed at representing the interests of Faculty who have different career paths, goals, and professional responsibilities. Our position as professional staff organized via LAAUW provides the most benefit as we are able to work closely with and support the work of FAUW and UWSA who negotiate directly with University Administration on behalf of faculty and staff.
More freedom related to defining and adjusting our workload.
Librarians and archivists at Waterloo encounter similar challenges with regards to fluctuating staffing, and heavy workloads due to (ongoing) projects that must be managed on top of day-to-day duties. That said, our job descriptions define our positions as having a . This guideline provides a framework for managing time and setting work/life boundaries.
This is not to say that LAAUW members don’t work more than 35 hours a week, but that the cap provides people the freedom to stop working beyond what we were hired and are paid to accomplish within a given week. As there are no specific guidelines about how much of that work ought to be service, research, teaching, or professional duties, the balance is largely up to individual librarian and archivists, and often dependent on the nature of their role and their professional goals.
The Library provides flex time, which allows people to bank up to 15 hours a month or be under up to 10 hours a month. Within reason, people can use flex time to take days off, or to come in late or leave early for appointments. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, LAAUW members who successfully completed their probationary periods entered into more flexible working arrangements following the University’s Work from Home Guidelines.
What are some of the downsides or caveats?
Finding the time to do research can be challenging, for those who wish to pursue it.
As research leave is not an entitlement or guarantee, securing leave time and organizing coverage is a challenge. This can create barriers for members seeking to conduct research within their regular working hours. Despite the challenge, Waterloo librarians and archivists actively participate in research and publishing. Between 2017 and 2020 LAAUW members produced 50 publications, the majority of which were peer-reviewed.
Securing funding to do research can be challenging for those who wish to pursue it.
As research is not a requirement of our positions or for advancement, it can be difficult to secure funding for research projects, in part because of the lack of publication track record and in part because of the barriers that exist within the institution (ex. barriers to being listed as a PI for grants). Library Administration is currently working with our Office of Research to address the issue of librarians and archivists not being able to be listed as a PI.
The Handbook is not a Memorandum of Agreement.
The Handbook represents the terms and conditions of librarian and archivist employment at Waterloo, but is not a Memorandum of Agreement. Although reviewed through various administrative channels, Vice President, Academic and Provost and the Associate Provost, Human Resources, its enforceability remains unclear as it has not been formally challenged through those same channels. LAAUW will continue to collect robust qualitative and quantitative data from our members to assess how our members are experiencing and accessing the provisions in the Handbook.
 This list of publications was collected from Scopus and may not represent all publications of our members due to the limitations of that index.
If you have more questions, feel free to reach out the LAAUW Executive.