Tenure

Last week, I attended my university’s chapter of AAUP where the outgoing president gave an explanation of tenure that was simple and elegant.  He said tenure acknowledges that a professor has contributed to creating a learning community at the university.

Of course I started thinking about this in terms of tenure for academic librarians.  On one hand, I like having faculty status and the idea of working towards a goal like tenure is appealing. And I certainly believe librarians can help create learning communities. That’s one of the reasons I am so interested in the idea of training student workers to perform higher levels of service at the reference desk.

But because librarians can create  learning communities, does that mean they do?  Does tenure help them do that or does it create a comfort level once tenure is achieved that invites complacency and lack of innovation?  Since the current environment demands we be creative and active in meeting the changing needs of our users, would it be better for us to take a more corporate approach?  Meaning considering each job an opportunity to learn, grow, contribute to an organization and then move on once the growth has stopped?

Since I am not currently on tenure track at my university, this is something I think about occasionally. Do I want to be on tenure track?  Or, am I happy developing professionally as a librarian who can take what I’ve learned with me when I’ve done all I can do in a place?