On Sunday, October 1st, your CUPE 391 delegates to National Convention attended the Library Sector meeting in Toronto before the start of convention. This was our opportunity to connect with other library workers across Canada, and receive reports from our National and Provincial CUPE Library Committees.
What did we learn?
Libraries are dealing with the same issues from coast to coast, including facing the challenges inherent in filling the gap left by shrinking and overtaxed social services, violence in the workplace, precarity, and a struggle to ensure the value of our work is recognized. In terms of the latter, there is a new trend in libraries which seeks to nullify the important work we do and the impact our work has on the social and economic health of our communities. This is the “staff-less library”. This personifies a notion that our staff only exist as way finders to materials, easily replaced by a digital interface, and ignore the reality, which is that we provide deeply nuanced and individualized service, facilitate human connection and engagement, and bridge deep gaps in digital access and literacy, to say the least. Our communities deserve better than what the “staff-less” libraries promise (not) to provide.
An existential question
In light of the trend in staff-less libraries and other initiatives from library management and executive officers that seem to seek to hurt libraries and librarianship, an existential question was asked; why are librarians, who make up the majority of our library leadership, seeking to eradicate the profession? Certainly, this is how it seems.
The Precarious Work in Libraries Survey
At this meeting we had the opportunity to see the results of the Precarious Work Survey that many of us in CUPE 391 participated in this summer. Here are three important highlights:
- Libraries have the [highest?] number level of precarious workers in all of CUPE. 50% of workers in libraries are precarious or vulnerable to precarity.
- 79% of library workers are women.
- Library workers from equity seeking groups including women, LGBTTI, Indigenous, people of colour, and people with disabilities are more likely to also be precarious workers.
We know that the first and second points reflect the reality of our own local. The third suggests that our equity seeking groups are also more likely to be precarious as well, and this needs to be addressed.
The comprehensive results of the survey are available, we will share them, as there are many other interesting and significant results that we should take note of when we are advocating for our precarious workers.
Your fellow member and representative,