A typology and discourse analysis of the status and appointments of librarians at land grant universities
This study examined the status of librarians at land grant universities in each state (n=50). University websites were the source of data on librarians’ employee group (faculty/staff), administrator title, rank system, tenure eligibility, and faculty senate representation. The data were analyzed to find frequencies and cross tabulations. The findings indicate four status types in the population: Professorial (n=21); Other ranks with tenure (n=14); Other ranks without tenure (n=5); Academic or professional staff (n=10). Eighty percent of the institutions in the population have librarians who are faculty (n=40), and 85% of those (n=34) are on tenure-track.
The second part of the study analyzed the discourse of appointment documents, which contain criteria for appointment, promotion, and tenure of librarians. The documents were analyzed using the concepts Field (ideational content, what the text is about), Tenor (the participants and their relationships), and Mode (cohesion, patterning, and organization of texts) (Halliday 1978, 1985a, 1985b). The results of that analysis were used to determine the documents’ genre (text type) (Swales 1990, 2004) and register (language variety, whose variables are Field, Tenor, and Mode) (Halliday 1978).
The findings indicate that the texts are an identifiable genre, “university appointment document.” Register characteristics include frequent expressions of obligation and certainty, passive constructions, few pronouns, and the “overwording” that is common in official discourse. The vocabulary is a mixture of the language of librarianship, higher education, and human resources (HR).
Recommendations include further research to extend the typology to other populations; exploration of models of academic staff status; examining what status is actually best for librarians in fulfilling the university mission; further discourse analysis to discover how the appointment documents reflect status types; and analysis of particular register characteristics. Recommendations for librarians include strengthening the status they have achieved by creating an environment that is conducive to research and reducing the emphasis on “job performance.”
Keywords. academic librarians; university libraries; faculty status, land grant universities; Systemic-Functional Linguistics (SFL); genre; register (linguistics).
0399: Library science
0745: Higher education