2021 Highlight: TIE’s Webinar on Equitable Staffing Models

Plans for the Current and Post-Pandemic Landscape

Ed. Note: As the end of 2021 approaches, we want to reflect on TIE’s most notable pieces from the past year. From now through the end of December we will be reposting some of our most widely read and talked about content. The following was one of our most popular reads.

Library leaders discuss equitable staffing models

Now more than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, many offices, businesses, and schools are slowly returning to “normal,” prompting much discussion across all sectors about the benefits of in-person work versus remote work. 

While some employers are eager for a full return to work as soon as possible (paywalled), many employees are much more hesitant, given the benefits of remote work they have enjoyed over the past year. As TIE’s editor in chief Alexia Hudson-Ward noted in a previous blog post, many BIPOC employees in particular do not want to return to the office full time. Black employees have appreciated being able to avoid microaggressions and other uncomfortable office interactions. Similarly, workers with disabilities have enjoyed the inclusivity that comes with greater flexibility.

In a follow-up post, Alexia discussed the importance for managers to work with staff members to develop sustainable hybrid working models that offer employees equitable accommodations. As everyone continues to consider the possibilities of hybrid work, we feel it is an important moment to revisit TIE’s webinar on equitable staffing models, particularly as we move toward a post-pandemic landscape. Panelists Theresa S. Byrd (University of San Diego), Elaine L. Westbrooks (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), Chris Bourg (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), and Terry Snyder (Haverford College) join Alexia to discuss how they are working to best achieve high-quality service delivery while also accommodating staff needs in their respective academic libraries. They highlight both the opportunities for and challenges to creating equitable staffing models that arose from the pandemic and discuss how they plan to carry certain elements of remote work forward as part of their strategic DEIA goals. It is an important conversation with meaningful implications for both the academic library community and the broader working world.

There is much to unpack in this fruitful conversation, which we hope you will dive into and enjoy.

Here are some snippets to pique your interest:

On lessons learned from the pandemic:

“So, what have we learned? We know that remote work offers possibilities, it can happen, and there’s a heightened level of trust on campus for the success of the remote work … Meanwhile, our college is also considering working out a trial work-from-home policy because we see some benefits.”

– Terry Snyder

On providing support for staff while still advancing strategic goals:

“There has to be prioritizing of wellness … Wellness has to be, not the means to an end, but the goal … To have our staff understand that we want to have compassion, grace, and empathy, and that is how you cultivate a mindset on wellness.”

– Elaine L. Westbrooks

“We’ve had a couple of what we’ve called sort of wellness days or mental health days where we cancel all meetings and, in fact, we were able on a couple of occasions to get permission to shut off all services … People’s job that day was just to do whatever they needed to do on that day to take care of themselves. And people were encouraged to self-organize and do things with each other if they wanted or totally disengage from all their work colleagues for a day if they wanted.”

– Chris Bourg

On how DEI principles factor into staffing models:

“When looking at DEI it’s really time to take this seriously … it is systemic in our libraries … As library leaders we have to make this a priority and we have to set the tone … What is so hostile about academic libraries? I’ve come to the realization that … we need to be on the watch for certain words … We need to really get down to this. Are people tone policing people in [conversations] that [make them] uncomfortable?”

– Theresa S. Byrd

“If you’re committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion, you cannot think that it’s something extra or tangential. You have to change work, you have to change the way you work … This is about the quality of your work and the way you approach your work, and so I think that the pandemic and the whole environment that we were all experiencing actually gave us a lot of opportunities to experiment.”

– Elaine L. Westbrooks

Click here to watch to the full webinar and be sure to sign up for alerts on the latest TIE content, whether it’s a new blog post, podcast episode, or webinar. This episode is presented with support from GOBI Library Solutions from EBSCO

Interested in contributing to TIE? Send an email to Deb V. at Choice dvillavicencio@ala-choice.org with your topic idea.

Header image is a detail of This is Harlem by Jacob Lawrence. Courtesy of Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. © 2021 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. For more information, click here.