Librarians deserve a fair contract

The Brandeis University librarians and their union, SEIU 888, are fighting for a better contract with the university administration. Brandeis Labor Coalition (BLC) and the students at Brandeis stand with them and express our support.

This is the administration that has claimed “social justice” as the motto of Brandeis. However, what the administration fails to realize is that you don’t believe in social justice if you don’t want to pay people fairly. You don’t believe in social justice if you refuse to listen to what your workers are telling you they need. You don’t believe in social justice if your actions do not match your words. The university is refusing to budge on contract issues and is therefore refusing to live up to this social justice message.

The library, as any Brandeis student knows, is the hub of the school. The librarians themselves work tirelessly, when physically at the library and not, to make sure that every student is fully supported and has the resources they need.

What Brandeis student hasn’t needed last minute help on a paper and approached a research librarian, done some deep digging in the archives with the support of those librarians, or received meticulous guidance to the exact book they need from a desk helper? What Brandeis student hasn’t gotten a donut or apple cider or petted a farm animal at their most stressed moments? What Brandeis student hasn’t had their life profoundly helped and brightened by the wonderful staff that populates our library?

It is important for students to take time and acknowledge our personal experiences with the librarians, specifically how, without their support, much of what we do and what we have, even just in terms of academic infrastructure, simply would not exist.

A BLC member speaks about their personal experience with a librarian: “I took classes over the summer where I learned how to appropriately do legal research through the help of the one and only Aimee Slater. Slater is a Government Information and Social Sciences librarian here at Brandeis. I struggled working on an essay, but I emailed her and she was more than willing to schedule an appointment with me (outside of her normal hours).

“Slater was so patient with me in understanding LexisNexis (a law research database) she had me practice looking up different statues on my own until I got it correctly! Aside from helping me with my paper and research she also was kind enough to bring me a few beverages to take with me on the hot summer day.” This is one of many examples of the full willingness of the librarians at Brandeis to help students as they go above and beyond to assist and support us at all times.

These direct and tangible examples of how we benefit from the library are really just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how the librarians dedicate their time to us. Behind the scenes, librarians will take hours pouring over materials to prepare for meetings. They work long hours in order to provide more research help. They create exhibits to educate students about knowledge essential to Brandeis’ own history, such as Ford Hall. They provide help with voting and absentee ballots. A new initiative even replaces late fines if you bring in non-perishable food donations instead. The staff stocks, shelves, cleans, curates and organizes so that Brandeis students can get the best resources and experience. The smooth operation of our library is really thanks to how far above and beyond our librarians go on a daily basis, and this is really something we all should be deeply thankful for.

Our librarians are fighting for a fair contract—not an exorbitant one, certainly not one that would have a large impact on the yearly surplus of $2.9 million that Brandeis is currently operating with. On the Friday of Family Weekend, Brandeis Labor Coalition worked with SEIU 888 handing out leaflets to students, families and members of the administration. Every family we spoke to, every student we approached even in passing, expressed their deep support for the librarians in their fight. In fact, even Ronald Liebowitz himself said that he “loves librarians.” With this overwhelming support from every sector, we ask the administration to answer the librarians demands.

We want to send a clear message to the administration. We, the students of Brandeis, are watching. The library and the librarians are extraordinarily important to our success at the university, and we will not sit idly by as they are mistreated and steamrolled over. The students of Brandeis University call on the administration to support the librarians, like we do, and negotiate with them fairly for the benefits they so clearly deserve.

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