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Open letter protesting the sudden laying off of four librarians at OCADU

By Angela Henshilwood and Zack Osborne

In response to the sudden laying off of four senior librarians at the Ontario College of Art & Design, OCULA sent an open letter protesting the move to to Ana Serrano, President and Vice-Chancellor of the university. The letter is published in full below, or you can read the letter on the OLA website at the link above.

If you want to register your support for the four librarians and indicate your opposition to OCADU’s decision, consider signing the petition: Don’t Put The Hook to OCADU Professional Academic Librarians.

May 18, 2021
Ana Serrano, President and Vice-Chancellor

Dear President Serrano,

I am writing on behalf of the Ontario College & University Library Association (OCULA), a division of the Ontario Library Association (OLA) that represents college and university librarians and library staff on issues of common concern. We wish to express our deep disappointment, and protest over the administration’s elimination of six positions at OCADU Library: four senior librarian positions and two unfilled positions. We recognize that the plan to restructure the library was developed to improve service to the OCADU community, however, it is not clear how this can be accomplished by terminating experienced staff who represent almost 70 years of knowledge in this area.

We were further dismayed by this decision when we learned that the Head Librarian positions, all of which have been eliminated, were part of key recommendations on improving the status and working conditions of OCADU librarians identified in the Library Council’s Professional Librarians Working Group Final Report. We understand that the University had committed to implementing these recommendations and this recent decision appears to contravene that commitment.

A pillar of OLA’s Strategic Plan is “collaborating to extend libraries’ strategic voice”: helping Ontarians understand libraries as essential contributors to the economy, education, lifestyle, and culture of their communities. Eliminating these six library positions without consultation, even in the name of restructuring, sends a message that devalues the library’s contributions to OCADU’s academic mission, including scholarship, student life, and student success. Even though four new positions will be created as part of the restructuring plan, eliminating even two positions will have a lasting impact on the library’s ability to support its community and negatively impact the perception of the value the administration places on the library.

We realize that cuts are an unfortunate reality in every organization. Yet, as noted in the open letter from McMaster University Academic Librarians’ Association (MUALA) regarding this matter, the impact on the “morale, trust, effectiveness and the fundamental internal and external perception of the administration of the time” will be long-lasting. The lack of collegiality and consultation evident in this decision is disturbing, short-sighted, and will undoubtedly impact OCADU in many ways for the foreseeable future.

Academic libraries that include properly staffed, experienced academic library professionals are critical to student achievement and faculty research. We urge you to re-examine this decision and consider the countless negative impacts this decision will have on OCADU’s students, faculty, community of learning and scholarship, and the morale and self-determination of the library.

Angela Henshilwood
President, OCULA
Cc: Caroline Langill, Vice President, Academic and Provost, OCADU
Cc: Jamie Watt, Chair, OCADU Board of Governors
Cc: Tony White, University Librarian, OCADU

Angela Henshilwood is an Engineering Librarian at the University of Toronto and President of OCULA, 2020 and 2021. You can reach her at angela.henshilwood [at]
Zack Osborne is the Manager of Health Information & Knowledge Mobilization with Unity Health Toronto and Vice-President of OCULA, 2020 and 2021.

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