Obama on Student Library Workers

From Barack Obama's website: "Promote College Serve-Study: Obama will ensure that at least 25 percent of College Work-Study funds are used to support public service opportunities instead of jobs in dining halls and libraries. " <a href="http://www.barackobama.com/issues/service/#service-learning">Barack Obama on Service</a> Is there too much funding for student library workers?


No; no there's not.

Curious is the candidate’s disdain for libraries. One can only imagine that as an undergraduate, and graduate student in the honorable study of Law, he would have found libraries most valuable.

Perhaps that is why we see not journal articles, no brilliant legal treatise, not one authored piece during his tenure as Editor of the venerable Harvard Law Review. It is indeed unusual for a professor of Law to not have published one article, written one single chapter, or even given a presentation of note at a learned society during their teaching career.

Indeed Professor Obama, well OK senior lecturer was his official title at University of Chicago School of Law - but he was teaching Constitutional Law an important class in any Law student’s formation, indeed he knows of the fine library facilities at the schools at which he taught and which he attended.

Of course Con Law is a basic building block - akin to the freshman English of undergraduate school - and all law students must churn through it as the begin their studies. To suggest that the learned Obama who in his Senior Lecturer position (a part time non-tenure track position, but much more important than that of a Lecturer who is simply an adjunct instructor) could not publish something of substance is unkind. Perhaps he was working on his fictionalized autobiography.

I wonder if had Obama spent more time in the libraries he so clearly disdains would his scholarly publication record be remarkable. Or would it still have been non-existent?

We just had our student workers' hours cut to about 5-6 hours/week this year in our library. That barely makes it worth their while to show up weekly. The federal work study programs have kept the same award amounts even as the minimum wage has increased limiting the number of hours a student can work in a given semester. Oddly enough, other areas on campus have not felt the same pinch. At least, that's what the rumors are. We barely have enough people to keep the doors open at our current hours, but we keep getting subtle hints that we need to keep our doors open longer. I suppose we should wait until November to find out if we'll be able to or not.

If other areas of campus are not feeling the same pinch, their student workers might not be solely paid out of Federal Work-Study funds. Other funds may exist from donations or potentially state sources to fund such. Depending upon gymnastics involved in the accounting, more than one budget line may pay for those student works elsewhere.

Getting such funds via donation is presumably not popular with donors. Donors to libraries seemingly often want to build up collections rather than personnel. Unless funds were cannibalized from elsewhere in the library budget, there really is no way to keep funding up.

This is truly saddening to see libraries lose money potentially. There is a difficult enough issue of just trying to maintain staffing levels. How could academic libraries replace student workers with far costlier regular employees? There is much paid to a regular employee that is not paid to student workers.
Stephen Michael Kellat, Host, LISTen
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While in the past the college has provided funding for "special" positions across campus (e.g. if a student has a particular skill and a department makes a special case for hire), this year the institution cut that financial aid funding. Only students who quallify for the Federal Program are now eligible for work-study. The discrepencies are just rumors I've heard, but if students are working more hours, they may find come October, they've run out of money to work. The formula for hours per week is based on the award amount for the semester divided by the number of weeks in the semester. So if a student has an award of $600 per semester (which most of them do), divide that by the number of weeks she can work divided by minumum wage (whatever that is now), and it comes out to about 5 hours/week. If the students work more hours per week, they just run out of money sooner. The real problem is that the award amounts haven't increased since the time when minimum wage was $5.15/hour.

How many libraries have come to depend on their student workers for day to day operations? When cut backs happen, or something gets messed up at financial aid, who suffers? Both students and staff. We really shouldn't be so dependent on our student workers that we have to cut back on services when they aren't around.

I don't see this as a slight to libraries (we do hate being lumped in with food service, don't we?), but more as a philosophical issue. Is working basic un-skilled jobs the best thing for students? (I'd argue we do teach them some useful skills in the library.) Could colleges and universities run without student workers? (Probably not at present.) Are those "public service" projects really any better? (I've done candy-striping and envelope stuffing--neither taught me anything.) Who would pay for staff if those students go off to "more worthy" projects? (I don't think I need to expand on this one!)

Having been one of those student library workers, who had been cut years ago. I don't think Obama has ANY clue of what actually goes on behind the scenes in those libraries. There is no down time. You are constantly updating materials, keeping machines working, filing, along with a long list of other things. When I was beiing let go from my work-study library position, the librarian did not know how she would be able to keep the media center, where I worked, open the hours the students needed. I guess if you don't know too much about the libraries, though, you must know how a country runs?!

The point Obama was making is that when a college student applies for work-study programs the majority of jobs available are in the college library or cafeteria. As a librarian, I would have loved to get into the library. I think he was trying to point out that there are not a lot of public service jobs since they are work-study not serve-study programs.

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