November 26, 2022

“Hi, I’m Your Tenure Librarian”

Recently I was speaking at the Academic Librarians 2012 Conference in Syracuse, NY. Although I made the audience fall asleep, the night before one of my favorite library speakers kept the audience enthralled. Believe me, it’s really rough having to follow David Lankes at the speaker’s podium. But enough complaining. I’m here to steal.

What I immediately stole from David’s great presentation was a wonderful example of the kind of change academic librarians need to make. We need to insinuate ourselves more deeply into the institutions we serve. This will mean, in part, finding ways to become indispensable to our faculty. So I really sat up and took notice when David sketched a scenario where a faculty member up for tenure is approached by a librarian who says, “Hi, my name is John, and I’m your tenure librarian.”

The fictional “John” would have already pulled together citations to as much of that professor’s work as they could find, and would continue to assist the professor to make his or her case to achieve tenure by chasing down any missing citations, etc.

This is of course but one example of the kind of creative thinking, imaginative service creation, and entrepreneurial spirit we must infuse our libraries with. Academic librarians need to figure out ways to be essential to faculty and students, and it isn’t simply buying books anymore.

Roy Tennant About Roy Tennant

Roy Tennant is a Senior Program Officer for OCLC Research. He is the owner of the Web4Lib and XML4Lib electronic discussions, and the creator and editor of Current Cites, a current awareness newsletter published every month since 1990. His books include "Technology in Libraries: Essays in Honor of Anne Grodzins Lipow" (2008), "Managing the Digital Library" (2004), "XML in Libraries" (2002), "Practical HTML: A Self-Paced Tutorial" (1996), and "Crossing the Internet Threshold: An Instructional Handbook" (1993). Roy wrote a monthly column on digital libraries for Library Journal for a decade and has written numerous articles in other professional journals. In 2003, he received the American Library Association's LITA/Library Hi Tech Award for Excellence in Communication for Continuing Education. Follow him on Twitter @rtennant.


  1. I enjoyed your thoughts on the potential uses of RFID and the problems with the 856 field. Great to see you again!

  2. It’s great to hear this topic discussed as it is a strong professional & research interest of mine. I will be presenting research I have conducted on this topic at ALA Annual if anyone is interested in hearing more on “promotion & tenure outreach”:

  3. I have a dual view on this since I’m a former librarian (medical) who moved into medical informatics for my PhD, became a full-time professor and was recently tenured by my Research I university. I’m very much in favor of innovative partnerships between librarians and faculty and would love to hear more about this, but the example of citation-chasing provided here doesn’t excite me much. Why? Because the one thing every tenure-seeking junior faculty member is 250% hyperaware of from the minute they attain the PhD is just who’s citing them and what metrics count. Universities will vary in what metrics they require, but presenting ISI Impact Factor and Google Scholar counts together is pretty standard.

    Now the *where* of citation is much more interesting, I think — the nature of the journals –> nature of the field. And I see academic librarians as being very useful in this regard.