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DLF WG on Labor in Digital Libraries, Archives and Museums: Valuing Labor Subgroup

Meeting minutes: October 4, 2019

Building a working group initiative around an issue

Facilitator/Note-taker: Amy Wickner

Complete 2019 schedule


Prompt: What is one concrete, collective action that you would like the working group to take up in 2020?

To understand where we are as a group, you might draw upon:


Gathering data to make a case for anecdotal stories we hear about labor issues → what next to make real & lasting change across LAM?[edit]

  • SAA Issues & Advocacy section interested in contingent labor in archives
  • Lit review → basically nothing
  • Survey, SAA-funded with consulting firm out of price range so DIY
  • Shared out at SAA, will present at DLF
  • Who else do you want to see this data?
    • SAA doesn’t want to serve as repository so sharing out with anyone who asks
    • No IRB approval so can’t publish
    • Have discussed as section coming up with best practices doc
    • Not sure how much power we have as a section to enact change profession-wide

How can we help people gain the skills to understand what power they have and organize a campaign to actually push back?[edit]

  • Having moved into admin position & sitting with more people in admin/managerial positions, talking about institutional constraints
  • Could be an advocacy toolkit but not necessarily
  • Lots of (mis)perceptions about where you can/can’t push back v. if you talk to your HR it might not be a policy, maybe can actually be changed
  • Feels like it’s beyond the scope of our grant bc lots of work but maybe something this group could think about doing
  • The more people doing this kind of work the better but still struggling to see how we can build more connections, power together
  • Even if groups focus on different aspects, intentional plan for addressing issues
  • Tired of people accepting constraints as norms!!!!!! They’re norms for reasons because people don’t think they can be changed

Start at the top with funders, change perceptions where the $ comes from[edit]

  • Numbers might make sense but morality of practices is off, short-term
  • Lots of grants depend on low costs for labor so that more $ goes to digitization & preservation
  • Became director & flipped budget towards staff from preservation - important to acknowledge the people behind the work
    • 10-year-old program of all contract workers
    • Important to say what the situation is and ask whether it’s sustainable (it’s not)
  • Norms that funders expect is tied to “well this is how much they cost” i.e. low-paid workers
  • Where do guidelines originate? How can we change them?
  • Prison labor to digitize has happened in California -- “Why don’t we just outsource this work?”
    • Leads on what vendors, sponsors, funder orgs are pushing this kind of thing? Separate investigation!
  • In Collective Responsibility grant, funders raised the need for an appendix or standard for addressing labor in grant applications
    • Institutions can reference
    • Matter of adjusting expectations, shift to value labor rather than “cost-effectiveness”
    • Meaningful that we can connect funders to information!
    • The more people recognize it as a problem the better

Data collection related to Organized Labor goals in the Valuing Labor research agenda[edit]

  • Digital library workers’ involvement in organized labor
  • Developing a list of unions, and compiling resources for digital library workers interested in organized labor to inform themselves and participate.
  • Could the salary spreadsheets that have been floating around might fit in with this?
  • Potential overlap / collaboration with Information Maintainers

What comes out of the Collective Responsibility Forum?[edit]

  • Lots more than we can finish on the grant project
  • Want to revisit some of those, what does that look like & what makes most sense to people who are here?
  • How to tackle HR on stuff?
  • Search committee → recommendation → what if HR won’t budge on the salary range?
    • Offering comparable pay to other parts of the country without taking cost of living into account
  • What if not enough transparency about what exactly happens in the hiring process?
  • It would be great to compile data on all of these institutional failures in the hiring/recruitment and retention of LAM workers - we should share these stories

Success stories[edit]

Collecting examples of identifying a problem and making a change

Develop a topic from the Valuing Labor research agenda[edit]

Impacts of automation on the classification of digital library workers

Logistics & announcements[edit]

Labor-related sessions at DLF

Next meeting Monday 11/4, 3pm ET / 12pm PT - Internal & external advocacy