On May 4th, 2021, OCAD University announced the sudden termination of six library positions as a result of a “library reorganization” by administration.
We, the OCAD Student Union, are shocked and unsettled by the decision to lay off our four senior library staff: Daniel Payne (Head, Visual Resources & Special Collections), Marta Chudolinska (Learning Zone Librarian), Victoria Sigurdson(Head, Visual Resources & Special Collections), and Alex Homanchuk (Head, E Resources & E Learning). It deeply concerns us that the administration has attempted to rationalize these terminations and overall library restructuring by claiming that the process responsibly engaged with key stakeholders at OCAD U. The massive reorganization of one of the most critical spaces at OCAD U should not be a complete surprise to the people who depend on it.
We firmly condemn the actions taken thus far by the OCAD U Administration to restructure the Library Services and do not understand why our own organization was not involved or consulted with for such a massive change. We are seeking clarification on how completely terminating the entire staff, especially one that holds invaluable knowledge about our collections and institution, is an efficient way to restructure a critical service; or is any kind of ethical decision in the midst of a global pandemic.
OCADU librarians work closely with graduate and undergraduate students, giving them crucial access and direction to the materials they require to succeed and complete their degrees. Furthermore, they consistently and passionately serve our student membership in a way that compensates for failures by Administration to provide comprehensive learning environments and resources.
Marta, Victoria, Alex, and Daniel have hosted various skill-building workshops, offered information about external opportunities and teaching resources, and never failed to collaborate with students who were seeking guidance. Attending a Post Secondary institution, especially for the first time is overwhelming, and learning to navigate an academic setting can be an additional barrier faced by so many students. The research and navigational best practices that our librarians share with our community have and always will be vital to bridging equity and knowledge gaps across the institution.
The COVID-19 pandemic has severely cut access to OCAD U resources, including the library, and as such, has impoverished the student experience. As the country gradually opens up and the university prepares for partial in-person classes, a stable library experience and broad access is essential. This attempt to restructure the library department during an already chaotic state will only further destabilize the student experience, and will certainly not facilitate the “decolonization approach by flattening hierarchies” that Tony White and the OCAD U Administration have envisioned.
The abrupt lay off of four esteemed staff members will hardly contribute to the enhancement of library services; it will only aggravate academic and creative learning. Instead of system restructuring, students require enrichment, for which adequate support and know-how from librarians is essential.
The OCAD Student Union joins our community in demanding the following from OCAD University:
- Immediately cease all plans to restructure and reinstate the four academic librarians terminated until there has been a thorough review of best practices and community needs
- Involve OCAD U students, librarians, and faculty in any major library reorganization
- INVEST in OCAD U’s Library and resources
- Demonstrate that OCAD U supports and upholds the academic principles of collegial decision making and mutual respect, through substantial and transparent collaboration
Please also join us in supporting the affected library staff by sharing your experiences and stories with the Library. As students, student monitors, Teaching, and Class Assistants, we have been denied the opportunity to contribute to improving our own resources. We are collecting testimonials to stress the value of our library services and staff and to show our direct support to those who have lost their jobs.
Testimonials can be submitted at the following form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdZ-s2MkvnRhTgl4-Y7UDr6sZi2H0iQFjDp3nfA4YZfVlwPCQ/viewform
SIGN and SHARE the petition below, created in collaboration with OCAD Student Union, OCAD Faculty Association, and OPSEU Local 576:
The OCAD Student Union Team