[KS] Alert! SOAS is sacking its specialist Korean/Japanese/Chinese librarians
Afostercarter at aol.com
Afostercarter at aol.com
Mon Oct 3 10:38:40 EDT 2005
A sad and sordid thing is happening at the School of Oriental and African
(SOAS), which prides itself as the UK's premier institution in this field.
In a nutshell, SOAS has summarily sacked its specialist librarians for
Japanese and Chinese. It intends to replace them with less qualified staff.
All this appears to have been done in a most underhand fashion.
I'm surprised that this scandal has not been more widely publicized.
As far as I know, no one has previously posted to this List about it.
Nor do I know of a single full up-to-date narrative, which would be useful
- a campaign website, perhaps? Despite the ongoing protests, I detect
some reticence. (It is even suggested that SOAS emails may be monitored!)
The short items from the Times Higher Education Supplement etc, below,
give some idea of the issues. Frank Shulman kindly forwarded much
correspondence to the BAKS list, which those who have access to that
can read. I append some of it herewith
Anyone who wishes to comment might care to contact either or both of:
* the Director of SOAS, Professor Colin Bundy (cb3 at soas.ac.uk)
* the Librarian, Anne Poulson (ap45 at soas.ac.uk).
The latest position as of today (Monday October 3) follows immediately.
As we used to say, a luta continua.
Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Sociology & Modern Korea, Leeds University
Home address: 17 Birklands Road, Shipley, West Yorkshire, BD18 3BY, UK
tel: +44(0) 1274 588586 (alt) +44(0) 1264 737634 mobile:
+44(0) 7970 741307
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Email: afostercarter at aol.com (alt) afostercarter at yahoo.com website:
[Please use @aol; but if any problems, please try @yahoo too - and let me
know, so I can chide AOL]
Current situation, Monday 3 October
The library crisis deepens: staff joined a protest on the steps of SOAS at
1pm on Friday
(250 signatories, though presumably not all staff), and then returned at 5pm
two staff declared redundant were required to leave the building for the last
(they are not being allowed to work out their statutory notice). Until that
management was refusing to pay their pension contributions during the 3
months statutory notice;
that changed. Today at 1pm, staff will assemble to accompany the two staff
back to their offices --
if allowed, and at 5pm the Director is due to give his address to all
At the moment, the two staff issued redundancy letters but subsequently found
to have pre-1988
contracts giving them effective tenure, remain in post. One of these is the
whereas those who were forced to leave on Friday were the China/Japan/Korea
Press items: 3 (2 letters) from THES, 1 news item in the Telegraph
Michael Loewe THES
Published: 23 September 2005
The situation that has developed at the School of Oriental and African
Studies regarding East Asian studies is grave (Letters, August 26). According to
reliable information, two senior specialist librarians with responsibilities for
Chinese and Japanese studies and with years of experience have been made
redundant. They are to be replaced by staff who may have had no experience in
co-operating with other librarians of East Asian collections or negotiating with
Chinese and Japanese publishers and booksellers, but who are equipped with what
is described as a working knowledge (whatever that means) of the language that
Academic staff were not consulted about these decisions and 19 people,
including the heads of departments of Chinese, Japanese and Korean studies at the
school and others who direct research in those subjects, have tendered their
resignation from all non-contractual obligations as a result.
The replacement of the experienced staff at the library is counter to the
school's claim to be a centre of excellence in Asian studies and to the need for
deep bibliographical knowledge and years of experience with which to maintain
the collections and to serve scholars on an international level. The director
of Soas will need to explain this change.
The situation also raises the question of whether Soas is taking the first
steps towards following Durham University, which closed its department of East
Asian studies last year.
Foreign honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences,
Today's news THES
Published: 06 September 2005
Soas resumes talks over library cuts
Negotiations over the future of one of the UK's leading specialist libraries
will resume tomorrow, amid protests from academic staff. The School of
Oriental and African Studies is seeking to make two specialist librarians redundant -
a move lecturers fear will damage research into Japan, China and Korea.
Fourteen academics have resigned posts at the school, though not their jobs, in
protest. The school, part of the University of London, boasts "one of the world's
most important academic libraries for the study of Africa, Asia and the
Middle East, which attracts scholars from all over the world to conduct research".
Soas's Far-East failing
Published: 26 August 2005
The decision by the School of Oriental and African Studies this week to sack
its senior specialist subject librarians for China and Japan represents a
degrading of a resource built up over many years.
The justification given is that the work of these specialists can be done by
junior regional experts in consultation with a senior non-expert as is common
in other libraries.
At a time when the Higher Education Funding Council for England is
recommending significant investment in Chinese and Japanese studies to build national
capacity, and when Nottingham, Manchester and Bristol universities have all
invested in developing Chinese studies, the degrading of Soas's capacity makes no
sense. It reflects badly on its long-held and richly deserved reputation in
these areas and will damage its ability to maintain that excellence.
Dons resign over library cuts
By Liz Lightfoot, Education Correspondent
Senior lecturers at a leading university have resigned from key posts in
protest at what they claim is a downgrading of language studies.
They say that the reputation of Japanese, Korean and Chinese studies at the
School of Oriental and African Studies is being put at risk by a decision to
sack four senior librarians who speak the languages and help to tend the
university's collection of books and documents.
Last year the University of Durham closed its department of East Asian
studies and there are fears that the minority tongues are being downgraded at other
universities, despite their importance to international trade and relations.
The school's lecturers resigned on Monday after discovering that redundancy
notices had been issued to the librarians during the summer holidays.
"They plan to replace the senior librarians with junior clerks and it was all
done in secrecy," said Timon Screech, a reader in the history of Japanese art
and one of five lecturers involved in the protest. "The library is one of
SOAS's jewels and they want to kick out people who understand the busy publishing
worlds of Japan and China and have built up a library which can compete with
those of the best universities in the world, such as Harvard."
John Breen, the head of the university's department of Japan and Korea, who
has also resigned, said academics rely on the librarians to know which books to
buy across a range of subjects.
The five lecturers will continue to teach undergraduate students but have
tendered their resignation from posts they hold running centres for research and
exchanges and are refusing to help the university to recruit fee-paying
overseas postgraduate students.
Forwarded by Frank Shulman (selected)
Subj: Fwd: [eastlib] FW: Compulsory Redundancy Alert <fwd> SOAS
Date: 06/09/2005 13:46:54 GMT Standard Time
From: fshulman at UMD.EDU
To: BAKS at JISCMAIL.AC.UK
Sent from the Internet (Details)
Dear Members of the BAKS,
Eastlib-the listserve of the Council on East Asian Libraries (CEAL) in the
United States and Canada-has posted more than a dozen e-mails since August 12th
regarding the drastic restructuring of the professional library staff at the
School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) of the University of London.
Because this includes the position of a professional librarian for Korean
Studies, there is little question that it will have an impact on Korean Studies in
the United Kingdom as well as overseas. While some members of BAKS should
already be aware of the so-called "SOAS affair", other members-particularly
individuals who have been away on vacation-may not have yet been apprised of the
situation. I have been urged to share the postings on Eastlib from Ms. Fujiko
Kobayashi (Japan/Korea Librarian, SOAS) and Mr. David Helliwell (Department of
Oriental Books, Bodleian Library, Oxford) with the members of the BAKS. The
first one appears immediately below. Most of the other e-mails will follow in
chronological order. Of particular note is the letter that appears as an
attachment in Mr. Helliwell's communication of August 31st. The latest e-mail, from
Ms. Kobayashi, is dated September 5th.
Frank Joseph Shulman
Bibliographer, Editor and Consultant for Reference Publications in Asian
9225 Limestone Place
College Park, Maryland 20740-3943 U.S.A.
E-mail: fshulman at umd.edu
September 6, 2005
I am forwarding some news to you which is only a few hours old, and which is
of the highest importance.
It seems that the decision has been taken that SOAS, which despite budget
cuts in recent years is still one of Europe's major East Asian collections, can
be run without professional subject specialists in our fields.
I am awaiting news from the Librarian of SOAS as to how this is to be
achieved, but at first sight it seems to represent the apotheosis of managerism,
which is sweeping through Higher Educational establishments in the UK like the
Please support our colleagues at SOAS by asking (to start with) the two
figures mentioned in the final paragraph of the forwarded message for further
details of what is proposed.
(For the information of our Continental and Transatlantic colleagues, the AUT
is the "Association of University Teachers", our professional union.)
With all good wishes in these dark days,
--- Begin Forwarded Message ---
Date: Fri, 12 Aug 2005 10:32:07 +0100
From: Sue Small <ss8 at soas.ac.uk>
Subject: FW: Compulsory Redundancy Alert
Sender: owner-ul-chinalibrarygroup at durham.ac.uk
To: 'CLG' <UL-CHINALIBRARYGROUP at durham.ac.uk>
Reply-To: Sue Small <ss8 at soas.ac.uk>
<200508120932.j7C9WHlf027555 at mailrelay3.dur.ac.uk>
Under the leadership of Anne Poulson, whose father John McIIwain and mother
had trained many specialists for academic libraries, SOAS is now targeting the
specialist librarians (China, Japan/Korea, Semitics & Judaic & Art) with
Best wishes, Sue
From: Graham Dyer [mailto:grahamdyer at BTINTERNET.COM]
Sent: 10 August 2005 11:25
To: AUT-L at MRELAY3.SOAS.AC.UK
Subject: Compulsory Redundancy Alert
SOAS management is up to its old tricks again, announcing compulsory
redundancies at SOAS during the summer period when they think no-one's looking. Only
this time it's for real. Library management is targeting four specialist
librarians with compulsory redundancy to cover up its own inadequacies.
This attack on your colleagues comes on the brink of a job evaluation pilot
project in the Library. Instead of waiting for the outcome of that exercise,
Library management has decided to preempt it by unilaterally pronouncing these
four posts redundant. I have already written to Stephen Chan, Chair of the Job
Evaluation Steering Committee to notify him of SOAS AUT's withdrawal from any
further discussion of the pilot project while our members face compulsory
No prior consultation has taken place with the recognised trades unions
regarding redundancies arising from any restructuring plans in the Library. Such
consultation is enshrined in SOAS restructuring policies and procedures.
Indeed, SOAS AUT were informed last September by the Librarian Anne Poulson and last
year's Human Resources Director Rorie Howie that there was no threat to these
four AR2/AR3 specialist librarian posts.
Such cavalier duplicity and disregard of agreed procedures must be answered
robustly. The AUT nationally is already closely involved with Assistant General
Secretary Matt Waddup joining SOAS AUT Executive in combatting this hostile
SOAS management has refused to withdraw the threats of compulsory redundancy
and to return to full consultation with the unions. The Librarian seems to be
of the opinion that our specialist library, an important national resource,
can be run as no more than a supermarket shelving operation. I would hope that
members can see that, in an institution such as SOAS, specialist librarianship
is an essential component of the academic team.
In trying to pare costs and dumb down the Library, management has claimed
that the ending of special factor funding warrants the redundancies. This move is
rather premature, however, given that HEFCE special funding is assured until
2008, and the fact that staff costs have been fully budgeted for. If Library
and School management have failed to safeguard special funding for the Library,
it is their heads that should roll, not our specialist librarians.
SOAS AUT will be pursuing a number of different legal and negotiating
strategies on this matter to save our members' jobs. We will be building towards an
Extraordinary General Meeting, sometime in September when most of you will be
back, to consider taking some form of industrial action that this type of
behaviour on the part of management requires.
As a matter of urgency, please make your views known to the Librarian, Anne
Poulson (ap45 at soas.ac.uk) and the Director, Colin Bundy (cb3 at soas.ac.uk). It is
essential that Departments and Faculties bring pressure to bear to safeguard
our specialist academic team.
SOAS AUT President
--- End Forwarded Message ---
Department of Oriental Books
Tel: +44 1865 277032
Fax: +44 1865 277182
Sue Small (China Librarian) and I (Japan/Korea Librarian) received a
notification of redundancy on Monday August 15.
As a result of a deluge of strong protests from SOAS academics as well as
various people/organizations from around the world, the Director had to send out
a message. I have pasted his message at the end of my note for your
Basically, he has failed in explaining the reasons for our redundancy. In
financial matters, he has not convinced people in this institution. The Director
talks of SOAS spending about "70 per cent of its library budget on staff." For
2004-05, the budgeted percentage was only 59 %. Even for next year, 2005-06,
the budgeted percentage is 63% of total cost, nowhere near 70%. This is not
high for a specialist library. In fact, for next academic year, 2005-06, the
Librarian, Anne Poulson, is budgeting for a substantial, above inflation,
increase in AR (academic related) staff salaries, according to figures supplied by
the Finance Department.
In the discussion of the need for the specialist librarians, Colin Bundy has
shown contradictory views over specialists. In fact, China and Japan/Korea
have lost the senior positions, but the SOAS Library still keeps the same AR
positions of South East Asia & South Asia, Africa, and Middle East. He says there
is no intention to of doing away with specialist librarians. Then why are we
being sacked? He says that each faculty team will have a fully professional
staff. In what why are we not professional? He talks of supplementing faculty
teams with "subject experts when required."; from where and at what cost?
Sue and I have worked with researchers and students for years. We see the
need for expertise. In fact, the Librarian, Anne Poulson, claims that she has
done an assessment of our posts, but she has not consulted us or provided us with
a copy of this assessment. We were never consulted about our role and duties
before the redundancy was announced. The Librarian appears not to value
specialist knowledge. The Librarian once said to one of our academics that she had
been responsible for a science library, but she knew nothing about science. She
also seems to be of the opinion that the SOAS Library can be run as no more
than a supermarket shelving operation.
The SOAS Director & Principal, Prof. Colin Bundy, has made clear his sense of
value on research in his message. Please send him your views on his statement
before the Librarian heads for her 3 week holiday.
Sue and I have been guilty of no misconduct, but our request to work our
three month's notice has been rejected by the Librarian as she feels "it would be
disruptive and extremely unpleasant". We have been asked to return our office
keys by Friday August 26 and leave the School, but this battle over the
specialist librarian positions is to continue.....!
Prof. Colin Bundy (Director&Principal): cb3 at soas.ac.uk
Sue Small: ss8 at soas.ac.uk
Fujiko Kobayashi: fk2 at soas.ac.uk
From: Hannah Lemon [mailto:h.lemon at SOAS.AC.UK]
Sent: 2005?8?16? 14:10
To: STAFF-L at MRELAY3.SOAS.AC.UK
Subject: Message from the Director: SOAS Library
I wish to respond to a number of expressions of concern about proposals
affecting the library, and to comments that these have been undertaken in haste and
that they compromise the library's scholarly role. Neither of these
assertions is true.
Proposals for the Library. It is always difficult to bring forward measures
that involve individuals as well as general policy. Often individual rights
and justified sensitivities make it inappropriate to have a public consultation.
Moreover, in June, SOAS management readily agreed to a request from the
individuals concerned and the AUT that there should be full confidentiality in the
Unfortunately, although we have scrupulously respected this agreement, it has
been breached by one of the other parties. Therefore it is right that I
explain the general proposals and respond to expressions of concern. I stress that
any changes concerning individuals remain confidential and that the private
consultation process has not been completed. Moreover, nothing in these changes
should be taken as indicating that the School does not appreciate the skills
and services of its senior specialist librarians over many years. It had been
hoped to make any changes, so far as individuals were concerned, in confidence,
with dignity and sensitivity, and on terms that were as generous as possible.
There is no question but that SOAS needs subject and language specialists for
its library. The question is how to provide them. The SOAS library has had a
flat staffing structure with a few senior librarians who are specialists in
some of the regions and subjects covered. It has also paid for expertise on a
The arrangement served SOAS well, on the whole; but the link between
seniority and specialisation is hard to sustain in present conditions. An alternative
arrangement, being followed in comparable libraries, is to have a more usual
staffing structure while retaining full access to specialist expertise at less
senior levels and through consultancy. Over many years the SOAS library has
been considering moving towards the latter system, and the discussions have
become more urgent in recent years.
There are several reasons, including:
(1) Changes in the range of teaching, especially the huge expansion of
law and social sciences.
(2) Developments in electronic and other library services, such as
growing demand for expertise in reader services, on-line resources, electronic
repositories, library systems, copyright, and skills-training.
(3) The introduction of faculty librarians in 2002.
(4) Growing staff costs and their impact on resources for supporting the
collection - SOAS currently has staffing costs that are comparatively high
within the UK higher education system, and spends about 70 per cent of its
library budget on staff. (Extra external funding for the library is currently under
(5) Changing career patterns in librarianship, and the difficulty of
recruiting library professionals to senior but specialist posts (evidenced in 2003
in the failure to recruit a South Asia librarian).
The South Asia case provided an unintentional pilot for the proposed
restructuring. Under that two-tier arrangement -- a senior faculty librarian plus a
less senior regional specialist -- it has been possible to maintain and arguably
improve a specialist and professional library service for South Asia. The
present proposal would extend this pattern to other areas, as has already
happened for Law and Social Sciences. Each senior librarian (as in the South Asia
case) would also have some general responsibilities appropriate for senior staff.
Undertaken in haste? Potential changes to the library structure have been
under consideration since December 2003. These were the subject of ongoing
discussions at management level, culminating in a fully-considered proposal
presented to Executive Board in April 2005. It was endorsed with the full
participation and agreement of the Deans, representing the academic departments. The
strategy was also approved by Governing Body. Thus the process has been long, and
as wide and open as possible given that identifiable individuals were
The scholarly role. The concerns expressed about the substantive proposal are
based on two false assumptions: that SOAS has ever had senior specialist
librarians to cover the entire range of its subjects and languages, and that there
is any intention of doing away with specialist librarians in future. Rather,
the proposal builds on present arrangements. Each faculty team will have a
fully professional staff, including specialists, supplemented (as always in the
past) by further language or subject experts when required.
The system will reflect changes in librarianship and in SOAS's needs. It does
not undermine the role of our specialist library, but rather reinforces it by
restoring the balance between spending on staffing and on the collection, and
by creating an efficient structure for the management of the library as a
Further information will be provided once the discussions with individuals
have been concluded.
Director & Principal
23 aug 05
> From: Timon Screech [mailto:Ts8 at soas.ac.uk]
> dear friend of soas,
> it is with great regret i advise you that all office holders in Japanese
and Korean studies at
Soas have tendered their resignations from their school posts today. the
chairs of the jrc and the Korea centre, also the head of the J&K dept, and the
heads of the the J&K setions, those present, and
> those who would have taken over these posts for the coming session. in the
jrc those affected are
> john breen, lucia dolce, steve dodd and myself; in korea, they are jaehoon
yeon and anders
> our move is in protest at the preremptory redundancy forced on the J&K
librarian, without any
> discussion with academic staff, and down-grading of the Japan
librarianship, and the abolition of
> the Korea one. we feel that soas library cannot continue as a centre of
research on these terms.
> do not demand a continuation of the status quo, but we have asked the
director to rescind the
> redundancy and meet us as soon as possible to discuss the matter. if he
fails to do this, the
> to resign in the next few weeks. all soas academic staff that we have been
able to contact have
> agreed not to step into our shoes, should we have to vacate them. the
intention is to provoke a
> crisis in J&K studies at soas as the only way of getting our collective
voice heard we are very
> grateful to those who have written letters of support. those who have not
done so might like to
> their views know to the director of soas, professor colin bundy
(cb3 at soas.ac.uk) and the
> mrs anne poulson (ap45 at soas.ac.uk). please feel free to circulate this
> timon screech
> chair, jrc (for the while anyway...)
Sue Small (China Librarian) and I (Japan/Korea Librarian) expect the result
of our appeals in a few
days. I found out the Librarian, Anne Poulson's real restructuring plan one
day before my hearing.
It should not have happened.
The proposed replacement for the Japan/Korea posts is for Japan/Politics. I
attach the job
description for your reference. An essential requirement is "Working
knowledge of Japanese language"
and one of the duties is "To evaluate and select materials, under the Faculty
direction," - this is the Faculty Librarian for Law and Social Sciences. S/he
does not know about
Japan/Japanese, but s/he would have responsibility for it, resulting in the
deterioration of the
SOAS Japanese collection. To make matters worse, the proposal includes the
responsibility for Korean materials.
A "Working knowledge of Japanese language" is not enough for the SOAS
library. In my job interview
10 years ago, the Dept. was heavily involved in selection. I even took oral
and written Japanese
tests. However, the school made me redundant without saying anything to the
Dept. Moreover, the
school approved the replacement position without consulting the Dept.
In the current structure of the Library there is no post covering a region
and a subject together
such as the proposed replacement position, Japan and Politics. I wonder why
only politics is needed
while other subjects, such as economics or development studies do not have a
The current Japan/Korea Librarian's duty is responsible for the two
collections which include
western language resources. Selecting materials in western
Cataloguing them with assistants for western and Korean languages; Providing
reference services and
skill training workshops; Updating webpages; and General enquiry desk counter
duty. This is a pretty
much one trained librarian's job. How can the new post maintain the quality
The proposed restructuring creates an unequal anatomy in the number of staff
and the level of
expertise. Africa, South East Asia, South Asia and Near & Middle East are
served by an AR (academic
related staff) with a CRA (clerical staff) respectively, while Japan/Korea
would have no AR, but
just a CRA for Japan and Politics, none for Korea! China would have no AR,
but a CRA. This gives
the impression that East Asian Studies at SOAS are less important than
African studies, or South
East Asian studies and so on. This is absolute nonsense! All area studies are
equally valued here.
Is this the beginning of the end of area studies?
We are fighting against unfair dismissal and the Departments are supporting
us. We are not asking
for confidentiality over our redundancy. Please ask us anything.
We still need your help. Please repeat sending your protest to the Chair of
the appeals panel,
Professor Stephen Chan, (sc5 at soas.ac.uk), the Director, Professor. Colin
Bundy (cb3 at soas.ac.uk),
Anne Poulson (ap45 at soas.ac.uk). Also, please copy to the AUT President, Dr.
(grahamdyer at btinternet.com)
Thank you for your continuous support.
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