Situated in the middle of campus, the Goldfarb-Farber Library is an essential study and resource space. It was also one of the places on campus that got hit the hardest during the pandemic during the 2020-21 academic year. To allow for social distancing, the capacity and hours of the buildings were reduced to half of what they were before COVID-19. Enforcing COVID-19 rules presented another burden atop the responsibilities Brandeis librarians already have. 

According to a board member who spoke to a current Brandeis librarian who worked there through the pandemic, the staff had to come onto campus almost every day, despite the library’s reduced hours and the fact that many other departments transitioned online. What’s more, the in-person format for the small number of students that were on campus during the height of the pandemic made it so that librarians had the additional responsibility of adapting to and enforcing COVID-19 precautions. Though books could only be checked out remotely, library staff had to make sure no one was eating or drinking, sitting at non-distanced tables or without a mask. 

Yet, according to the same board member who spoke to the librarian, despite having been asked to work in-person and as quasi-COVID-19 compliance monitors, Brandeis librarians’ request for equitable pay was dismissed by the University.

Before the fall 2021 semester, library staff joined Service Employees International Union, which works across North America to represent educators, janitorial staff, healthcare workers and those in the government sector. Brandeis Librarians are part of the SEIU Local 888, which represents the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and created an account called Brandeis Library Workers Union on Twitter in August. 

We at the Justice stand with the staff at the campus libraries and commend them for their hard work and resilience throughout the pandemic. We also acknowledge that this was an undue burden on staff, and though commendable, the University should not have put library workers who were uncomfortable coming in-person in that position, when students, professors and other administrators were given the option to remain entirely on Zoom. 

We also believe that it is unacceptable that at a school that prides itself on being a beacon for social justice, our library staff has been ignored when asking for equitable pay, benefits and for the University to be transparent about wage ranges. 

The  library  at Brandeis provides students with countless resources, from loaning out computers and computer accessories, to giving access to publications and journals, to aiding with research projects and writing. This editorial board asks the University to reconsider how they are treating  library staff. Fighting for social justice is more than posting a photo of Louis D. Brandeis on his birthday. It’s the University standing with their employees and giving them the pay they deserve. 

To support the Brandeis Library Workers Union, you can submit testimonials about your experiences with Brandeis librarians to be used in contract campaigning, and you can sign up for their mailing list

—Editor’s note: Justice editor Jane Flautt is a student worker at the Goldfarb-Farber Library and did not contribute to the writing or editing of this editorial.