HCL Joint Council Marks 20 Years of Cooperative Work
The HCL Joint Council has organized a wide range of events, including a picnic for HCL employees and their families, to build community for library staff.
December 11, 2009 – When it was formed, the Harvard College Library Joint Council’s mission was to improve communication and collaboration between members of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW) and administrators. Two decades later, the committee is still going strong, as library support staff and administrative and professional staff work hand-in-hand on projects that benefit employees across HCL, and strive to keep lines of communication open.
“HCL employees may not be aware of it, but many programs at HCL came out of the Joint Council, including the Employee Recognition program, the Excursion program and a series of workshops on creating a positive workplace,” said Ann Heintz, Senior Acquisitions Assistant and co-chair of the Council. “The Joint Council is a great way to be involved in having a real impact on work life at HCL.”
Under the terms of the first contract between the university and the HUCTW, administrative units throughout the university were encouraged to form similar groups to foster communication and collaboration between administrators and union workers. The HCL Joint Council was among the first such groups to come together, and one of just two committees to have consistently met over the last two decades, Bachmann said.
Over the past two decades, the committee has worked with the HCL Administration to tackle a wide variety of issues which have enhanced the work environment for all staff, said Marie Manna, co-director and organizer of the HUCTW. Some, like the creation of a heat-day policy – which allowed staff to work in other areas of the library if the temperature rose above a certain level – are no longer needed due to climate control systems in the libraries. Other programs, like the Ergonomics and Wellness Group, continue to have a positive impact on all staff.
The Council has also organized health and nutrition fairs, and includes an Ergonomics and Wellness Group, which offers yoga classes, and information on massage, meditation and other wellness programs.
The Joint Council also had a hand in the Peer Program, which brings new HCL hires together with a current employee who can meet with them to answer questions about the library and working at Harvard in general; the HCL MLS program, which encouraged library staff to pursue a master’s degree in library science; HCL Excursions, tours of various libraries and departments; the Ergonomics and Wellness Group, which sponsors health and wellness programs for staff; and the HCL Picnic, held in the summer, and open to all HCL employees and their families.
As the library deals with the impact of the challenging fiscal climate going forward, Bachmann said, the Council’s role in facilitating communication between support staff and administrators will be even more important.
The committee itself, however, isn’t immune from the fallout of the fiscal crisis. The Council earlier this year adopted a bi-monthly meeting schedule to accommodate changes to members’ schedules, and several members – including Bachmann – have extended their terms beyond the usual two-year limit. Several positions remain open, and current members are working to recruit new ones, Bachmann said.
To foster community across the libraries, the Council also organizes HCL Excursions, which offer staff the chance to tour various HCL libraries, incluiding the Harvard Film Archive.
“It’s a constant need,” Bachmann said, of the demand for new members. “Every few months we have an opening as members cycle on and off the Council. What we’d like to have is a list of people who are interested in serving, and we could approach them as positions open.”
“That the HCL Joint Council has been supported for the last 20 years is really a credit to both parties,” said Manna. “There is a commitment from both support staff and administrative and professional staff to keep that participation and communication going. The HCL Joint Council, I think, is a very, very good example of what we’d like all Joint Councils to be.”