Laurel McPhee

DSC03629 - Laurel McPhee
Laurel McPhee
Supervisory Archivist
UC San Diego


Areas of Academic Specialty
Manuscripts and unique visual resources
How many years have you been in the profession?
Why did you become a librarian?
I became an archivist because I knew, at a young age, that libraries were amazing places and I wanted to be a part of one. As a history and literature undergraduate at Harvard, when I was doing research for seminars and my thesis in archives and special collections, I wanted to be on the other side of the service desk! I had a student job in the preservation department of the law library, and though the work was routine, I loved contributing to the stabilization and responsible stewardship of scholarly resources for the next generation of researchers. In my work today, I manage a team of Special Collections & Archives manuscript processors and collaborate with other librarians in Metadata and the Digital Library Development Program. We organize, describe and make accessible collections of personal papers and organizational records, including photographs and digital records.
Why is it important to be active in our union?
Being active in our union gives us the opportunity to connect with colleagues across campuses, educate ourselves on workplace policies and standards, and practice communication and leadership. Everyone should experience how our union works—you learn by doing.
How are you contributing to this round of bargaining?
I’m on the Table Team
What aspects of working conditions do you want to see improve for your fellow librarians?
As academic appointees, UC librarians are expected to be national leaders in our fields, and contribute to high-level organizational committees, peer-reviewed publications, and professional conferences, yet we lack academic freedom and copyright over our intellectual work. We’re not currently eligible for the same housing benefits as other academics, despite being paid much less. And I want to see pay improved for new librarians. To attract and retain gifted colleagues is difficult when entry-level salaries are terribly low compared to the high cost of living in California. Out of 114 higher education institutions that participate in the Association of Research Libraries salary survey, the University of California ranks 72nd in beginning professional librarian salaries. This is unacceptable.
When you’re not fighting for the rights of Unit 17 members, what do you do to unwind?
I enjoy exploring San Diego (I’m a native, but there is always more to see and do), cooking, working in my vegetable garden, and watching my son practice his Taekwondo.
What book are you reading right now?
The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen

What is your favorite movie?

The Three Colours trilogy, by Kieślowski