Starting a library support staff organization




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STARTING A LIBRARY SUPPORT STAFF ORGANIZATION
The following are suggestions for steps to take in starting a library support staff organization, compiled by Rita Gibson, Access Services Technician of the

State Law Library of Montana in Helena, Montana (rkgibson@hotmail.com).



  1. IS THERE A GROUP ALREADY ESTABLISHED?

  • Check with your state library association to find out if there’s already a group in place that you could join. [http://www.ala.org/alaorg/chapters/chapdir.html]

  • Also check the National Directory: Library Paraprofessional Associations for state and regional associations organized specifically for support staff. [http://www.lib.rochester.edu/ssp/orgs/indexmap.htm]




  1. STARTING A GROUP:

  1. Be willing to work and take the initiative.

  • Don’t fear mistakes--there’ll be some! After all, there’s no mold or plan to follow. But remember, this also allows for creativity and freedom to form a group to match the needs of its members.

  • Be a contact: the resident “expert”

  • Be ready to chair the group at least two years for the sake of continuity.

  • The ability to research, document, and retrieve your findings is an invaluable asset in organizing your group.

  1. REAL support from your employer.

  • People will probably contact you during work hours.

  1. Diligence in “follow-up”.

  • Contact people and keep them informed.

  • Obtain information from others.

  1. Ability to delegate.

  • Partner with some people in your group who share the vision and ask them to do things--you’ll need them and they’ll need to be needed. Then when you “retire” as chair, there’ll be someone to follow the dream who’s already involved in the work and will understand just how much time and dedication it takes! It does take less time as things progress. “There’s no success without a successor”! Starting a library support staff organization is definitely NOT an “I” project, but a “WE” enterprise! Be faithful and open-minded about soliciting ideas from others.

  1. Mentor(s).

  • Mine have been librarians that I’ve had the good fortune to work with (one advantage of what I call the “para dilemma” of frequent job changes: you get to know a lot of people in the field who can really be helpful!).




  1. INITIAL CHALLENGE: How do you find out who the other paraprofessionals are in your state who might be interested in this endeavor? Here’s some how-tos:

    1. Send out a message via all available methods:

  • listservs: your state library listserv; LIBSUP-L

  • statewide newsletters published by your state library, state library association, and state department of education (to entice the school library community).

  • Ask those interested to contact you so that they can be placed on an interested persons list. This provides flexibility and a no-commitment feeling. Ask them to contact you if they want to be taken off the list as well. Ask also if they’d be willing to be a local contact person. They’ll be really important as your group grows because they’ll be responsible for disseminating information to their local members. Keep your list of interested persons updated.

2. Concentrate locally first.

  • After a couple of weeks, contact those you’ve heard from locally and schedule an informal gathering. We discovered that a brown-bag lunch in a central location worked well because it didn’t interfere with work or personal time.

  • Ideas for 1st meeting:

  1. Agenda: send out a tentative one a couple of weeks before the meeting to elicit comments. Include a deadline for responding. Have copies of the revised agenda at the meeting.

  2. Have individual introductions and ask what each person would like to see the group accomplish. As a result, goals will become apparent. For example, ours was a workshop at the state library convention.

  3. Informational handouts. It’s useful for attendees to have something tangible to take away with them for future reference and to hopefully share with others in their libraries. Examples: list of listserv subscription information for LIBSUP-L, your state’s listserv and discussion lists specific to each library department such as CIRCPLUS, reference, ILL, acquisitions, etc.; home pages of LSSRC, ALA-SSIRT, Soaring to Excellence, ASSOCIATES Electronic journal and an issue of Library Mosaics; bibliographies for further reading; and other states’ goal statements.

  4. After the meeting, report to everyone on your list what occurred during the meeting. Ideas will start to happen and then the group takes off! Others will join as they see things happening, but many people will wait until the group proves itself.

3. Stand-alone group or connected with your state library association?



  • We decided to be connected since we all work together, fostering the “we” concept. There’s also support in people and money within an established organization. The association likes it because it adds members. We discovered that our efforts are more accepted if we communicate our purpose: more education to do our jobs more capably (better for our co-workers and our patrons!). WARNING: Don’t allow collective or individual negative experiences as paraprofessionals to negatively influence the work. Don’t allow militant behavior or incite rebellion! Your group will be watched closely by all as you grow, so be prepared. Some MLS’ers and even some paras won’t understand why you’re doing this and possibly won’t appreciate it, but don’t let it stop you.




  1. RESOURCES:

    1. Library Support Staff Resource Center (LSSRC) [http://www.lib.rochester.edu/ssp/]

    2. ALA-SSIRT (American Library Association Support Staff Interest Round Table) [http://www.ala.org/ssirt/]

    3. COLT (Council of Library Technicians) [http://library.ucr.edu/COLT/]

    4. LIBSUP-L [http://www.lib.rochester.edu/ssp/lists/libsup.htm] (and various other state’s para listservs, and library department discussion lists such as CIRCPLUS)

    5. Contacts with the chairs of other states’ para organizations.

    6. Your state library’s Library Directory

    7. InformationResources - The more you read, the more you know!:

  • Library Literature (indexes library journal articles) [http://www.hwwilson.com/Databases/liblit.html]

  • Library Journal [http://www.ljdigital.com/]

  • American Libraries [http://www.ala.org/alonline/]

  • Library Mosaics [http://www.librarymosaics.com]

  • Associates: The Electronic Library Support Staff Journal [http://raven.cc.ukans.edu/%7Eassoc/index.html]





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