The Importance of increasing Professional Involvement/Engagement among Library Support Staff

by Lauren Bourdages, Senior Assistant, INALJ Ontario

The Importance of increasing Professional Involvement/Engagement among Library Support Staff

laurenbourdagesSo I started a new job in August. I now work in a University Library where I divide my time equally between the user services desk (our circulation and reference service point) and processing books and articles to be put on course reserve. One day I was sitting at my desk, in about my second week, one of the librarians came over to my work area, I’d actually been hoping to talk to him, because we both serve on the same professional association committee and I had asked him for some insider information about the job when I’d applied, but we hadn’t had the chance to catch each other before then. As we were talking he said something to me, something that I’d always consciously been aware of but that didn’t strike me as the big deal it is until he said it. What he said was, and this is paraphrasing because I can’t remember exactly how he worded it at the time: “You’re one of the most active and engaged library technicians I’ve known! You’re so involved and that’s a big deal, not enough library technicians are.”

I do consider myself active and involved, but I feel like I could be way better because I know I procrastinate and can be veeeeeeeeeeery slow/bad at responding to emails, so I don’t feel like I’m as good/effective in my involvement as I could be.

My involvement includes: INALJ Ontario (In addition to being the Senior Assistant, I run the @INALJOntario twitter account), membership in the OALT, OLA, CLA, and ALA (specifically: LSSIRT and NMRT), a spot on the Canadian Library Association’s Member Communications Standing Committee (where I met the colleague that inspired this post), a place with the NMRT Online Discussion Forum group, the position of Moderator of the CLA’s LTAN, and most recently an appointment as the NMRT liaison to LSSIRT.

Even still, I feel like I’m not at the same level as the likes of Michael David Reansbury (the past President of the OALT), Jessica Reeve (the Current President of the OALT), Karen Hildebrandt or Kathy Heney (two of the founding members of the CLA Library Technicians and Assistants Network). They are just 4 of the most involved library technicians I know, and I was writing that, I realised the only super active library technicians I can think of are the ones involved with the Ontario Association of Library Technicians and the LTAN and I only know about them because I am a member of both groups.

Disappointingly, at this time I know very little about the executive members of the other provincial library technician associations, MALT, AALT, SALT, and the BC-LTAS. And that’s what my colleague’s comment has helped me to realise. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of very vocal and engaged librarians out there, but there aren’t as many library support staff (that I am aware of at least!) who are actively engaged in the profession/industry and to me that’s a huge disappointment and loss. The voices and opinions of library support staff matter, they matter a lot and that’s something a lot of people, even the support staff themselves seem to forget.

The CLA recently recognised just how important the contribution of all library support staff by declaring October 17th to be Canadian Library Support Staff Day. This is a big deal, because I know through hearing stories from support staff colleagues that we are not always valued and that there are work places where the support staff are treated and regarded on a much lower level than the librarians; and in other places our education isn’t even recognised. The only way those things are going to change, the only way library support staff are going to get that respect is to advocate for ourselves the same way librarians do.

This means putting yourself out there whether it’s through a blog, or by getting involved with professional associations. I want to challenge every library support staffer reading this to do just that, and if you’re wondering how, well here’s some links to current opportunities to help get you started:

• The Ontario Association of Library Technicians NEEDS Board members, make a huge difference by checking the openings out here

• Nominations for the OLA Board of Directors & Division Council Elections are going on right now (the deadline is November 15th !) there are lots of great ways to get involved, check them out here

Speak at the 2015 AALT Conference

Join a national level CLA committee or task force

• Follow the CLA LTAN social media accounts, and those of the CLA Next Generation Network to get involved in their activities

• Get started in the land of library blogging by entering the CILIP Blogger Challenge or writing for us here at INALJ or write an article for Associates

• Or volunteer for one of the state and provincial pages, or another role here at INALJ, we’re always looking for great, eager volunteers!

You don’t have to do everything, but you SHOULD do something. After all who knows more about what library support staff do than library support staff? It’s up to us, as a collective whole to fight for ourselves and our work. The more voices we have out there the louder we will be.

When I was still in the library technician program, I had to do a research project for my Research & Reporting class, so for my topic I chose to look at the possibility of creating a CLA Student Chapter for my program. Doing that research I discovered only ONE library technician program in the entire country has actually done this, the NSCC! My research also returned a split between people who would be interested in being involved only if someone else did the work of getting it off the ground, and people who had no interest in being involved in any professional association activities. Very disheartening results and I want to see a change, we as library support staff NEED to see those attitudes change.

My desire and goal, especially now that I am the Moderator of the LTAN is to encourage participation and activity of library support staff in professional associations, to make us heard. I would LOVE to see a CLA Student Chapter in every library technician program across the country, and I would love for those same programs to become part of the LSSC! Please, join me in making this a reality! Get involved! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Professional involvement not only benefits the entire group of library support staff, but it makes you as an individual more employable and gives you valuable connections and resources!