Friday, May 4, 2007

It Takes Two to Tango: How Librarians and Paralibrarians Support Each Other

Susan Babb, NMRLS, moderated presentations from two libraries successfully supporting paralibrarians. The presenters stressed the communication, mentoring, and starting small.

One thing that surprises me to hear (and I applaud it!) is the idea that a good supervisor helps an employee recognize when a job is not the right fit - either the job has evolved, or the staff person has wider aspirations than a small library (with no promotion opportunities) can meet. How refreshing to hear the concept that it's okay to let people move on when they have outgrown their job in some way!

I was running around taking photos and missed most of the presentation from Leslie Todd and Gael Nappa from Haverhill; they spoke about how Gael made a transition from being a library clerk in the circulation department to a children's assistant, and from there became an active member of of the MLA Paralibrarian Section.

The importance of continuing education came up several times. "Trainings and workshops are an inspirational thing..." said Marnie.
"How do you get them to go?" someone asked.
"Well, sometimes, kicking and screaming!" she said, drawing chuckles.

Leslie talked about the range of getting employees to attend, from gentle suggestion to assigning it, and said more often than not, the experience is a positive one. Someone in the audience mentioned it was part of their job description; later, someone said that if you want to make a request to attend a program, come prepared by working out any schedule issues first.

As someone working on the regional level, we are seeing a DECLINE in continuing education workshops, and would love to see more faces at our programs. They are enriching in terms of learning something new and helping you to do your job better, but they also provide a valuable networking opportunities and support, but they are also a break from the daily grind, and leave your refreshed and reinvigorated.

Marnie Oaks from the Reuben Hoar Library shared some small successes, such as closing to provide CE opportunities, cross-training staff, and making professional development into fun, team-building activities, from lunch together to field trips to museums. The success story is that the staff works well together, their contentedness comes across and creates a wonderful patron experience, and the trustees and community are happy to support the library. Marnie reports they haven't yet had an override that didn't pass.

The program concluded with a story (read by Leslie): Edwardo, the Horriblest Boy in the Whole Wide World by John Burningham, a parable about becoming what we are told we are by internalizing the feedback we get from people around us. The program ended at 12:10, and nearly a dozen people lingered to continue their conversation.

The handouts were great, and hopefully will be posted on the MLA website.

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