Thursday, May 8, 2008

And the Winner Is...Paralibrarian Awards and the PARA presentation

The Fourth Annual Awards Presentation, presented by the MLA Paralibrarian Section

Each year the Paralibrarian Section presents two awards, for Outstanding Paralibrarian of the Year and Paralibrarian Advocate of the Year, as well as the awarding of the PARA certificates of achievement to paralibrarians who have collected points and obtained certification levels I, II, or III. The meeting was presented by Denise Faucher, the committee member in charge of awards.

She opened the ceremony with a show of hands from the crowd to establish how many paralibrarians were present, as well as the number of MLS librarians in the audience. There was a fairly equal split, which reflected the impact that paralibrarians and librarians have on each other's careers. Denise presented the idea of paralibrarians as the foundation of libraries, the base upon which staffing is built as well as the support system that professional librarians count upon. Every position in the library is valuable, she said, from the director down to pages and aides.

Denise next explained the criteria which the board used to choose amongst the 15 nominations that they received for Outstanding Paralibrarian of the Year. Nominees were selected by colleagues, who submitted detailed letters explaining why their co-worker was right for the award. The committee would base their decisions on a set of criteria which they believe to exemplify the traits of an outstanding paralibrarian, essentially leading to the choice of the nominee who could most accurately be described as a problem solver with a professional attitude who strives to reach above and beyond the limitations of their job-title. According to Denise, every nomination letter received showed enormous amounts of work done by the subject.

The fifteen nominees are as follows:

Carla Burke, Brooks Free Library
Melissa Caissie, Hudson Public Library
Jeanne Crosby, Granby Free Public Library
Lois Elliott, Lawrence Public Library
Jacqueline Ellis, Haverhill Public Library
Barbara Fulchino, Robbins Public Library
Barabra Goldin, Emily Williston Memorial Library
Jo Ann Helenius, Forbush Memorial Library
Deborah Jankowski, Taconic High School Library
Sharon Keith, McGlynn School Library
Judith Lively, Amherst College Robert Frost Library
Joan Owcarsky, North Adams Public Library
Fern Sann, David and Joyce Milne Library
Susan Schaeffer, Forbes Library
Maureen Tulley, Nevins Memorial Library

The winner was Melissa Caissie of the Hudson Public Library. Melissa is a circulation/ILL supervisor who, according to her nomination letter, accomplishes tasks in a professional manner while going far beyond the limits of her job. She fills in for both reference and childrens when they are short staffed, as well as taking charge of a situation when the director is not in the building. Melissa was described as “exemplifying professionalism”. Her nomination letter explained Melissa's long history with the Hudson Public Library, where she started going as a young child when her brother worked as a page, eventually working as a page herself and finally making her way to her current position. This life-long commitment to the library has lead to Melissa's co-workers referring to her as “our Melissa”.

Melissa stepped up to receive her award, graciously thanking her colleagues.

The next award presented was that of Paralibrarian Advocate of the Year. This was presented by Committee Chairperson Gerry Deyermond. Gerry explained that this award was reserved for the director, supervisor, colleague or paralibrarian who knows the value of paralibrarians and demonstrates outstanding support for paralibrarians. Paralibrarians can't grow, Gerry said, without advocates.

This year's nominees were Hope Bodwell of the Monson Free Library and Jim Sutton of Memorial Hall Library.

The award went to Jim Sutton, who also happens to be the director of Gerry's library. Gerry presented Jim with the award, mentioning the support that he gave her in joining the Paralibrarian Section committee when the section was reformed. Gerry went on to point out Jim's equal treatment of all staff, regardless of their individual position in the library.
Jim accepted his award and explained that, when he was president of MLA in 2001, he and the board felt that it was necessary to find ways to make the organization grow. From this thought they placed a strong focus on the development of paralibrarians as members of MLA. Patrons do not know if the staff has an MLS or not, he said, therefore all staff members are equally essential in creating a properly functioning library. He stressed the importance of self-empowering staff members, through means such as the paralibrarian section, in order to give them a bigger picture of what goes on outside of their own libraries.

Next came the awarding of the PARA recognition of achievement awards. These were presented by Debbie Pennino, the committee member in charge of Career Development. This year's recipients were Carol Geary of Sutton Public library, who earned her PARA III, and Alison DaSilva, Past-Chairperson of the Paralibrarian Section committee, who received her PARA III as well. These certifications are based on three criteria, Debbie said, experience, education and professional activities.

Finally, a certificate of appreciation was given to Debbie Bockus for her diligent work in helping to establish the PARA certification program over the course of many years.

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