Thursday, May 8, 2008

Stuck in a Rut

This was a panel of terrific and inspirational people. Led by moderator Justin Termini, we heard from last year's MLA Paralibrarian of the Year award winner, Laurie Christie from Natick; last year's MLA Paralibrarian Advocate of the Year award winner, Marnie Oakes the director of the Reuben Hoar Library of Littleton; former BPL staffer and union leader, Helen Graham; and Diane Faye, Reuben Hoar Library staff member and recipient of a PARA, a PAralibrarian Recognition of Achievement award.

Laurie Christie: Loves her job, even after 11 years, but after awhile everything is rote work. She did some booktalking, but needed a new project. She saw a need for some sort of program to engage teens. So she began a chess club. That was the start of Games Day on every early release day. She feels if you are stuck in a rut, you should challenge yourself. Ask: What can I do that's not being done? ... or that would be different? Use your imagination. She says it is important to have a supportive director, who says sure, what do you need? She realized there was a large population of non- English speakers who were not being served by her library - they were sending these people elsewhere for ESL. So she contacted the people they were sending them to, and suggested collaborating on this program. She has become a trainer of tutors. She wanted "something that's mine." You can create innovative programming with the support of the director.

Marnie Oakes: Marnie felt it is incumbent on you to expand yourself, frequently it will require that you must do a lot on your own time. Take it upon yourself to learn, to go to meetings or workshops, to sacrifice. It may not be just in the library. She told of someone who had said to her, they would much rather have support than resources. The question was asked, what if your director/trustees are not supportive? She says ganging up is ok! Look at grants. If all else fails, you can leave. It's not a good option in this economy, but you can plan... dream. She recommends rebellion!

Diane Faye: She is retired from BPL after working there MANY years, in MANY positions. Her
background is as support staff. Her dad was the library custodian, and he organized the workers. She had been doing clerical work, and went to bpl while deciding what to do.
She says you need to look at, besides what you like to do, what does your library need. Then do it, so they need you, too. Without the support from management, you are stuck in rut.

Helen Graham:
She was not unhappy with her job. She was... complacent. Then financial woes hit the library, and trustees were looking at staffing with volunteers. Everyone became resentful, and nervous. Her director (Marnie Oakes) encouraged them to get involved in the PARA program. Once they became involved, what looked like just another hard project became a group effort, and they began to recognize their own professionalism. Being more aware of all the things they are capable of and accomplish made them stronger. She thanks Marnie Oakes - sometimes it takes a push from above.

Justin Termini:
Participating in the Bookcart Drill Team gets them out of rut. He says even the stupid costume helps. It's team building.

Question from the audience:
How can we get other directors on board?
Marnie Oakes; maybe through general meetings of various consortia - there could be some report on the progress and value of the PARA program, and being involved in professional development. The PARA may seem less useful immediately, but it looks good on a resume, and opens conversation. A director who is hiring would see added value in a candidate with a PARA.

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