Are You the Librarian? the Face of Quality Library Service Depends on Drawing a Wider Circle in Our Profession

By Kutzik, Jennifer S. | American Libraries, March 2005 | Go to article overview

Are You the Librarian? the Face of Quality Library Service Depends on Drawing a Wider Circle in Our Profession


Kutzik, Jennifer S., American Libraries


So just what do support staff say when asked, "Are you the librarian"? "I do answer 'yes' to that question because the general public does not know the difference between a librarian and an information services assistant," related Padma Polepeddi of Westerville (Ohio) Public Library. Linda Hearn, a 26-year library veteran without an MLS degree, holds the title of "assistant branch librarian" and always answers, "Yes." But Joan Neslund of Ellensburg (Wash.) Public Library countered: "If a patron asks, I say 'Yes.' If I am asked by another professional, I say 'No.'"

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Binary thinking, at the root of Western philosophy, leads most of us into either/or mode. A person is a librarian or isn't, is a professional or isn't. But the real world is more fluid and complex, with each person challenging or accepting boundaries all the time. "We are all performing jobs that only those with the MLS would have done just five years ago," states Mary T. Kalnin, a 33-year employee at the University of Washington in Seattle. "I also try to stop myself from saying 'I just work here.' It seems to belittle the job that nonlibrarians do," says Linda Patterson, circulation supervisor at Multnomah County (Oreg.) Library's Central Library.

How staff COPE

"I can remember it like it happened yesterday," recalls Dorothy Morgan, business manager of Liverpool (N.Y.) Public Library. As president of the American Library Association's fledgling Library Support Staff Interests Round Table (LSSIRT), she approached the ALA Executive Board in January 2001 to petition for a third Congress on Professional Education (COPE 3). "I felt so passionate about the issue.... I let them know I was speaking on behalf of LSSIRT; that I was only one voice out of thousands for support staff."

In May 2003, over 150 delegates representing Association leaders, administrators, educators, and support staff gathered at the third Congress on Professional Education to brainstorm future directions for the professional development of library workers (AL, Aug. 2003, p. 36-37). Their first task was to identify what support staff do well. Each small group generated extensive statement lists that included such attributes as "fill vital roles," "understand collections and materials," "understand users," "are the faces of the library," "use teamwork concepts," and "have a service attitude."

The stories of library workers are as diverse as the libraries represented within ALA. With terms of service ranging from three months to over 30 years, some feel the library calling early in life. "In 6th grade, I ran the Van Buren Elementary circulation desk during recess while the librarian took her afternoon break," reported James Farmer, head of access services at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. "As a teenager, I volunteered in the library at the Cheyenne Veterans Affairs Medical Center," recalled Trish Palluck, resource-sharing specialist for the Wyoming State Library in Cheyenne. Many bring rich experiences to library service from previous posts as health care personnel, teachers, bus drivers, mail carriers, editors, bartenders, jewelers, herbalists, and full-time parents.

Many library support staff have earned advanced degrees up to the doctoral level. However, some MLS-holding delegates to COPE 3 were surprised to learn that not everyone working in a library aspires to obtain an advanced library degree. When the issue of upward mobility was discussed, support staff delegates made a strong case for a career lattice that offers parallel promotional opportunities. "I don't see any advantage in today's working environment in libraries to pursue a costly MLS degree," said one staffer who preferred to remain anonymous. "I like what I do as a principal library assistant," stated Ellen Brewer of Ocean County (N.J.) Library.

The perception that degreed librarians spend too many hours in meetings or compiling endless reports deterred Betsy Miller, senior library technician at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia, from pursuing her MLS. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Are You the Librarian? the Face of Quality Library Service Depends on Drawing a Wider Circle in Our Profession
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.