Wednesday, May 18, 2005

In praise of library assistants

This week is a big one at the main branch - we had the "Sillies" (Silly story time) today; it's the Babies tomorrow (Lap club for under 12 months) and then the Armchair Traveller for adults tomorrow night (we're off to the Galapogos Islands with a community member who has just visited there.) And all of this conceived and achieved not by the professionals in our library service (numbering a grand total of 2 I should point out), but by our wonderful library assistants. My role is simply to offer encouragement, and an environment where the innate and very considerable abilities of the non-professional staff can flourish. I recall an episode of Dilbert when he leaves his dysfunctional company and joins a utopian firm. He meets the "Vice President in Charge of Immediately Implementing Good Ideas" - that's the position (sub)title I aspire to.

It is a matter of some pride also that all of the library assistants in the main branches now have some form of paraprofessional qualification or are working towards one - even our casual staff (who we like to call "support staff" as a more accurate reflection of their value to the library) all have Certificate level qualifications. And they are also actively involved in planning and participating in the library's activities.

I remember some years ago (all of the people involved have moved on so I think it is safe to blog this) the State Library was conducting a review of our library service, when I was the only Librarian employed. They were impressed by our complete lack of a cataloguing backlog (it's simple really - we don't have room for one so therefore there isn't one). One of the librarians conducting the review expressed admiration for my skills as a cataloguer , to achieve all of my other functions AND do all of the cataloguing. "Oh God, I don't do the cataloguing!" I blurted out. Guess who got a bad report for allowing non-professionals to do professional work. Luckily attitudes have changed a lot since then.

Nurturing the relationship between library assistants/paraprofessionals and librarians would have to be one of the most important elements in the success of a public library service, and yet I don't recall seeing any academic papers about it.

Library assistants in public libraries everywhere, you are wonderful.


  • Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:44 AM  

  • Hi ,I am presently studingy on line for my certificate and am acting in the role of a Library Assistant, a long way from what I was doing before. The article was uplifting and informative. Thank you.

    By Anonymous Maddy, at 12:51 PM  

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