Sunday, February 11, 2007

Transformation

I've just spent the last 2 weeks in my first professional position.
I've been hired as an Assistant Branch Manager at my library.

This is desirable and challenging for a number of reasons. The challenges first:
--I'm still working on my degree. I have 2 demanding courses. Life feels overwhelming with my spouse and son also taking my time. I've never been the "best" student. Managing coursework (i.e. I am a Big Procrastinator) has never been my strong suit.

--I am now a supervisor. Some of my supervisées, while they have not been my peers in terms of the work hierarchy, have not been people I've had to supervise. We've had more of a sense of camaraderie. I still want to encourage camaraderie, but I will have to be able to draw the line.

Sandy Puccino, in American Libraries, the magazine you get when you become a member of the ALA writes that, "Rather than looking at support staff as the serfs of the stacks, librarians should see the as associates in information management or librarians-in-waiting." (p. 41, American Libraries, January 2007).

I have always felt that way, since my own experience has reflected that. I started as a library clerk in a synagogue library. I hated shelving, filing catalog cards and writing accession numbers in books, in part because the people I worked with made me feel what I was doing was because I was too uneducated to do anything else.

Gradually, I became the synagogue's librarian. My title and name got on the stationery's masthead. Nevertheless, my pay was nothing like professional and the way management treated me--again, it was as if I knew nothing. I knew I loved what I was doing, but I wanted to be A Professional. So I started library school and quit my synagogue job.

The first public library I job I got, I was a Page. I shelved books. I yearned to answer questions. I kept being told that my job was only to shelve books, tidy the place up and make xeroxes for the staff who requested them. I also helped package materials for ILL. The place I worked was very hierarchical in its operations at the time. I began to grow unhappy.

Then I got a job in Youth Services at a branch. This is what I observed: While most Pages aren't officially expected to do info specialist work at the branch, they do learn the collection and can often help when an Info Spec or Librarian isn't around. Same with the Clerks--the front line of defense at the circ desk.

Now my job is to supervise these Clerks and Pages. I want to do more, though. I want to nurture their ability to be information specialists. It can only help our users if more skilled people are there to help them.

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