ASSOCIATES (2004, November, v. 11, no. 2) -

*Accidental Cataloger Becomes LIBSUP-L Listmom*


Mary T. Kalnin
University of Washington

One never knows what curves life will throw. Take the case of a graduate student in French literature at the University of Washington in 1972. One day she was a student employee in the Library’s Catalog Division; the next, she was a full-time, paraprofessional staff member. Oops! That was not quite what she had in mind. Fast forward twenty years to 1992; our former graduate student was still hanging out not only in the same library, but in the same division. All that had changed were her job and the name of the division, both multiple times.

Let’s stay in 1992 because that year marked a very big change in our paraprofessional’s working life. She read an issue of Library Mosaics, and noticed a request for someone to start an Internet discussion list for library paraprofessionals/support staff; Pat Scott, the paraprofessional who had the original idea, was unable to bring it to fruition. Since our para had been seeking a way to become nationally involved in librarianship, she proposed such a list to her library director, who agreed to sponsor it. In September 1992 LIBSUP-L went live, thanks to the University of Washington Computing and Communications Department. Within twenty-four hours, the list had one hundred members and grew exponentially daily, and the communication was fast and furious. The bulk of the messages were angry releases of frustration about paraprofessionals’ working lives. There was so much anger on the bandwidth that our para almost shut down the list; however a very wise division head said to wait for the traffic to settle. After several months, LIBSUP-L came into its own and became a working list. Its discussion topic included (and still include) anything library related, or those topics related to working life; off limits were politics, religion, flame and jokes for the sake of jokes.

Fast forward another twelve years to 2004, and LIBSUP-L is still going strong. The University of Washington has changed list software twice since 1992—first to “Listproc” from “Listserv” and then to “Mailman” from “Listproc.” “Mailman” is actually quite nice, because it allows the owner a greater range of options in list setup. It is also easier for members to subscribe and signoff, because everything is done by checkmarks through the World Wide Web interface. However, there are a few glitches. The owner is supposed to be able to edit posts for length or topic; of course no one can determine how to do it without having the edited post appear to come from the editor, not the original poster. So much for that! One of the topics so prevalent those first years—salary/working conditions—has pretty much moved to the “Moneytalks” list specifically for those topics, and that is as it should be. Many changes have taken place on LIBSUP-L and many more are likely to come. Should anyone wish to give us a look, go to the following URL:

The subscription instructions are there. You will be sent a welcome message which will contain a password assigned to you. It will be found toward the end of the message. Once you have it, you can go back to the URL and change it to something you like. You will need it to see the archives and manipulate your subscription. As of November 8, 2004, LIBSUP-L had 1947 subscribers, but people subscribe and signoff daily.

The Moneytalks list is a service of ALA-APA. APA is the Allied Professional Association, “a nonprofit professional organization established to promote the mutual professional interests of librarians and other library workers.” The following URL holds subscription information for Moneytalks:

After twelve years, has LIBSUP-L been worth it? Yes. Since I am the owner, I beg your indulgence for a few final thoughts. Starting LIBSUP-L was one of the best decisions I ever made. It has allowed me the joy of meeting many, many library folk; it has enabled me to become nationally involved in a job that became a career which I cherish; most importantly, it has given the opportunity for those library staff members less often heard, and often ignored, to discuss their working lives, philosophize a little and share ideas and solutions to those problems that we all face in our libraries, wherever they are. I hope that when I take leave of the University and the library world, someone will relish a curve that life threw and take up the mantle, so that LIBSUP-L will continue to serve until its work is finished.

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