ASSOCIATES (vol. 8 no. 1, July 2001) -

My View From the Backroom

ALA San Francisco through an ASSOCIATE'S eyes


Carol Borzyskowski
Library Associate II
Winona Public Library

Imagine 25,000 women in comfortable shoes descending on San Francisco all at once; also imagine that most of them were carrying huge tote bags stuffed with ALA "give-aways." And there I was a part of all. One of the most fun things I did was sit at outdoor cafes with a soda or coffee and watch the procession of people. Even if the passers-by were not wearing a conference badge, I made bets to myself who were librarians.

Another fun thing that happened to me at the conference was all the friendly, interesting people I met. Now I know you are thinking everyone always says that, but honestly, would you believe I am a shy retiring soul by nature? Well, would you believe large crowds make me nervous? I was simply amazed at the women who would approach me, invite me to join their group, or just sit with me and have a coffee and chat.

The first question always was: public or academic library? I always answered honestly, "Public." Then that was followed by what is your field. Which I responded by saying either Interlibrary loans, to head nods and eye rolls, or public service, to much the same response. Every women I met and chatted to was friendly and talkative--except
for twice--when I said I WASN'T a librarian, but support staff. Both times that ended the conversation and they went away. Do you find that strange? I thought it kind of sad and snotty myself. And to be honest here, after the two snubs, I never mentioned the fact I didn't have an MLS and had wonderful conversations with librarians and vendors. I was a rare and lonely support staff representative at ALA. In fact I combed both sections of exhibitors
in the HUGE Moscone Center looking for support staff programs or meetings. I was obviously overwhelmed with the huge convention and site, just being a small town woman, because I missed any signs of support staff life. I would have held a meeting in my room and welcomed us all to the city.

Personally I felt like it was a big step in my "professional" life to be the only one attending ALA from our library, and I was delighted by my director's faith in me. One that would not have come my way without my desire to learn new things, and do different job around the library. Did I mention I even fill in on Reference Desk now and then? And sometimes, well, just on Summer Saturdays when we are only open 3 hours, I get to be the SUPERVISOR. So maybe that is why some MLS'ers get a tad offish, they know we are out there and doing a great job. The public knows it, and in a perfect world, your boss knows it. I have unpacked my comfortable shoes, my 7 canvas tote bags, my 2 tee-shirts, my 2 beanie babies, my mug, my stationary, and my ALA San Francisco tank top and have brought all the free pens to work. I can look around my windowless galley and know I was there and I was a part of it all. Librarian or not. I have the "LOVE, PEACE & LIBRARIES --READ AND BE FREE" button to prove it.

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