ASSOCIATES (2018, November, v. 25, no. 2)


25 years of Associates – the electronic support staff journal – Happy Birthday!!

Jim Jackson

I wonder if you are one of those people who say things like I remember exactly where I was when I heard about the Berlin Wall coming down, or the first black American became US President or saw the last flight of the American space shuttle?

Ok, I know this is not the same, but I do remember when Kendall Simmonds first suggested having a journal for library front line staff. It was a joint effort of course with lots of other people offering to help with expertise and articles. I offered to help and while I did not contribute an article for the first edition I do remember reading it, and thinking I must help with this, and so started a long association with the journal and the people behind it.

25 years in any industry is almost a life time, and many industries have come and gone or developed into new industries during this time span. Libraries have been no different but have been around for a lot longer than 25 years. What is unique about Associates is the fact that it has developed during this time period from a simple text-based email into a web-based world-wide access platform.

Witness to this is from the first editorial written by Kendall Simmonds, the first editor of the journal: ( )

In September 1993, Mary Kalnin, listowner of LIBSUP-L, an
electronic discussion list for library support staff, University
of Washington and Ed Gillen, then NYSLAA Recording Secretary and
editor of the NYSLAA newsletter, proposed the establishment of an
electronic library support staff journal. Seven people from
around the United States volunteered for the editorial board.
For many months, we worked on the technical aspects of developing
and publishing an e-journal. With the much appreciated
assistance of a couple of computer gurus here at the University
of Kansas, Marianne Reed, Program Assistant, and John Miller,
Automation Librarian, a new listserv (ASSOC-L) was developed for
the sole purpose of publishing _ASSOCIATES_.
At the end of May, the board decided to be daring and to announce
our existence, telling the world we would be publishing our first
issue in July and inviting everyone to subscribe. To date we
have over 1500 subscribers from over a dozen countries, from
large academic libraries to small public libraries, from
corporate libraries to private foundation libraries, from
military libraries to forestry libraries, and so on. As varied
as the list of libraries is, so are the people who work in them.
But they all seem to have one thing in common – they are all
hoping that ASSOCIATES will fill a perceived need.

When I first agreed to serve as (the first -) editor-in-chief, I gave some
thought to what *I* wanted _ASSOCIATES_ to be. I had no
specifics in mind and, in fact, still don’t. I know that I want
it to be useful; that I want it to appeal to a broad range of
people, both in terms of interests and in terms of skills; and I
want it to “have an attitude affirming the value of
paraprofessional work”, to steal a phrase from an old colleague.
Most importantly, I want it to be a positive force in people’s
lives, giving them encouragement, knowledge, ideas, and an
opportunity to teach as well as learn.

This has served the journal well over the years and continues to be the backbone to the journal. If you have an interesting view of libraries, services which you provide which are somewhat different, you can contribute. Contributions are the journals life blood after all! Associates has developed over the years and has options for developing in the future if contributors want to. Perhaps a development of the Associates Facebook page or the twitter account. If you have skill in this respect, then get in touch with the Editor.

My own first contribution was in November 1994 (vol. 1 no. 2) on in service training, something which I spent many years researching, developing and taking part in.

In 1999 Wendee Eyler had recently taken over as the Editor and was keen to develop Associates from its text base format to a new web-based format. Jim Clark, who still runs the technical side of the journal, was also keen to help. Between them they developed a new web style and Wendee Eyler wanted a project which everyone could take part in – everywhere. As it happened I was starting to organise a project Book IT – based on Shakespeare’s Mid- Summer Nights Dream play – which I wanted library staff around the world to take part in. Have a look how this started here –

With help from Associates the word was spread and eventually when the event took place in June 2000 there was over 68 libraries around the world taking part in promoting Library services, the skill of library workers and promoting literacy. It got libraries of all sorts and sizes and types into local news media, including here in the UK with the BBC.

The aim of Associates has always been to promote the value of library staff and libraries in general throughout the world. At that time CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) was keen to develop a way of giving front line staff who had not gone to University to gain academic qualifications, a vocational qualification which recognised their skills and knowledge. They would be awarded a title of Certified Member of CILIP, and I am proud to say that I was on the Framework of Qualifications Board which developed this, and you can read about it in an article I wrote in July 2005. Not only that but I was the first person to be awarded this, along with a group of other pioneer members!

Libraries like any building can suffer from poor design and from poor working conditions, and I was determined to try and bring all these problems together in one report which could then be used by any Library staff personnel to support requests for better working conditions. This was not a political campaign but a practical campaign, and one which Associates was good enough to support.

I asked for Associates readers to complete an online survey of questions and then collated the results which were then published not only in Associates but in other journals such as the (UK) SCONUL (Society of College, National and University Libraries) newsletter. Have a look at the results here –

It’s no secret that Libraries have suffered over the last decade, with funding cuts to buildings maintenance, library staffing and the book budget. This a terrible shame on society and our political leaders but world economic decline has had a massive impact on services. There is a rallying call in the July 2013 edition of Associates which is called Return of the Living Gatekeepers: How Information Austerity Will Save Public Libraries

However, Libraries have continued to innovate and develop both new services and the interaction with its users. There was an interesting article from Ben Hogben about reservation requests from patrons for books by using text messages and email, and this was back in 2011, just as the whole world was beginning to use cell phones more widely. His article can be found at

Today Libraries have been transformed from dark and quiet buildings full of books and not a lot else into bright and often much more accessible places which offer not only books, but connection to the Internet, and coffee shops, and reading clubs, and access to a host of important information centres. It’s vital in an age of the internet, where knowledge is still power but now also how you access this and what you do with it.

Families and whole communities in deprived areas of low income need access which is free, and someone on hand to help them fill in online forms for social support. Libraries also still need to be places to go to, to take children to, so they learn the joy of reading and talking to people. Exchanging ideas and exposing us to new cultures cuts down barriers in communities leading to better lives and better futures.

Gerry Deyermond and Allison Sloan wrote an excellent article called ‘What paralibrarians wish their directors knew’ which was published in March 2017

Many librarians and people who work in libraries will have favourite libraries, either places they have visited or perhaps used the online resources of them. They’re places which might have special connections such as studying there in the past. I know when I visit a new city I often manage to find myself looking at the local library. It does not matter if it’s a really small library, for example in Whistler – Canada, a huge library such as the New York Library or an academic library such as the Bodleian Library in Oxford . I did write an article in November 2007 all about my favourite libraries

For those of you who just want to curl up with a nice cup of coffee or tea and read, then may I suggest that you catch up with Kelly Bourne’s library adventures at where her life working in a library is always far from dull but exciting and often ‘saving the day’ for the library and its patrons.

So, 25 years ago Associates was first published, during those years the topics that have been covered have been diverse, informative, and hopefully inclusive. I do hope that you will consider making your own contribution to the journal in the future, it’s here for you, so please use it.

Happy Birthday to you all!