ASSOCIATES (vol. 3, no. 2, November 1996) -

Table of contents

                  *Interview! (with Linda Owen)*

                            Kent Slade
                        Acquisitions Manager
                        Weber County Library
                            Ogden, UT
                          President, COLT
                  (Council on Library/Media Technicians)

This issue's _Interview!_ is with Linda Owen, a former president of
the Council on Library/Media Technicians (COLT) and a current
member of the COLT Board and the American Library Association's
Support Staff Interests Round Table Steering Committee.  She works
at the  University of California at Riverside as a Library
Assistant II Cataloger.

1.  Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a woman in my mid 50's and hair that is gray under the blond
rinse.  I am liberal in my politics and conservative in my morals.
I am steadfast or mule headed depending on who you talk to.  I get
lost when I am driving, but get where I am going eventually.  I try
not to take myself too seriously.  My family consists of one
husband (same one for 38 years), three children, three
grandchildren, a fourth unofficial grandchild, four dogs and one
cat.  I currently live in Moreno Valley, California.

I love to travel and experience new places, preferring uncrowded
natural settings to cities.  I read a lot, including science
fiction for its pure escapist nature.  My life has not been a very
settled one as my husband served in the U.S. Air Force for
twenty-seven years.   We lived in Arizona, Florida, the
Philippines, Texas, Northern Michigan, Puerto Rico, Montana,
Southern California and Japan.  The longest assignments were
overseas.  I  think it was this traveling life style that has made
me able to embrace change.

I have a Bachelors degree in Vocational Education from Southern
Illinois University at Carbondale.  I never stepped a foot on the
campus however.  I  did all my study through the distant learning
program at what used to be March Air Force Base here in California.

I started my studies at the local community college when I was
thirty five, earned my associates through the University of
Maryland's overseas division in Japan and finished up with SIU.  It
took me a while, but I finished.  I believe learning is a life long
process and continue to study and learn through formal and informal

2. How did you get involved with library service?

To make a long story short, I decided it was better to take a pay
cut and transfer to the library than to keep working for the sexist
pig I was then employed by.  A sexual harassment suit was partially
successful, but not without repercussions, so I thought it best to
move on.  Lucky me.  The library was the place I was really meant
to be anyway.  My first position was in a military library.  I was
officially the circulation clerk, but soon added on other
responsibilities.  My previous work, paid and volunteer, had been
with children's programs and I also had a background in art.  I
developed the library's entry for the John Cotton Dana competition
and we placed well.  I also developed publicity for the local
newspaper and TV station.  I wrote articles on Japanese culture and
traditions that included book lists as well as reviews on
seasonal books.  I really enjoyed expanding my abilities and adding
a creative element to my job.  Upon leaving Japan, I moved to
another military library and then on to my current position.

3. How did you get involved with COLT?

My involvement with COLT started in 1989.  The Technical Services
Division Head introduced me to _Library Mosaics_ and suggested that
staff might want to attend the COLT workshop in Los Angeles in June
of 1989.  I took him up on the offer and was hooked.  The
atmosphere was friendly and informal and the program content was
fabulous.  Kay Cee Hale was the speaker and her dynamic
presentation started me thinking in new ways.  It was a real
turning point in my career and subsequently my life.  Later the
same division head provided funds to sponsor one person or
partially sponsor two or three from Tech Services who wanted to
attend the COLT Conference in Chicago.  We had to write a letter of
justification and he was to decide who would go.  As it turned out,
I was the only one to submit a request so I received airfare and
registration and ground transportation.  I paid my own hotel costs.

That was my first experience in attending a national conference.
One thing led to another and I was asked in 1992 to run for
Vice-President /President-Elect of COLT.

4. How did you get involved with SSIRT?

My involvement with SSIRT started when I attended the
ALA/Membership Interest Group for Support Staff meetings in San
Francisco and the joint discussion session in Denver the following
year between ALA/MIG and COLT to discuss the formation of an ALA
Support Staff Interests Round Table.  I was asked to run for
a position on the Steering Committee and was elected to my current
position.  This is my final year on the Steering Committee.

5. What do you see are some of the major challenges facing support

Increased use of computer technology.  It has led to significant
changes in how we do our job, how we must approach our careers, how
our jobs affect us physically and how we relate to others in our
workplace.   A related challenge is the impact acquiring computer
technology has made on the budgets of our libraries.

Once upon a time we could each count on knowing what the job would
entail today, tomorrow and next year.  The basic skills and
equipment needed to do our jobs were pretty clearly identified.
Change did occur, but it was usually after well thought through
planning with time to adjust.  If we wanted to progress, the
process by which we could do that was also pretty well laid out.
No more.  Change is occurring rapidly, almost daily.  We have gone
from a paper dominated workplace to one where the computer
dominates.  How that computer works changes frequently through
upgrades to software and technology while the work flow changes
through technology dictated adaptations.  The only constant we can
rely on is change.  We must always be open to new ideas.  We have
to look further than our own individual tasks to see how they fit
into the big picture.  We have to be open to learning new skills.
Sometimes those skills are easy to learn, but sometimes not.  There
are also so many needs within our departments that sometimes it is
impossible for everyone to be at the same level of development.
In our compartmentalized places of work, we may not be learning the
skills necessary to progress.  More and more frequently we have to
look to outside resources to locate the expertise we need.  In
order to gain computer proficiency many library support staff are
finding themselves going back to school.  This is a need that our
library technology education programs can address.

6. If you could make three wishes for support staff what would they

That we each work in an atmosphere of trust and respect for our
expertise and knowledge.  That we are paid a fair wage for the work
we do.  That we have opportunity for growth and professional
development.  In other words -- that we are all considered to be
full participating members of the library community.

7.  Tell us about your involvement with other support staff issues.

The California Library Association experience has been interesting
and filled with opportunities to grow professionally.  I became
active in CLA just as it was initiating its restructuring process.
In its old identity all members were part of one of three
constituent groups.  Library support staff were included in the
California Library Employees Association (CLEA).  CLEA, as a
constituent group, automatically had a seat on the CLA assembly.
As it turned out I was the last CLEA President to serve on the
council.  Paraprofessionals are now represented by the Support
Staff Round Table which is a smaller group than the old CLEA
because now more support staff have been absorbed into other
sections and round tables of the association.  It is an interesting
and controversial phenomena of support staff being so successfully
accepted into a professional association as to lose their separate
identity.  Within CLA I have served on the Organization Committee
and the Membership Committee.  I have also spoken at or
moderated programs at the CLA annual conference.

My experience with the American Library Association has been
equally rewarding.  I expected ALA to be a faceless monolith with
which I would not have any real contact.  I did not realize that
ALA meetings were open to all and requests to participant were
welcome.  During my first year of membership I had two
paraprofessionals mentor me through conferences.  Phyllis Brown
(University of Idaho) and Peg Earheart (Vanderbilt University)
invited me to join them at meetings.  Once there I was asked if I
wanted to participate.  It only took my saying yes to be instantly
included.  As a result I served as the COLT consultant to an ALCTS
task force exploring ways to meet the continuing education needs of
Technical Services paraprofessionals.  A solid document was
developed by this group and presented to the ALCTS Executive Board.

The next opportunity to say yes came at a meeting of the ALA
Committee on Education's Task Force to Review the Need to Revise
the Criteria for Library Technical Education.  I was attending the
meeting as an observer as a member of COLT and ALA.  The official
COLT representative was the Education Committee Chairperson,
Annamarie Erickson.  I agreed to serve on the committee because I
realized that library work was becoming so increasingly technical
in nature that education would soon be the key to success in the
field and indispensable for those new to the field.  The task force
has been disseminating the original criteria created in the 1970's
and holding open forums to discuss the need to revise it.  It has
been an interesting task, though I wish that more support staff
would review the document and make their comments on it.

8.  Is there anything you would like to add?

I think that I would like to end by repeating again that the only
constant is change.  Our jobs are changing.  The educational
requirements to do the work are changing.  Our position within the
field of librarianship is changing.  All these things will change
with or without the input of library paraprofessionals. However, we
can have a say in how the changes affect us.  All we have to do is
reach out and participate in those groups that will be making
decisions.  Groups like COLT, ALA, SSIRT and your state
associations. I realize that not everyone has the time or
opportunity to be as active in library organizations as I have
been fortunate to do, but opportunities exist at all levels.  Read
the library literature and respond to issues that affect you, your
job and your library.  You will find it is a mightily empowering

[Editors' Note:  The American Library Association Committee on
Education's Task Force for Review of Criteria for Programs to
Prepare Library/Media Technical Assistants would like your
participation in the review of the document, "Criteria for Programs
to Prepare Library/Media Technical Assistants."  Please check the
*Information of Interest* section in this issue of _ASSOCIATES_
for further details.]