ASSOCIATES (vol. 1, no. 3, March 1995) -

Table of Contents

[July 10, 2034:  ASSOCIATES asked electronic journalist Tom
Nellig to link up with some of the past leaders of the Associate
community to get a feel for what it was like to be an Associate
during the infamous years leading up to the "Great Awakening".  He
files this report.  The Editors.]
                      "THE GREAT AWAKENING"
                           Tom Nellig
On July 10, 2009, history was made as the members of the
American Library Association elected its first Associate as
President.  Election returns were the highest than in any previous
year.  The vote wasn't even close as the nearly 64,000 Library and
Non-Library Associate member majority of ALA overwhelmingly chose
Cary Jan Kneecast - a well-known and liked Associate from New
Jersey.  From that point on, Associates concerns would forever be
heard at the national level.  ASSOCIATES hooked up with Cary Jan
and friends at a 25-year reunion of Associates commemorating that
election - known to this day as "The Great Awakening."
ASSOCIATES:  Cary Jan, we all familiar with the past injustices
     against Associates.  What our readers are interested in is,
     "how did you and your colleagues move your agenda forward to
     accomplish your goals?"
Cary Jan:  Well, it wasn't easy.  It all began with the emergence
     of local and statewide library support staff organizations
     during the mid-80s and early 90s.  These organizations
     provided invaluable professional development opportunities to
     staff members who were virtually ignored in that area.  Each
     of these organizations had their own mission statements but
     very few of them were thinking about the future and what that
     future would look like for support staff.
ASSOCIATES:  Is that how the first strategic planning conference of
     library support staff from August to December 1996 came about?
Cary Jan:  Yes.  By the mid 90s, most local and statewide leaders
     were online.  This allowed us to collectively meet in
     cyberspace.  This was essential since we were constantly under
     time and travel (i.e. monetary) constraints.  There were still
     some risks, however.  A Library Assistant from Wisconsin was
     fired for taking part in the conference because her supervisor
     did not believe it was job related.
ASSOCIATES:  That's so 1990-ish!  Could you tell us some more about
     the conference?
Cary Jan:  The ground work had been laid with the publication of
     the National Directory of Library Paraprofessional
     Associations, which included the e-mail addresses of all the
     local and statewide leaders.  The relatively new ALA Support
     Staff Interest Group (SSIG) took the lead in organizing the
     conference by electronically inviting each of these leaders to
     participate, as well as posting a general invitation on
     LIBSUP-L and in ASSOCIATES.  The goal of the conference was to
     establish a vision of where library support staff wanted to be
     by the year 2006.  We were guided by online facilitators and
     coaches knowledgeable in strategic planning.  It took five
     months but by January 1, 1997 we knew what had to be done
     to accomplish our goals.  To me this was our real "Great
ASSOCIATES:  What were some of those goals?
Cary Jan:  Well, eliminating the confusion over what to call us.
     By the end of 1998, every local, statewide and national
     organization changed their constitution and bylaws to
     incorporate the term "Associate."  Once we were all aligned,
     we spent time and money informing the library and non-library
     community of who we were.
ASSOCIATES:  I was told that the editors of ASSOCIATES and Library
     Journal were flooded with mail over this issue.
Cary Jan:  It was just one of those minor roadblocks that had to be
     removed before we could go forward.
ASSOCIATES:  What were some of the major awakenings that moved you
forward the most?
Cary Jan:  I guess there were 2 major awakenings that took place.
     The first was that Associates recognized that the survival of
     the Associate depended on the survival of the library and the
     profession.  The second was the realization that the only true
     strength Associates had existed in their sheer numbers.  The
     only way we would be heard was to grow within the established
     professional library organizations so that we and our concerns
     couldn't be ignored.  That latter awakening is why we are here
ASSOCIATES:  Our archives indicated that by the end of the
     millennium, Associates were the majority members in 37 of the
     50 statewide organizations.  In the year 2001, 38,000
     Associates joined ALA!  What caused this?
Cary Jan:  Well, with ALA membership and conference attendance
     declining (and thus its funds), the Executive Council finally
     lowered its dues to attract the growing, professional, career-
     oriented Library and Non-Library Associate.  Seeing its
     opportunity, the Associate community tapped its joint
     financial reservoir (one of the goals of the strategic plan)
     and helped finance ALA membership to any interested Associate.
     The result, as you see, was tremendous.
ASSOCIATES:  Do you think ALA knew what they were in for when they
     lowered the dues?
Cary Jan:  Do you mean did they realize that they would be flooded
     with new money, new ideas, new conference attendees, new
     manpower, new voices, new library supporters?  Yes!  Or, do
     you mean did they realize that Associates would do their
     talking with their votes -- electing Associates as President
     of ALA in 19 of the last 25 years and electing Associate
     majorities to the Executive Council over the past 18 years?
     No, I don't think so!
ASSOCIATES:  Since the "Great Awakening", what past Associate
     issues have been addressed?
Cary Jan:  I think that a lot of the issues were turf issues
     between Librarians and Associates.  Once Librarians started
     viewing us as allies to their survival and not as a threat to
     their very existence, our outlook and image rapidly changed
     for the better.  It's amusing to look back at a time where the
     professional development of Associates was not considered
     essential to the survival of the library.  It's with amazement
     that past conference organizers and editors of library
     literature offered nothing of interest to or by the Associate.
     I also find it hard to believe that it took over 40 years to
     develop and implement a national certification plan!
ASSOCIATES:  Of course the big issue was increasing Associate
Cary Jan:  A number of ALA research reports released since my
     administration have been used as ammunition in the war for
     better wages.  Between the years 2011-2015 we made tremendous
     strides -- averaging 15% increases on a national level.
ASSOCIATES:  As an Associate myself, I would like to thank you and
     all the other Associate leaders who had a vision and a
     strategic plan and the courage and commitment to enact that
Cary Jan:  You're welcome!  I hope you and the editors of
     ASSOCIATES plan on taking part in the 26th joint
     Associate/Librarian strategic planning conference next year?
ASSOCIATES:  We'll be there!