ASSOCIATES (vol. 4, no. 3, March 1998) - associates.ucr.edu
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*TRADITION IN TRANSITION: BLURRING THE BOUNDARIES BETWEEN PROFESSIONAL AND PARAPROFESSIONAL POSITIONS* by Gina Hsiung Cataloging Manager University Library California State University, Northridge email@example.com [The following paper was prepared for participation in a Panel Discussion as part of the California Library Association's 26th Annual Conference held in November 1997 in Pasadena, California. The panel consisted of three teams made up of two individuals, one librarian and one paraprofessional. Two of these teams focused on Public Services, while the author's partner, Serials Librarian, Jina Wakimoto, and the author focused on Technical Services.] Introduction: I'm Gina Hsiung and I have been employed at California State University, Northridge, University Library for 14 years. I am a Supervising Library Assistant III in the Catalog Unit where I manage both the Copy Cataloging and Adaptive Cataloging sections with a total of six paraprofessionals under my supervision, (three Library Assistant Is and three Library Assistant IIs). I have also taken on the recent duties of "Web Mistress" for the Technical Services Department webpages. Tradition in Transition: Blurring the Boundaries between Professional and Paraprofessional Positions Over the last ten years, as budget constraints became tighter at California State University, Northridge, the Library's Technical Services Department lost a total of 5.5 FTE paraprofessional positions. As staff retired, or shifted to other sections of the library, open positions were not refilled. The majority of these lost positions were from the Acquisitions and Serials Units. Only two Library Assistant II positions were lost from the Catalog Unit. Today, the Catalog Unit is made up of two sections, Cataloging and Database Maintenance, with the following paraprofessional totals: two Supervising LAIIIs, six LAIIs and three LAIs. The loss of funds to purchase new materials was a huge blow to the entire Library, but the positive side to this was that the paraprofessionals could actually keep up with incoming materials. No more daunting backlog waiting to be cataloged; instead materials are cataloged, processed, and out to the public areas in a timely manner. Additional time can now be spent on completing special projects and learning new procedures that deal with our changing technologies. The January 1994 Northridge Earthquake pushed us into a higher level of technology sooner than we ever anticipated. Before the quake, we were the "have nots". We shared a group of dedicated OCLC terminals, edited printouts, and relied on students to input for us. We even had to share a PC for word-processing. After the quake, when the Technical Services Department was set up in a temporary building, we became the "lucky ones". We each received our own PC, and several additional stations for student assistants. The PCs were loaded with software necessary to do our jobs, and even connected to the outside world as well. We were without our student assistants for several months after becoming a functioning department again, so we were forced to learn how to finish processing the cataloged materials to get them out to the library stacks. This change moved the T.S. Department from the previous work philosophy of "only know what you have to know to get the job done" to our current belief: "needing a broader picture of the entire library operation" to complete a task. The paraprofessionals are becoming more responsible for problem-solving and making cataloging judgments as the librarians' time diminishes in the T.S. Department. The librarians have increased their time spent on other duties such as reference work, and instruction, leaving them less time for cataloging. Our cataloging librarians have conducted several workshops on using the Library of Congress Classification schedules and the Subject Headings manuals, thereby giving the paraprofessionals the ability to work at a higher level. The LAIIs now do the majority of the Co-op cataloging. Only the records with no 050/090 call numbers, or needing subjects, are given to the librarians, and several of the LAIIs do some original cataloging with revision by the librarians. Our accuracy of cataloging has greatly improved with less handling of materials between the professionals and paraprofessionals. The largest hurdle to overcome with our shift in technology was the need to quickly orientate all the T.S. staff on how to work in a Windows environment. Training was needed before using Word and Excel,along with how to access OCLC and our local system, GEAC. In addition, they needed to know how to use the campus email software and World Wide Web browsers. A Technical Services Technology Committee was formed from knowledgeable and willing paraprofessionals to help facilitate this transition in technology. Communication and disseminating information to the entire T.S. Department has greatly improved with the use of email. Most of the paraprofessionals' work is now done at the workstation, with several applications running simultaneously: OCLC, GEAC Advance, and even Cataloger's Desktop. Gone are the paper OCLC record printouts - all editing is done on-line. Spine labels are generated by all the professionals and paraprofessionals on OCLC as the records are updated and exported to GEAC. In the last six months, we have started to revise our outdated Cataloging Procedure manual, and as pages are completed, I have begun to put them on the Catalog Unit's webpage so that they are accessible on-line as well. We now have all the necessary tools right at our fingertips!