ASSOCIATES (2006, July, v. 13, no. 1) - associates.ucr.edu
Choosing Not to Get the MLS
Pierce College Library
Lakewood, WA 98498
I have chosen not to go on to the hallowed halls of MLSland. My daughter is a systems librarian, I work with and for a wonderful group of degreed librarians, and several years ago I made a conscious choice not to join them.
I’ve worked in libraries of every sort for over 40 years. I started as a work study student at my college--where the library was changing from Dewey to LC. I worked there during school part time and full time in the summer from 1964 until my graduation in 1967. Armed with my BA in history, I went forth into the employment world and found the only job I could get was at Boston University School of Medicine Library. Then I got married and followed my husband around the world for 24 years--working in a public library in Maine, a university library in Florida, a base library in Turkey, a public library in New York, a school library in Belgium and now for the last 16+ years, here in a community college library in Washington state. I’ve done techserv duties, interlibrary loan, reference, budget, and every other type of job. I have typed catalog cards, filed above the rod, dropped cards filed above the rod, stamped date due cards in the old Gaylord machines that nibbled cards down the edge, retrieved books from a closed stack library and now do serials management for our college district and serve as the local sysadmin for our library. Several years ago my director asked if I’d like to go on--that she’d support and help me in any she could. I thought about it, long and hard--but decided to stay where I am.
Kathleen Weibel, from Chicago, was the keynote speaker at the first meeting of WALE, the support staff interest group of WLA, many, many years ago; and her wisdom and respect for those of us who are “only support staff” really helped me make my decision. I see the necessity for people to do the work we do, as paraprofessionals, or support staff, or whatever you want to call us. We provide a vital service. We open the places up, keep the machines running, do the behind-the-scene stuff that helps the library, and the librarians, run smoothly, and close the places down at night. “My” librarians do great work within our college community--and so do my fellow support staffers. The library wouldn’t be the same place without the contributions of both sets of people. For those who choose to go on--Hooray!! For those who choose to stay--Hooray for you too!! The best change I’ve seen in the “para-profession” is that support staffers are carving a real place for themselves, with state and national organizations, and interest groups, and discussions like this one, and listservs that keep us in touch with one another--all changes for the better. Libraries are changing, and we need to change with them--but don’t think the need for support-ers will ever go away.
For me, staying in the ranks of non-MLSers is the right place to be. I love my job and feel that my work contributes to the library as a whole.