ASSOCIATES (2005, July, v. 12, no. 1) - associates.ucr.edu
The room was filled with support staff representing all levels of supervision and workflow. The noise was extreme with the stresses of many years of suppression. Dallis and the Personnel Director came into the room and there was a silence disturbed only by the soft continuous whoosh of the air conditioning through the ductwork. There was a sense of urgency prompting everyone to lean forward in their chairs. Dallis prefaced the meeting with a synopsis of the problem of inappropriate pay for technical knowledge, supervision and years of loyalty. Most of the difficulties in the evaluation system had been worked out, but wages were a big deal to those of us who had families to support or aspired to that status. Many people gave examples of inequities that bloomed in the system and asked how these could be changed. “Clerk” just didn’t go far in explaining who we were or what we did. And would it be possible to get enough of a raise to discontinue second and third jobs? She was appalled to find that over a half of the staff had to work a second job to pay bills. At the same time, she thanked the people for their loyalty to the library and the passion for their work. It is so essential to everyone’s well being. She asked for a month to study the situation and pledged to do all she could to find answers for us. There were mixed emotions and murmurings, but the consensus was to give her time to find solutions.
A month later, Dallis called a library wide meeting to announce the results. She and her staff had scoured the State’s listing of job descriptions. Since it took majority decisions from the Committee formed by all of the agencies/universities in the state to change any of these descriptions, she would start that ball rolling next month when they met. In the meantime, she offered to let us look at several descriptions that could be nudged to have library meanings to them, such as archivist, statistician, etc. She vowed to have supervisor added to all who performed that activity with the equivalent pay raise and the rest of the jobs would be totally audited by HR to decide whether job titles could be changed. She was not able to get everything changed, but there were about a third of the jobs altered, so that there was a ladder formed that would secure the chances for others to develop in the in-house positions. The effort helped everyone realize just how much she cared about the staff. We had to abide by rules at every level, but there are compromises and ways to work the system that pay off over time.
In several months, we were asked to consider voting for those we felt had outstanding accomplishments and skills in specific areas. Awards were open to all levels of staff and voting was a fun way to honor people in the system. The Committee made up funny names for the awards, but gave very thorough explanations of what they described. People were nominated and voted upon. The awards were presented at the Christmas party and everyone had a great time. Plaques were a nice way to display appreciation and everyone looked forward to next year’s possibilities.
There was plenty of work on the second and third conferences that were held here and the increase in patronage impressed the Director and other administrators. The President of the University attended the third conference and commented on our skill in providing learning situations for everyone. There were no other conferences here, as renovations began in earnest, and most areas were being cleaned of asbestos and other toxic materials. We had become deeply involved in FLA and had established a pre-conference and other activities for support staff within its structure, so there was still room to develop. We had also encouraged many support staff to attend other conferences, begin writing in journals and become officers in other organizations. The administration made sure that there was money set aside for those activities on a competitive basis, and our Development Group sponsored some people with partial monies for conferences.
There is a bond in libraries that is “family.” We squabble among ourselves, but we show complete cohesion when approached by others. We laugh and cry together and we find solutions together. It was exceedingly difficult to post my retirement in December of 1995. They presented me with a silver plate engraved with my dates of service and I blushed from the words spoken in earnest at that party. I had completed nine years as an intermediary between the staff and Director, not to mention the other twenty odd years I had found ways to survive. As I received my plate, I looked at each face in the room. They had nearly as many tears as mine. I had been there, perhaps too long, yet not long enough. I would miss each and every person for a number of reasons and have stories to tell of our adventures through our thirty years together. Flashes of library life flew before me. Shots ringing out! Floods in the upper floors! Tornadoes! Book sales! Crises! They have all been a part of the Rainbow of life in libraries. The more various the experiences have been, the richer the memories and colors in my mind. But, where does one go after the Rainbow ends?