ASSOCIATES (vol. 7 no. 3, March 2001) -


Recently I attended a library seminar as a substitute for my boss. While I can generally find something of interest at every conference I attend, this one got me thinking in a direction that I suspect no other person there experienced. The reason? I believe I was the sole non-manager at this prestigious gathering of academic research library administrators.

There was a time in my life as a paraprofessional when I would have been decidedly ill at ease in such company, but I have learned to enjoy these unexpected opportunities to view "us" from another perspective. This ASSOCIATES editorial gives me the chance to share observations that seem particularly relevant to my support staff colleagues.

The focus of this seminar was on the management of library "performance". While many of the lectures centered on measures for the library itself, there was also considerable discussion on performance mechanisms for staff. Library managers were told they must enhance service if they are going to improve customer satisfaction in this era of digital competition. After all, said one speaker, "customers are in the driver's seat" and if we don't provide the level of service they want, at the time and place they want it, at the cost they are willing to pay, libraries will become irrelevant in the digital world.

Managers were told to think more about quality issues, not just quantity measures. For example, traditional library statistics have concentrated on reporting "outputs", such as the number of volumes, the size of the acquisitions budget and the growth or decline of staff and salaries. Library directors are now urged to measure customer service, such as reliability and responsiveness provided to users, even the empathy users feel toward those of us who give service.

For you and I this is a wonderful opportunity to renew our personal commitment to good library service. I would suggest you are demonstrating your personal dedication to libraries just by virtue of being a reader of this professional electronic journal. As we continue to prove our ability to be flexible in these times of change, illustrate our level of dedication to our jobs by learning new skills, and show our creativity in applying these new competencies to library tasks, we help "grow" our library's value in the eyes of our users and in the view of our managers.

If your boss is attending seminars like this one, s/he is being encouraged to re-invent the library's value-system. We can be a big part of that effort. Sharp staff will recognize that by improving our own skills and seeking out ways to make our users feel the library is important to their success, we will experience a higher satisfaction level in our daily jobs as well.

Joy Wanden

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