ASSOCIATES (2004, July, v. 11, no. 1) - associates.ucr.edu

[Editor: Paulette was Calendar of Events Editor from July 1994 to July 1998. She was also a founding member of the Editorial Board 10 years ago. I was happy to hear from her again! She continues to be involved in union activities. Her first article was titled "You've Got to Stand for Somethin': Library Support Staff and Unions," <http://bubl.ac.uk/archive/journals/associates/v01n0395/featur8.htm> in Associates (1995, March, v. 1, no. 3)]

*Still Crazy After All These Years*

by

Paulette Feld
Polk Library
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Former Associates Calendar of Events Editor
feld@vaxa.cis.uwosh.edu

Happy 10th Anniversary Associates! Itís a true testament to Library Support Staff that we have created and continued to publish our e-journal for this amount of time. Amazingly, things donít change a lot in ten years. Although I was asked to write an article many months ago, Iíve of course waited until the last minute to write this one. Just like Iíd put in long hours right before the deadline to put together the events calendar in those early years. But other things do change Ö and like the sticker I had up in the computer room many years ago said, "The more things change, the more they stay insane." Thatís certainly true of the use of computers in library, library support staff, and life.

Ten years ago, we were just starting to use the internet for library research and if I remember correctly, the World Wide Web didnít include graphics. We still had a main frame computer in our library that I was responsible for the care and feeding of. Today, our library system is a server that talks to our main server down in Madison. All the maintenance and backups are done in Madison. I donít have to worry about early morning or late night backups or get calls when the system goes down. Because I no longer had to physically run the library system, my position responsibilities changed. Although I still serve as the initial contact for any workstation issue in the library, I also have had the opportunity to go back to doing "real" library work. As we kept adding more and more workstations to our public areas to give access to students and faculty, it was apparent that it would be helpful to have someone who could troubleshoot and fix minor problems on the spot and also help students use the databases. That led to my being the first member of my libraryís support staff to work at the reference desk. I answered the same questions as the librarians and it was up to me to determine when I wasnít able to help with a question. It was great to work in a public area again, but, sometimes I had a problem getting other work done when I was spending half my day at the desk. Last year, because of staff reductions, I started working on Government Document processing, taking me off of regular reference duty. Iíve always said as soon as I start getting bored enough to start making trouble, my work changes, and thatís a good thing!

As long as I was involved with Associates, I was also involved in Library Support Staff issues, on a state and national basis. About 2 years ago, I really had to cut back on that involvement. I miss going to conferences and the networking on LIBSUP-L. At the same time, itís good to know that this is a movement that has been able to develop new leadership. My involvement is minimal, I still attend our state conferences, and edit the newsletter for LSSIRT. I had the opportunity to be one of the first support staff members to become an officer in our state library association, before I stepped down. It was good to have the support to be elected to that position.

Where my Library Support Staff work has been cut back, my union involvement has filled in. Iím also celebrating my 10th year on our union Council Executive Board. My union involvement 10 years ago gave me the courage and knowledge to speak out for library support staff, and I continue to work the two together. Our International union now has a Library Worker committee and I was able to help one of my co-workers be appointed to that. I serve on our International Higher Education Committee, where we discuss a wider range of issues. Iíve been involved in an organizing drive, which took me away from my daily work in the library for 3 months. I wish everyone would have an opportunity to leave their jobs for a period of time and do something completely different. I think I came back with a better attitude and respect for what I do. I also came back to a desk full of work!

Union work has also led me to become more involved in politics. Folks always say they hate politics, but, work is politics, whether we want to admit it or not. There is also the fact that the majority of library workers are also employed by a public entity, city, county, state. Being a public employee used to be a pretty secure job, but, with current economics and political philosophies, we arenít as safe as we used to be. Our last contract took almost two full years to settle and weíre one year into our current contract without a settlement. Since we are state employees, we bargain with representatives of the Governor and the state legislature must approve our contract. Last time around, our membership had approved the contract, the state negotiators had approved the contract, but, the legislature would not because it felt that the state couldnít afford the raises that were bargained under better economic conditions. We continued working while our contract was "held hostage" by the legislators, but, we let them know we werenít happy. We had rallies, informational pickets and a constant "vigil" in the state capitol building. We visited our local representatives in their offices and reminded them of the work we do. Along the way I testified before legislative committees, met with aids to the Governor to talk about our issues and got kicked out of my legislator's office for asking questions he didnít want to answer. One of the fun parts was the day I spent a half hour in the Lt. Governors office chit chatting with her Chief of Staff, who just happened to be the former director of our state library association! It was after this experience that I realized two things. First, legislators arenít any smarter than the rest of us; second, something had to change. I vowed that I would get involved in finding and supporting individuals for these offices who were more sympathetic to working folks rather than big business. Right now, Iím helping two talented individuals run for offices where the incumbents have been in place for over 10 years. I keep remembering that it only takes one person to make change, and we need it.

A few years ago, I wrote an article for Associates about our state union promoting a program called "Working Together." Rather than being at odds with management, it encouraged us to work as a team to solve issues. Weíve done some of this on our campus, some successfully, some not as successfully. On the positive side, I was involved in a project that developed a leadership series for Classified Staff across campus. For one morning every month, a group of 28 employees meets and learns about issues like problem solving, organization, etc. It opens up many of the issues that Library Support Staff have discussed over the years, i.e., respect, communication, etc. Right now, we are working on a program where a staff member could try out a position before applying for it. These would generally be positions that are a promotion, but, the program would not require them to take it permanently if they donít like it, and their former position will be there when they finish. Weíre waiting for the right vacancy to open up to try this out. Our union was also involved this spring solving custodial staffing issues. How do you cover two new buildings with two fewer employees? It was a challenge, and caused some people to be unhappy, but, it was better being involved then dealing with it after the fact.

Our campus was also fortunate four years ago to get a Chancellor who believes that it is important for people to be proud of where they work and feel a part of the community. As a result, a Classified Staff Advisory Council grew out of meeting that included our union leadership. We are now included in all university committees, including Search and Screen committees. We have a grant program which offers money for Classified Staff to attend conferences and workshops. We raise money for that grant through various fund raising activities. We also have one day every June, Classified Staff Development and Appreciation Day. A keynote speaker opens the activities and a wide array of workshops are offered followed by a family picnic. The event is totally planned and managed by the staff members and the event is financed through donations from campus and off-campus groups.

Many skills that I have used in all these experiences and events were developed working on Library Support Staff projects. Many ideas came from networking on LIBSUP-L and at conferences. Doing the calendar of events for Associates also gave me many ideas for programs. I value the leadership skills I developed during that time and hope that I can continue to pay it forward by sharing those things with colleagues on campus, across the state and country.

As crazy as my days still get, I value everything that I have done and wouldnít change a thing Ö thank you Associates for being part of that experience.



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