ASSOCIATES (2010, July, v. 17, no. 1)

Feature

A New Beginning for COLT (Council on Library/Media Technicians)

At a recent meeting of COLT members, the incoming President Chris Egan (egan@rand.org) is keen to see the organization grow and develop by consolidating on its past strengths and embarking on new directions in light of needs of library support staff in the 21st Century. Chris is keen to establish a management team to achieve these goals. If anyone would like to join Chris contact him on his email address.

Printed below is an edited version of an article written by Charlie Fox and published in Associates in July 2007. With a new beginning for COLT it is appropriate to re-publish the article at this time – Editor

Whether we care to admit or not, all of us are drawn towards the end of the rainbow. There is an elusive spot beyond the colorful arc where riches beyond compare await us. It is not necessarily a pot of gold, although I agree that gold is nice and that the amassing of material wealth is an admirable goal. But let’s face it; we’re library workers and if any of us ever reaches the end of the rainbow we’re probably not going to find unlimited wealth. Hopefully we’ll find something that will last us the rest of our careers, if not the rest of our lives. But whatever we find, we must first understand that the end of the rainbow represents the end of a quest and that the greater the reward, the more difficult the quest is going to be. A reward, by its nature, is something given in recognition for a job well done. To simply be handed such a treasure without working for it would only serve to cheapen its worth. In our profession we need only look at our history to understand both the importance of the journey and the value of the reward.

As a professional community we have seen the benefits of participation in organizations that support our cause and facilitate the movement of ideas from theory to reality. Our national, state, regional, and local support staff organizations have given our profession respect and relevance. We are now recognized as an integral and necessary component in the mechanism of library work. If it had not been for the determination, the faith in our profession and the stamina of the founders and leaders of these organizations, library support staff might still be regarded as library gofers. As with any professional organization, ours has afforded us the opportunity to stand and be heard.

Many of us come into this profession as loners. We arrive at the library either through a deeply rooted desire to be participants in the noble task of protecting our world’s recorded information or, in some cases, because circumstances have led us to this place. We do our jobs, draw our pay and go home, unaware that there are other places beyond the doors of our library where things are not so pleasant and employees are struggling to be treated with equal respect and recognition. It may be that we who think life is pretty peachy are also victims of disrespect and humiliation and not even know it. These are the people most in need of the greater awareness afforded by associations such as the Council on Library/Media Technicians (COLT) and the American Library Association’s Library Support Staff Interests Round Table (LSSIRT). In many cases these people are unaware that their national organizations even exist. In many cases, however, there are library workers who are aware of these organizations but have not as yet found a good enough reason to apply for membership or may feel there is nothing to be gained beyond what they already have.

While working conditions have improved and greater opportunities for ongoing education has become more available COLT has remained dedicated to the idea that what our profession has gained is minimal compared to what we have yet to achieve. Our greatest hope of continued advancement continues to be the power of the common voice and the strength of unity.

By being a member of COLT and participating as a Board member and on its committee offers unique opportunities. It offers an incentive for joining that no other professional organization in this field offers: the opportunity to stand with fellow members of this profession and begin the long and often difficult journey toward the end of the rainbow where the real treasure awaits: the recognition only an independent professional organization can offer.

Determining whether to join COLT and participate in its management or waiting on the sidelines is the classic chicken/egg paradox. Which came first, the organization that looks out for its members and protects their interests or the people who made the decision that their interests would not be looked out for unless they stood up and began working together? What COLT offers that no other support staff organization can is the possibility of being the kind of organization that depends on no one for their existence. COLT offers us whatever we as a group decide to achieve.

It is no secret, neither to librarians nor to library support staff, that support staff comprise about two thirds of the working population of the modern library. Library support staff would do well to understand that the job they possess and perform is clearly not the same as the job done by MLS librarians. As support staff we should stand up and acknowledge among ourselves that we are a unique and necessary entity in the library.

As a group there is nothing we can’t achieve. There is no reward too hard to work for. If we work together to attain the treasure at the end of the rainbow we may find the greatest treasures of all: respect, recognition, and the maturity that comes from claiming our own independent and unique place in the library.

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