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

To and From the Editor


What’s in a name

A couple of months ago on an e-list I am on, a contributor used the term paraprofessional in describing library support staff. The use of the word paraprofessional sparked a few replies from e-list subscribers about how they did not appreciate the use of the word in describing them and the work they did.

A simple Internet search (I won’t use the G word), provided a number of definitions. However, Wikipedia provides the most best definition of the term paraprofessional.

Paraprofessional is a job title given to persons in various occupational fields, such as education, healthcare, engineering and law, who are trained to assist professionals but are not themselves licensed at a professional level. The Greek prefix “para” as used here indicates beside or side by side (as in “parallel”); hence, a paraprofessional is one who works alongside a professional. (last viewed 6th June 2010).

The library profession doesn’t get a mention in this definition and librarians aren’t licensed as some other professionals. However, this definition sums up exactly what library support staff are trained (either by formal education courses or by workplace training) to do, assist professionals and to work alongside them.

The various library professional associations use different names to describe our status within the profession. The American Library Association (ALA) uses Library Support Staff, Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and the Canadian Library Association (CLA) both use Library Technician. The US state library associations use a number of terms, including Paraprofessional; Support Staff; Library Assistant; Paraprofessional and Support Staff, and Paralibrarian.

Within our workplaces we are known by many titles, Library Officer, Library Assistant, Library Clerk and Library Technician. Then there are the names associated with the various tasks we do in the library, cataloguing, acquisitions, interlibrary loans and reference.

As a group of employees within the library profession we are referred to by many names: Paraprofessional within the context of the profession, Library Officer, Assistant or Technician in the workplace and Library Support Staff in a broader sense. However, despite the various names we are either given or choose to use, we are important members of the library profession doing our work professionally.

ALA Conference

Once again I had the opportunity to attend the ALA Conference. This year it was held in Washington DC from the 24th to 29th June. According to ALA, the numbers attending were 19,513 delegates and 6,688 exhibitors.

Unlike the previous years the Empowerment Conference (or Conference within a Conference) was not held. However, included in the conference program were sessions and forums for Library Support Staff. Also, delegates were able to attend the many other sessions on offer at the conference.

As usual one of the highlights of the conference was the Annual Book Cart Drill Team World Championship. This year’s championship, attracted many thousands of spectators, and consisted of five teams: Gett Down with You Funky Shelf, The Texas Arrangers, Night of the Living Librarians, Delaware Diamonds and ALA Student to Staff Kids. The winning team was Night of the Living Librarians. Video of all the teams are available on Youtube.

Paraprofessional of the Year

The Library Journal’s Paraprofessional of the Year (sponsored by DEMCO) presentation is held at the same time and in the same city as the ALA Conference. The presentation is always an enjoyable event. This years was even more enjoyable as the LJ’s Paraprofessional of the Year was awarded to Allison Sloane, Paralibrarian from Reading Public Library, Massachusetts. Allison and I have been email correspondents for years and Allison is also on the Editorial Board of Associates. It was wonderful to finally meet.

Further information about Allison’s achievements can be found at

Congratulations, Allison.