ASSOCIATES (vol. 7, no. 1, July 2000) -

The Library Staff In Leadership Roles


Ann Wilson
Dean B. Ellis Library
Arkansas State University

The technological future we first began hearing about in the 1980's is now in full swing. Most libraries are affected by technology in some way. Gone are the familiar card catalogs and the task of checking out books by writing call numbers on checkout sheets. Now computers stand ready at our beck and call. We not only know the contents of our home library, but also the material that is available at other libraries.

Computers help us write excellent research papers in just a few hours whereas writing a good research paper in the past took days or weeks. In much the same way, the librarian's traditional job has changed also. Now, they have the world at their fingertips and they must convey this knowledge to eager students, faculty, and the surrounding community. Librarians have become teachers, information specialists, cataloging gurus, media wizards, and customer service experts.

The support staff has stepped in to fill the gaps left when, as with most libraries, there are too few librarians to fulfill the needs of an information society. Many hours at the reference desk are staffed by one or two paraprofessionals with no librarian in attendance. Circulation duties are supervised and performed by support staff. Paraprofessional leaders supervise interlibrary loan, microfilm, and periodicals departments. Also, Library Tech personnel are team leaders in the cataloging, collection development, and technology departments.

Since 1997, our library has come under the capable management of a new Library Dean who has the expertise to take us to new horizons. Dr. Mary Moore has implemented team organization for our library. We have several teams whose members are both librarians and support staff. Each person chooses which team or teams he/she wants to belong to. Members elect a team leader, called the facilitator, for a one-year term. The facilitator can be either a librarian or a member of the support staff. These teams meet for one hour two times a month, or more often if needed. Each team develops long term and short term goals for the library. As each goal is reached, the team as a whole writes a recommendation that is given to the Dean. She in turn approves the recommendation or may suggest changes to it. There are many opportunities for leadership in our library. Librarians who are heads of their departments lead their respective units as team leaders while also participating on various other library teams. We all work together for a common goal, to serve and teach our library community.

The Dean B. Ellis Library is a teaching library. When new software needs to be learned, we teach each other. Often a paraprofessional teaches a librarian or conducts a class for the public in computer usage. Librarians stay busy conducting bibliographic classes for students, teaching the art of using search engines, and much more. They also teach classes for the public free of charge such as how to use Power Point or Excel or how to build a web page. Furthermore, each semester Librarians instruct credit courses for students in information technology.

Yes, there will always be a need for an MLS degree. However, the traditional role of a librarian is now performed by paraprofessionals, which can be a good thing because it frees up the librarian to gain technological expertise. We share the same goals and concerns. With library budgets getting tighter, teamwork is not a luxury but a necessity. Leaders are needed to bring everything together. In our library, everyone has a chance to be a leader.

[These buttons are no longer active. To return to Table of Contents for this issue, click here.]

Go Back ArrowReturn to Top of Page