What Paralibrarians Wish Their Directors Knew by Gerry Deyermond and Allison Sloan

Library directors and leaders set the inclusive and respectful attitude that trickles down to degreed librarians, municipal and/or university co-workers, and to paralibrarians. When a library director believes in the abilities of library support staff and what they bring to the table as a creative member of the team, their contributions to librarianship can be amazing.

Paralibrarians, also called Library Support Staff, can bring many skills, hobbies, experiences, education, and interests to their libraries and use them to make the most of the patron experience.

MLS Library staff, Trustees and Division Heads, town administration and staff take the cue from their Library Director, who establishes an atmosphere of inclusiveness and respect for the unique abilities of each staff member. This attitude moves from the top of the pyramid to the foundation, which is the support of paralibrarians. This translates into salary considerations, benefit packages, career development, teamwork, job satisfaction and better service from happier staff. It encourages creativity, well rounded perspectives, comprehensive options and outstanding library services.

A paralibrarian may not have a Masters in Library Science, but they may have a graduate degree in another field or an undergraduate degree. A degree in web design may help to enhance your web presence, a marketing degree can get the word out about your programs, and a degree in English literature will help with reader’s advisory.

Maybe your paralibrarian has a particular knack for knowing how tablets and ebook readers work and they become the go-to person to help patrons learn about downloadable eBook collections and can teach classes. Maybe they have a hobby they would like to share such as sewing, applique, knitting or scrapbooking. They can share their passion while highlighting that collection of materials. Movie fanatics may know what movie a patron will want from that obscure hint they give. (“Do you know the girl who played Cinderella? She was in a movie about baseball. Do you know what that one was called?” Answer: Susan Sarandon , Bull Durham)

Local history may be an interest of your Paralibrarian because they grew up in the same town/city as your library. They may remember the things that are no longer there, where the best hiking places are, the Mom and Pop shops for a good lunch or back road directions to the library.

Paralibrarians can also bring a wealth of experience and eagerness to be involved in their network region, MLA, NELA or ALA. Or within your own community at town events or schools. The PARA (PAralibrarian Recognition of Achievement Certification) is an excellent tool under the umbrella of the MBLC and MLA, to help directors, and guide paralibrarians to recognize and legitimize their contributions to librarianship. The MLA Paralibrarian Section has many examples of the success of the PARA Certification to build cohesive library teams and strengthen staff paralibrarians. Guidelines on the MLA Website at http://masslib.org/PARAProgram. For directors in other states, consider involvement in your own state or regional library associations. The PARA program is one we adapted from the New York State Library Association and the Utah Library Association programs. New Hampshire has now followed suit and has adapted the Massachusetts PARA to their needs. We are happy to share our experiences with any support staff sections.

This concept of inclusiveness and team building needs Library Directors to open doors for library staff and paralibrarian staff. It may even entail convincing staff and trustees that teamwork means the whole team, not just the MLS degreed team. Library Directors have many resources to support their support staff. In turn, they benefit from the support of their staff which makes their jobs that much easier and their libraries everyone’s happy place.

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MLA website- http://masslib.org/paralibrarian

Blog- https://mlaparalibrarian.wordpress.com/

Facebook- The Paralibrarian Section of the Massachusetts Library Association

Pinterest- MLA Paralibrarians- https://www.pinterest.com/mlaparas/