Friday, April 2, 2010

Support for Professional Activities

In a recent post on this blog, SSD Past Chair Cathy Zgraggen solicits nominations for SSD officers for the coming membership year. In Library Journal's Paraprofessional of the Year award article , award winner Allison Sloan credits a former boss with encouraging her to become involved in the Massachusetts Library Association.

Unfortunately, the current economy may have created conditions in which may be difficult for support staff to participate in professional activities. Recently, some SSD members with an impressive history of involvement in the organization have been unable to continue that involvement. This makes me both sad and worried.

I certainly understand libraries are trying to do way more with considerably less these days, and that giving staff time off for professional activities can make it difficult to provide the service patrons expect and deserve.

I don't know if MLS librarians are having the same experience of no longer being supported in their professional activities. I'd like to think that it's spread over all levels of staff, but suspect that support staff are more likely to be effected.

I've been lucky to to have significant support from my library for my involvement in OLA. I know it has, at times, taken me away from my usual job duties for significant amounts of time. Yet I also know that I'm a better employee because of the opportunities for growth I've had by being involved in OLA and SSD.

There's no easy answer to this problem. But here are a few suggestions:

For managers: Make sure you're treating staff at all levels fairly regarding support for professional activities. Be flexible. Realize that your staff will have opportunities to learn and network, which will make them better employees.

For support staff: Make sure your boss and co-workers know how much time you may be spending on professional activities, and what you'll be doing. Be flexible. Be willing to do some professional activities on your own time.

Professional organizations like OLA depend on the participation of their members. Let's hope that we'll continue to receive the support we need to make that participation possible.

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