Mary T. Kalnin
Library Specialist I
Cataloging Division FM-25
University of Washington Libraries
Seattle, WA 98195 USA
v: (206) 543-1828
More equitable access to technology or electronic information; Creation of new ideas, products, or services; Local commitment to network-based activities; Partnerships between public and private sector
Supporting Documentation (contact author for more information):
Slides/photographs (of administrators and author)
LIBRARY PARAPROFESSIONALS AND THE INTERNET
In May 1992, while reading the library literature, I noticed a small article requesting someone to establish an electronic mail (e-mail) listserv for paraprofessional library staff. I submitted a proposal to the administration of the University of Washington Libraries to establish such a listserv. Betty Bengtson, Director of Libraries, gave her permission and LIBSUP-L hit the airwaves in September 1992. Within a day there were over 100 subscribers and, after six months, LIBSUP-L has over 1080 subscribers. Most of them are paraprofessional library staff from the United States and Canada, although there are some librarians and other members worldwide.
LIBSUP-L is unique among the library listservs, because it was established for library paraprofessionals (also called support staff or library assistants) and discusses library issues from their point of view. Generally these staff members hold positions that do not require the MLS degree, but are absolutely necessary to keep libraries functioning. Historically, the paraprofessional staff do not make policy, they implement policy. Because of the existence of LIBSUP-L, these paraprofessionals now have the opportunity to network–to “talk” to others who hold similar jobs and have similar concerns. As we discover that we do have similar concerns and problems, we have been able to find solutions to them in our networking. Therein lies the value of LIBSUP-L.
During the first six months, the subscribers to LIBSUP-L have been able to address and find solutions or at least partial solutions to problems in our members’ libraries. Some of the first concerns discussed were ergonomic issues. As libraries become more and more computer oriented, with online cataloging, online public catalogs and the like, it becomes important to take the necessary precautions to avoid the repetitive stress injuries showing up in the workplace. Since we have all faced this problem, we were able to contribute information and proven solutions to the listserv, and thereby save the time needed to find information that someone had already sent. The requesting institution need only take the information given, perhaps do some additional research, and formulate a solution appropriate to its circumstances. Some of the other problems solved by information from LIBSUP-L have been circulation issues in libraries and interlibrary loan issues. We have exchanged information on policies concerning recalling books immediately after they have been sent on interlibrary loan. This is a very difficult situation which requires much information from many libraries in order to devise an equitable policy. Many times, one of our subscribers will need the name of a possible vendor for a book or a piece of software, and within hours the information has been supplied by someone who saw the request on the list. LIBSUP-L also serves as a network for position announcements, a boon in our mobile society, and for conference and continuing education announcements for library paraprofessionals. LIBSUP-L has become an integral part of the working lives of its subscribers and has proven the worth of the Internet to library paraprofessionals.