By John N. Berry III — Library Journal, 03/15/2001
She’s well grounded!” said professor Evelyn Daniel, talking about Dorothy Morgan. “She brings more than 16 years of practical experience to the class. It is an important contribution.” Daniel teaches the online, interactive course in “Management of Information Agencies,” offered by the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina (UNC), Chapel Hill. It was during those “more than 16 years” that Morgan built the record that made her the obvious choice for Library Journal Paraprofessional of the Year 2001.
Liverpool, NY, population about 53,600, is just outside Syracuse. The library is a school district public library, and its budget is voted on by citizens every year. “We have our own separate election,” Morgan said, when asked if being tied to the schools was an issue. “We went for a separate election years ago. I think it has worked better, even though our votes were positive when we were with the school district.” The library is a member of the Onondaga County Library System, a voluntary consortium of independent public libraries. “We are not a branch,” Morgan asserts.
“For ten years I’ve been on the management team here,” said Morgan. “It began when Fay Golden was director. She was truly my mentor. I was her secretary until I became business manager [in 1992].” Golden, now retired, was Liverpool’s director for 25 years. “I was very close to her as secretary and as part of the management team,” said Morgan.
“I love libraries”
“I always loved libraries. I began to love this library when I used to bring my two boys to story hour. The children’s librarian, Barb Herrgesell, gave a wonderful story hour,” Morgan recounted. “She was [at Liverpool PL] when I started working here.” Morgan began as a part-time staffer in 1984 and went to a full-time position the next year.
For the first five years she worked as an AV assistant. She became the director’s assistant in 1990 and held the job for two years. At that time she was also appointed clerk to the library board. She still holds that position and as such is responsible for recording all board proceedings, keeping board minutes, and recording all board decisions and policies. She is also asked to perform special tasks by the board president. The board’s members are elected to staggered five-year terms. According to Morgan, “The relationship between our director and board may be unique. From what I hear, other places have a lot of tension. It is different here. To me, the board is almost like another mentor.”
Lost in Liverpool?
The situation wasn’t always so good in Liverpool. “A few years ago we attempted a renovation project,” Morgan said. “It was badly defeated at the polls. It has taken until now for our board to recover fully from that defeat.” Things have changed again. “Now we are researching a small renovation project, and we’re looking at sites for a new branch,” Morgan said, delightedly. “I think the first renovation was beaten by the antitax people. Under our new director, Sharon Nottingham, the public sentiment for renovation has changed. Sharon has worked so well with the community.”
“My role as business manager is essentially assisting the director with fiscal accountability. Sharon allows me to help, and she has taught me a great deal. I am a part of the public hearings and the whole budget process,” says Morgan, with a certain pride.
Working with librarians
Nearly 65 percent of the Liverpool PL’s 100 staff are support staff; half work part-time. Morgan is proud that the library helps with training and education for all staff. “Support staff do many things that were once considered professional,” Morgan asserted. “For example, they assist in original cataloging. As the workload increased in libraries, partly because of the new technology, support staff became an important, more essential component.”
That hasn’t hurt the relationship between librarians and support staff, according to Morgan. “The relationship here is strong. We work together well. Years ago, when I decided not to pursue the MLS, I realized that those who had earned it were truly the information specialists. They did what they were trained and educated to do, and they did it well.” To Morgan, the relationship is crucial. “We want to work with the librarians. We will free them to do the important work they have to do.”
However, Morgan is enrolled in that University of North Carolina course. She is, again, undecided whether or not to pursue the MLS. With or without it, she is an asset any library would covet.
A priority on the agenda
Morgan has been a leader in the New York State Library Assistants Association (NYSLAA), which began in 1989 after a few years as the Clerks Conference. Five years ago she worked with them to start a state certification program for support staff. The program now gives library workers certification for work experience, education, conferences, and other professional activity. Morgan serves on the program’s review board. She is also an “Ambassador” for NYSLAA, speaking for support staff throughout the state. Years before, Morgan worked on Librarians Unlimited, a volunteer group of library workers that staged educational programs.
“I am very proud of NYSLAA,” Morgan said and then told how she has connected with support staff leaders from all over the country.
“I started working with the Support Staff Interests Round Table (SSIRT) of the American Library Association (ALA) about five years ago,” Morgan explained. “I’ll be the outgoing president in San Francisco.” As president, Morgan represented SSIRT in its effort to convince ALA to sponsor a Congress on Professional Issues for the Non-MLS Workforce. At the recent ALA Midwinter Meeting, the Executive Board voted to look into the idea. The priorities for support staff, according to the document Morgan brought to the board, are: 1) career ladders (opportunities for advancement); 2) better compensation; and 3) access to continuing education and training. With that agenda, Morgan is confident that the ALA board will approve the event in April.
Whatever happens, it is clear that for the first time in decades, with Dorothy Morgan as their president, SSIRT and the other library paraprofessionals have captured a top spot on the agenda of ALA–recognition that is long overdue.
As a leader of paraprofessionals throughout the nation, as a staunch worker for excellence in library service, and for advancing the compelling case for support staff as an integral, essential part of the American library team, Dorothy Morgan has been named LJ Paraprofessional of the Year 2001.
Library Journal is deeply grateful to Kapco Library Products, providers of repair and preservation materials for libraries, for underwriting the Paraprofessional of the Year Award again this year.
The following panel of judges were responsible for selecting the LJ Paraprofessional of the Year 2001: Francine Fialkoff, Editor, LJ; John N. Berry III, Editor-in-Chief, LJ; Evan St. Lifer, Executive Editor, LJ; Susan M. DiMattia, Editor, Library Hotline and Corporate Library Update; and Carolyn Tate, head of circulation, Boatwright Library, University of Richmond, VA.
From the 33 candidates recommended for the Paraprofessional of the Year Award, there were many outstanding finalists. Three were especially deserving, and we honor them here:
Cheryl Gordon is Document Delivery Manager at the Community College of Baltimore County (CBCC) in Catonsville, MD. “Cheryl exemplifies the spirit of service and access that are the hallmarks of professionalism. She is ever-attentive to students’ needs and goes way above and beyond expectations in providing them with library materials. She has been…a tremendous asset to CBCC,” wrote Director Suzanne Hill and Instruction and Reference Coordinator Bonnie Preston.
Madelaine Krolik is Computer Center Clerk at the Ann Arbor District Library (AADL), MI. “One of the most beloved teachers of both staff and public in the library system today, her determination to improve her computer skills established her as a key force in planning AADL’s computer instruction program and long-distance learning efforts. A staff leader in several key positions during stressful situations, her willingness to share her love of books strengthened reader’s advisory staff training,” wrote Tim Grimes, associate director, AADL.
Sarah Redden has moved up through the ranks to become Supervisor of the Circulation Department at the Michigan City Public Library (MCPL), IN. “She has been called upon to do extremely important work that directly affects the welfare of the library and the entire staff. For example, consider her work with and recommendations for the new automation system, her contributions as a member of the committee that devised a new evaluation form for staff reviews, and her service as a member of the library director search committee…,” wrote Dan Glossinger, MCPL interim director, and Andrew Smith, interim assistant director.