April 21, 2018

Paraprofessional of the Year 2005: Trish Palluck

By John N. Berry III — Library Journal, 03/01/2005

Twenty-six years ago Trish Palluck started as a page, shelving books at the Wyoming State Library. In a year she moved up to cataloging. Even at the entry level as a library assistant, she loved it. “She mastered not only all the mechanics of cataloging but, most significantly, the philosophy that cataloging is a public service activity,” says Lesley Boughton, Wyoming State Librarian. For her excellence in her position—now resource sharing specialist at the library—and the work she has done for Wyoming paraprofessionals and support staff, Trish Palluck has been named Library Journal‘s Paraprofessional of the Year 2005.

A passion for cataloging

For the first nine years of her career, Palluck attached card pockets, date-due slips, and spine labels to books. She filed the catalog cards she had typed. Ultimately, she got a position as library assistant, responsible for finding bibliographic information for new materials and, of course, typing more catalog cards.

“I loved cataloging. I loved learning about MARC records,” says Palluck. However, she thinks the MARC record won’t last in its current form. “I think we’re moving to an all-encompassing bibliographic record,” she asserts. “I think it will mean less information on the bibliographic record, with item and holdings records more detailed.” Palluck blossomed at the state library automation office, where she’s been for 15 years. She began loading new MARC records and helping with the maintenance of WYLD (Wyoming Libraries Database). As the database grew and the library migrated through systems, her duties expanded. Now they include support and training for WYLD users and most recently acting as a key person in the implementation of the Fretwell-Downing VDX and ZPORTAL software for the statewide interlibrary loan (ILL) system.

Nicely relentless

According to Steve Hargis, VP of Fretwell-Downing, Palluck was a part of “every facet” of implementation of the software. “What I admire most is her genuine caring for what she does and the people she does it with.”

As if to echo Hargis, five of Palluck’s coworkers, including supervisor Brian Greene, call her “an inspiration to us all.” They cite her dedication to and nurturing of Wyoming resource sharing, the way she thrives on change, and her “nicely relentless” attitude toward her work.

According to State Librarian Boughton, Palluck “manages the resource sharing initiative in the state library and is responsible for the software, help desk, and training programs.” She was instrumental in persuading Wyoming library directors that the state needed software to allow unmediated, auto-authorized, patron-initiated ILL requests.

Wyoming librarians are grateful for Palluck’s contribution to their systems and training. “Trish is a sensitive trainer, with a wonderful sense of humor,” says Lucie Osborn, Laramie County librarian. “Often the group is a mix of support staff, librarians, and technical people…. Trish works her magic to bring them all together….”

The “quintessential team player” is how Muriel Lynne Bartholomae, senior project manager for Sirsi, describes Palluck. She worked with her on a migration to the firm’s Unicorn System. “In my fantasy world, all paraprofessionals would be Trish Palluck.”

Replace the boomers

That relentlessness showed up in one of her most far-reaching contributions to librarianship in the state—her successful petition to found a Paraprofessional/ Support Staff Section of the Wyoming Library Association (WLA). She served as section chair early on but quickly moved on to become president of WLA. She purposely left leadership of the Paraprofessional/Support Staff Section to colleagues. It quickly became the largest section of WLA and still is.

Palluck credits Deputy State Librarian Jerry Krois with a crucial assist in getting the section started. They began at the state library at the same time. Krois went on to complete his MLS. “Jerry has always been a huge supporter of Wyoming’s paraprofessionals and support staff, and it was his encouragement, guidance, and advice that helped me establish the section,” Palluck recalls.

Now Palluck cochairs the new WLA Mentoring Committee. “You hear about so many baby boomers who will leave the profession soon,” she says. “When we get young people into the profession, the purpose of the Mentoring Committee is to do something so that we hold on to them.”

Pay: an issue for all

“I can honestly say I have not felt any tension between the professionals and the support staff,” Palluck says, to our surprise. “I know that is not typical…. I guess I’m fortunate. It has a lot to do with your own attitude. I had supervisors who were willing to share their knowledge. Often I think people put chips on their own shoulders.” She never says that a certain task isn’t in her job description or, as a paraprofessional, that she doesn’t get paid for a particular job. “You can turn things around and look at those situations as opportunities to learn something new. I don’t know anybody who thinks they get paid what they are worth, but even the professional librarians have pay problems. Salaries are an issue for everybody.”

School & structure

Palluck, who now teaches librarians about the Wyoming State Library systems, has few regrets but maybe a bit of ambivalence that she didn’t go beyond high school or get the library degree. “I hated the structure and all…. I don’t know if I would have been put in the ‘exceptional’ or the ‘attention deficit’ group. Even though I hated it, I did well in school,” she says. “I even finished high school ahead of my class, but as soon as I had enough credits, I was done…. It’s funny, now I take advantage of every educational opportunity that comes my way.” Although she had no intention of staying at the state library for her entire career, she has never applied for a position elsewhere.

Mary Sue Iddings was Palluck’s supervisor in cataloging and a crucial inspiration. She urged, even pushed, Palluck to go to workshops and get over her schooling phobia. Early in Palluck’s career Iddings convinced her to audit an LC Classification workshop. It was a turning point, and Palluck is very grateful to Iddings.

Palluck sometimes thinks about the MLS. “The new online programs and distance education mean opportunities to pursue the MLS are widely available and accessible, even in Wyoming,” Palluck reflects. “That was a decision I made not to get the degree. I took classes at our community college, but I never completed a degree. The timing was never right. I had no intention of staying in the field, but now I’ve had a great career.”

Boughton’s inspiration

State Librarian Boughton has been another inspiration to Palluck. She’s been a Wyoming librarian for 20 years, directed library systems in three counties, and has been state librarian for four years. Three people under her tutelage have gone on to get their library degrees.

“If everyone working in a paraprofessional or support staff position had Lesley Boughton for a supervisor, there would be no tension at all between the degreed and nondegreed professionals. If we had worked together 20 years ago, I know I would have gone on to get the degree,” Palluck continues. “There is nobody who has ever motivated me like she has…. She may yet get me to try it.”

“When asked if I am going to retire when I’ve had 30 years here, I say, ‘Heck no, not if I’m having as much fun as I am now,'” Palluck says, laughing. The Wyoming State Library and the libraries of the state it serves can be grateful for that.

John N. Berry III is Editor-in-Chief, LJ

Three More Dynamos

These three candidates made it a tight race for our Paraprofessional of the Year Award. You ought to know about them, too.

Paulette Feld A former chair of the American Library Association’sSupport Staff Interests Round Table and current editor of the LSSIRT newsletter, Feld is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the online systems at the Polk Library, University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh, where she has worked for 25 years. She also chaired the Support Staff Section of the Wisconsin Library Association.

Jennifer S. Kutzik A founding member of the Support Staff Interests Round Table of the American Library Association, she manages the online catalog server at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. She has published 19 articles in a variety of technology publications and currently edits IT Bytes at the university libraries.

Lydia C. Williams An activist in the Virginia Library Association Paraprofessional Forum, Williams is archives manager for Greenwood Library and Records Manager for Longwood University in Farmville. She has published widely and is currently on the Editorial Board of Virginia Libraries and on two Virginia Library Association committees.

The Paraprofessional of the Year Award is sponsored by BRODART LIBRARY SUPPLIES FURNISHINGS, McElhattan, PA, which underwrites the $1500 cash prize and a reception to honor the winner at the American Library Association conference in June. The award recognizes the essential role of paraprofessionals, the largest constituency of library workers, in providing excellent library service. It places special emphasis on the efforts of the winner to further the role of paraprofessionals in the library profession. In acknowledging this year’s winner, VP Franck Chenet of Brodart Library Supplies & Furnishings notes, “Paraprofessionals are the backbone of our industry, and we are pleased to honor your dedication and hard work. On behalf of Brodart and libraries across the nation, thank you.”