Case Study: You Can’t Please Everyone All The Time
Mending Relationships Between Librarians and Library Technicians
Organizational Context
The Beginning
The Solution
The Dilemma
Questions For Discussion
Key Learning Points

Key Learning Points

Tension between librarians and library technicians can make a workplace environment uncomfortable, for staff members and patrons alike. In order to advance within an institution, library technicians are often forced to get a masters degree, or be content with their lack of mobility (Woodworth 60). A common solution to the strained relationship between library staff members is the opportunity for career advancement opportunities, and continual staff training and development (Fragola 26; Woodworth 60). However, library technicians are “often overlooked when conferences, workshops and seminars are offered" (Hazell 27). Hazell comments that “like librarians, library technicians benefit from the opportunity to engage in on-going professional development…upgrading skills and knowledge not only helps long-term employability, but has an immediate impact on daily work" (27). Library managers should ensure all employees have a chance to improve their skills, and that the skills of every employee, regardless of their place in the hierarchy, are valued and respected.

Another issue is membership in associations and related committees and interest groups. In order for changes to occur to the relationship dynamic between librarians and library technicians, both professional groups should be able to make their concerns heard, which often occurs through participation and dialogue within associations. Hazell suggests there are “not enough technicians speaking out and becoming involved in committees and planning” and if management understands and supports library technicians in this endeavor, libraries as a whole will be strengthened (27). Karen Hildebrandt, the current convenor of the Canadian Library Association (CLA)’s Library Technician Interest Group, believes that library technicians should be encouraged to join associations, and further comments that in order to eliminate divisions there should be one association for everyone, librarians and library technicians (personal interview). Giving library technicians the same ability to speak out about the profession may go a long way to improving attitudes towards their value. Thus, “by not only allowing but encouraging professional librarians and paraprofessionals to interact during trainings and through committee work, the library administration is strengthening the positive effects of intergroup contact” (Fragola 26).

However, Pagel comments “rushing to implement changes before key players are in agreement can lead to disastrous results” (65). Change is necessary to ensure a dynamic workforce, but library managers also need to be aware of appropriate ways of implementing change, and must involve their employees throughout the change process, so as to ensure support and the likelihood of an overall positive outcome. If library managers offer library technicians and librarians fair access to professional development, education and training, and professional association participation opportunities, then perhaps the skills and abilities of all library employees will be respected and valued. Though the division between librarians and library technicians has historically been a morale issue, if all staff members are encouraged to grow not only in their professional abilities, but also their social relationships with each other, then high quality services can be offered to patrons, which should be the ultimate goal of any library.

Case study written by Lisa Shamchuk for LIS 504 (Leadership and Management Principles for Library and Information Services). Wordle created and website coded for LIS 600 (Capping Exercise), as part of the Master of Library and Information Studies program at the University of Alberta. Modified February 27, 2010.