Spotlight on the Dynix – ALA-APA Award for Outstanding Promotion of the Salaries and Status of Library Workers

Dynix  AwardThis year, two people were chosen by the jury to receive the first award. Maurice J. “Mitch” Freedman recently retired from his position as director of the Westchester Library System (N.Y.) and is former ALA President (2001-2002). Dorothy Morgan is a business manager at the Liverpool Public Library (N.Y.) and former president of the ALA Library Support Staff Interest Round Table (LSSIRT, 2000-2001). We thought they deserved more space than we gave them in the coverage of the award in the June issue of Library Worklife, so this month, read about Dorothy Morgan and how she got involved in the pay equity movement. Mitch Freedman will be in the Spotlight for the November and December issues.

Dorothy Morgan talks about the importance of committee work and personal and group strategies and responsibilities related to raising salaries.

LW: What was your thought when you found out you won the first Dynix – ALA-APA Award for Outstanding Achievement in Promoting Salaries and Status for Library Workers?

DM: My first thought when I found out I had won this most prestigious award was one of feeling so honored especially to share the award with Mitch. I believe I even told Jenifer to give the whole award to Mitch, that he certainly was more deserving. I guess it’s because I never considered the things that I did worthy of any award, that everything I did was just part of me and I felt compelled to pursue these issues. I feel that I am doing what everyone that loves and values libraries should be doing.

LW: What motivated you to dedicate your energies towards the pay equity/salary improvement movement?

DM: I could sum up the answer by simply stating that I saw a need to do something about the severity of the situation. In addition, I would have to add that in the beginning my mother was my biggest motivator. Early on it was evident to me that there were strong inequities in salaries among library workers. I would often share ideas about library work life, especially compensation issues, with my mother and sister who were both big influences in my life. When I started getting more involved with my state associations and worked on a certificate program in New York State, I realized how important this issue was for the pay equity/salary improvement movement. Certification may not guarantee a salary increase but it definitely could make a difference in upgrades or career ladders. It is a testimony to one’s dedication and commitment to their work. I strongly believe that certification could result in a salary increase and that was enough to motivate me to work on any issues that could help.

LW: Tell us about your work in this area.

DM: My strongest work in this area is presenting programs on a state and national level on support staff certification, how it works and the goals that are met through this endeavor. I’m also continuously conscientious and keep abreast of what is going on with other issues like career ladders and continuing education because they all relate to one another in the advancement of this movement.

LW: Why and how did you get involved on a local, state, and national level in associations that seemed to primarily be serving MLS-holders/librarians?

DM: Since 1984, when I first started working at Liverpool Public Library I was interested in relationships and networking opportunities with everyone working in libraries, not just support staff. I wanted to be a part of decisions that affected my future as well as others working in libraries. I knew that involvement on a local, state, and national level was going to be the means to make any kind of change happen. I realized that it was at these levels that mine as well as other voices would be heard and recognized. I encouraged others to get involved as well. It never made a difference to me whether I was talking to a librarian, a library clerk, a page, or director. I look at everyone in the same way and whether a person holds a degree or not just doesn’t make a difference to me. I always felt that we needed to work together if our future was to be bright.

LW: How important is committee involvement in making dramatic changes to salaries?

DM: There is always power in numbers. Working in committees allows you to have a stronger voice that enables more buy-in. Sometimes it becomes necessary to get involved in committees that will stand behind you and support you. It’s hard to ignore larger number of people stating the same concerns over and over again. We need to be heard and as a committee we can demand that. That’s not to say that as individuals we can’t affect change; however I think it’s just easier to get the same message across when you do so as a committee.

LW: Who were your major advocacy groups? How did you approach them and convince them to participate?

DM: My major advocacy groups include my state support staff association the New York State Library Assistants’ Association (NYSLAA), the New York State Library Association (NYLA), the Library Support Staff Interest Roundtable of ALA (LSSIRT), and some time ago, my involvement with the Council on Library Media Technicians (COLT). I didn’t have to convince or encourage any of these groups to participate in advocacy. They were doing it already. I followed along and continued to bring as much to their table as possible by keeping them aware of what was happening with the issues I was involved in.

LW: What advice would you give a staff trying to increase salaries personally and for a group?

DM: My advice to support staff would be to be committed and dedicated to their work in order to increase salaries personally. You need to verify and show proof that you are taking care of your career, that it is not just a job. You need to do what is necessary to be recognized and rewarded appropriately by taking advantage of involvement in library organizations, certification endeavors, workshop attendance, etc. For groups, I would encourage workers to seek out opportunities that are available to show their worth as it relates to salary issues.

LW: What can outspoken advocates do for the initiative? What can soft-spoken advocates do?

DM: Don’t give up. I have to emphasize the fact that there have been other issues in the past and there will be new ones worth fighting for in our future. We’ve done it before we can do it again. Outspoken advocates just need to be even louder to compensate for those that may be a bit less vocal. There may be some things that even the most soft-spoken can do like keep pushing to get others involved. It always takes more than just the loud voice and in those circumstances the outspoken can do what they are comfortable with. Just keeping active in local, state, and national associations can help.

LW: How would you recommend that others get involved?

DM: You know what they say “you can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”. I can only recommend that people get involved on committees in state and local library associations, but it has to be important enough to them to make the first step. When strides are made that result in positive change that is the proof that involvement works and more people need to see that this is happening.

LW: What are some of the barriers we might not know about and how did you navigate around them?

DM: There are always barriers to work around, i.e. budget defeats, lack of funding, no continuing education or professional development money that all seem to result in poor staff morale. You just have to face the fact that some issues are going to be harder to address than others and that the issues of pay equity/salary improvements are worth fighting for. It may not happen as soon as you would like, but it’s worth the time and effort to keep at it. We don’t always get what we want, but there are some things that we shouldn’t have to live without like proper pay equity for all library workers.

LW: What resources do you recommend?

DM: I think our best resource is what we are able to bring to the table ourselves. We can make a difference if we work on developing a voice that must be heard and use each other to listen.

LW: You are highly visible in the field, having been profiled extensively, held important positions within the American Library Association and other associations, and written throughout your career. Please tell us something that hasn’t been covered thus far – an interest, a passion, a hobby, or a particularly illuminating experience.

DM: Besides library work I have a strong interest in the medical and health field. I must admit that’s my second passion. I’m proud of my two sons who have devoted their careers to helping people stay fit and health conscious.

LW: What other areas of librarianship are you passionate about?

DM: I love libraries and every aspect of the work that is done in them.

LW: Where will you be speaking next?

DM: I will be speaking in the State of Washington for WALE an Interest Group of the Washington Library Association as both a keynote speaker and for closing remarks.

LW: How can we move the issue forward?

DM: I believe the only way to move this issue forward is to never let it die. Keep pushing for change and it will happen. Make certain that the people that you nominate and ultimately elect for ALA office have on their agendas this issue and follow up to make sure they do more than just talk the talk.

LW: What gives you hope that positive change will come?

DM: ALA-APA gives me the best hope that this most important issue of salary and pay equity will be addressed. ALA/LSSIRT continues to pursue the issue of certification and its Steering Committee and its members keep abreast of any movements towards this issue by the ALA-APA.