COLT invites ALA-APA Director to Keynote at Annual Conference

The Council on Library Technicians (COLT) 41st annual conference was held in Anaheim, CA, on June 26-27, 2008. The theme was “Library Support Staff: The Face of the Library.” COLT members were treated to a varied and full two-day event that began with a conversation with Jenifer Grady, ALA-APA Director. Her theme was a series of questions asking about what it means to be the face of the library and whether that face remains the same for all those who enter the library.

We know that most library employees are support staff, but what does it mean to be the face of the library? Is it more than being the first person most who enter see? COLT members were well-versed in their role as the face of the library, including not only their literal faces, but also the environment they create in libraries. The audience talked about how important it is to remember that others are aware of your moods and changes in behavior, even if one thinks they are well-hidden. There is only one chance to make a first impression and one must be mindful of that even when facing unpleasant circumstances at home life or in the workplace.

The response to what barriers prevent us from showing our best face was lively. Barriers to being our best and showing our best ranged from discomfort with representatives of new demographics in a community to policies and procedures that ignore the needs of patrons. For example, Grady asked the audience if they showed the same face to coworkers, family who come in the library, teens, homeless people, people who don’t speak English and influential business people.

Finally, COLT members gave strategies for how they handled showing and maintaining their best faces and the library’s best face, oftentimes necessitating personal commitment and “going the extra mile.” One member talked about a deaf-mute patron who sought that library employee every time because other staff members lacked the patience to interpret the disabled patron’s requests. Many of the members were sharing stories of how to be mirrors for others they work with so that everyone can be conscious of their impact in the composite experience COLT calls the Face of the Library.