At times, when I think back to what I was like as a brand new librarian, I cringe. Oh my, I knew everything about everything. All you had to do was ask me and I’d pontificate about any library related subject. Of course, relatively speaking, I knew nothing. Thinking back to those first couple of years, though, makes me feel so grateful to the people with whom I worked. If not for them, I can’t imagine what kind of librarian I’d be now.
Of course, I’m indebted to the MLS/MLIS holders who I encountered in those early years, but in some ways I’m even more grateful to the other members of the staff. Each of them had been working in libraries since before I’d figured out I wanted to be a librarian, in some cases decades before. I really dislike when I hear people like them described as “paraprofessional.” When I think of how hard they worked, and the kind of ethic each of them had, it seems ludicrous to call them anything other than professionals. Don’t get me wrong: I understand the meaning of the prefix “para.” It’s just that I can’t help thinking of parapsychology and the negative connotation “para” has in that context. Attaching “para” to any of those people feels like I’m insulting them.
I guess part of it is that I now know how much I still had to learn when I finished my degree program. Sure, I had my MLIS – from Simmons College no less – but I had almost no practical experience. I’d worked in a bookstore and volunteered in a children’s room at the local public library. Not that I needed much; it was an entry level position after all. But it still boggles my mind that I, the know nothing punk kid fresh from school, was the professional while those people who taught me so much, those people with decades of experience, weren’t called professionals. Truthfully, I’ve never met a “paraprofessional” who wasn’t a true professional.
What about you? What do you call non-MLS holders? Why?