Monday, 4 February 2008

ALIA and employer support

I was talking to a colleague the other day about the amount of support that employers give to employees to conduct professional Association contributory business during work time. She was amazed that some employers do not support ALIA associated work and I was just as astounded at the extent of the support her employer gave her - ALIA committee work is even put into her annual workplan as part of professional development.

A leading library service has made comments that Association related work is not 'real life', budgeting for events that had a turnover of hundreds of thousands of dollars was not applicable to a work scenario and working with volunteer committees had no bearing on staff management in the workplace.

Whilst I am not surprised by this attitude, I am disappointed. If working for a volunteer association does not constitute 'real life' or 'real work', then what does it constitute? Sure it is great professional development and good learning for the participant, but learning such as this has to be better utilised when applied in the workplace.

So what does constitute Association related workplace support? That's an interesting question. Once I would have thought it was something as simple as dialling into a conference call during work time or receiving phone calls in the workplace, but I have been surprised by the level of support from some employers. As I mentioned earlier, one colleague has ALIA related work inserted as an output in her annual workplan, so she is able to dedicate time during her work day to Association related work, others, although having no formal work plan in place, can dial into teleconferences, send and receive emails. write reports and attend meetings during their work day. Of course, I wouldn’t expect that this would be done all day, every day, but obviously there is trust in the staff to be able to deliver their own work objectives.

So what are the worst examples of lack of support that I have heard about? Library staff needing to stay back to 'make up' time used during the day to answer Association related emails, emails being monitored, not encouraging contribution to professional literature, refusing to fund conference attendance yet applying it to a workplace training plan and (perhaps) the most disappointing of all, that a library service is too small to support Association related work. Surely investing staff time in something as important as growing the profession and professional development would outweigh such an outlook?


Andrew said...

I think it's one of those things that really varies from employer to employer, and it reflects more on the employer than it necessarily does on the professional association.

Personally, when I'm looking at a prospective employer, I'm keen to know how their organisation interacts with the rest of the professional industry, and the networks in which its employees are engaged.

And to these ends, I've been pretty happy with my current employer. We've got professionals who are very active in ALIA as well as the CBCA and various other community development working groups, and these are things that an organisation should take pride in.

I think that if an organisation claims that such affiliations are not relevant to their core business, then maybe one should be questioning not so much the relevance of ALIA to that organisation, but rather the relevance of the organisation to your profession.

Of course, time management is always an issue, but (call me naive when I say that) we wouldn't have gotten this far without time management skills, thank you very much.

Part of me suspects that it's an issue of "ownership" of a project, ie. "We don't you working on X during work time, because they'll get all the credit for it," which I think is ridiculous - ownership is so passe. These days, it's all about partnerships and collaboration.

bibliobudgie said...

Hi All,

I have to agree with you Tan. Where I work there is a definite culture that is internally focused only. Collaboration is seen as a dirty word and not politically expedient.

Unfortunately I believe this is a symptom of the 'old guard' management style of those librarians and other managers who are stil living in the 70s or 80s when most of them got their qualification.

They have the attitude of 'tradesmanlike' participation and have often been so long in their positions that they are no longer flexible and adaptable to new practice.

No wonder our profession is not seen in the eyes of many as even being a profession and thus a very undervalued part of the information/education disciplines.

I just wish they would retire or something and make way for fresher forces. Fortunately this will b eoccuring en masse over the next ten years when they all reach retirement age.
Unfortunately, they have made no attempt in the main to bring on the more capable staff and develop their management skills through what I believe is fear of being shown up!

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