ASSOCIATES (vol. 2, no. 3, March 1996) -

Table of Contents

          *COLT: Who Are We and What Are We About*


                        Linda Owen

The Council on Library/Media Technicians (COLT) is an
international organization that has as its goal the recognition
and acceptance of library support staff as full participating
members of the library team.  It is an organization in which
library support staff and others from the library community come
together in support of paraprofessional issues and concerns.
COLT promotes the continuing education needs of its members and
provides an opportunity for each to grow personally and
professionally.   COLT members can be found in most of the 50
United States and several foreign countries.  While most members
are library support staff personnel, we have been joined by
librarians, library directors and Library Technical Assistant
(LTA) education program instructors.  That COLT has an open
membership policy should not be a surprise to anyone who knows of
the organization's history.
The acronym COLT originally stood for Council on Library
Technology.  This fledgling organization was founded in 1967 by
people involved in two-year associate degree programs for the
training of Library Technical Assistants.  For the most part they
were librarians and library educators who wanted an organization
that would meet the needs of the graduates of their programs.
Some of these people were Richard Taylor, Sister Mary Rudnick,
Charles Evans, Dorothy Johnson, Bettye Duvall, Noel Grego, and
Alice Naylor.  Two names that will be familier to current COLT
members are Ray Roney and Margaret Barron.  Ray is now the editor
of _Library Mosaics_.  Margaret, at that time a paraprofessional,
joined COLT as a graduate of an LTA program.  She later became a
President of COLT before going on to earn her Master of
Library Science. All of these forward thinking individuals
recognized that the paraprofessionals of the future would be
called on to provide increasingly more technical service to the
libraries in which they worked.  They also believed that
education should not end with a certificate or associate degree
but continue throughout one's life.
Less than ten years later COLT was well established as a national
organization for library support staff with a permanent mailing
address at the School Management Institute in Westerville, Ohio.
COLT became an affiliate of the American Library Association
(ALA) in 1976.  Affiliate status means that each affiliated
organization recognizes that the other has mutually compatible
goals and objectives.  Each recommends that its members also
consider joining the other and, when able, each helps and
supports the other in its activities.
1976 was also the year that COLT sponsored its first pre-ALA
conference in Chicago.  Prior to that, COLT had sponsored
workshops throughout the country.  The one-day Chicago program,
"Work Roles of Non-Professionals and Professionals," drew a
standing-room-only crowd.  The success of the conference prompted
the Executive Board to decide to hold a conference, seminar or
workshop each year in conjunction with the ALA Annual
Conference.  This enabled COLT to draw on ALA members' expertise
as speakers and consultants.
Recently COLT expanded the conference site criteria to include
ALA division and affiliate conferences, and those of other
library oriented associations.  We are no longer restricted to
meeting in a limited number of large ALA-site cities.  COLT could
expand our venue selections because we no longer needed to rely
solely on ALA members as speakers.  Library support staff have
become competent speakers on many topics.  The COLT conference
now offers a wide range of programs and tours spread out over
three days.  Speakers come from throughout the library community.
This year the annual conference will be held in Portland, Oregon
at the same time the Public Library Association is meeting.  In
1997 we will meet just prior to ALA in San Francisco.  COLT will
continue to hold regional and local workshops and cosponsor
programs at the ALA conferences.
Back to history.  By 1976 COLT was no longer being led just by
librarians and library educators.  The library support staff in
its ranks had gained their own voice.  COLT's membership was
opened to all library-related staff, not just those connected to
Library Technical Assistant education programs.  Today COLT's
members represent the full spectrum of those who work in and care
about libraries.  They include Library Technical Assistants,
aides, clerks, audiovisual technicians, librarians, educators and
library directors from various types of libraries, media and
information centers throughout the United States, Canada and
other countries.  Though the acronym stayed the same, the group's
name was changed to reflect its true focus.  It was now known as
the Council on Library/Media Technicians.
With a more diverse membership COLT realized that individuals in
the various regions had to be reached with interesting and
comprehensive training programs.  To coordinate these programs,
COLT established Region Directors according to geographic
location.  The Region Directors were to maintain contact with
their local members, and develop programs with other library
associations within their regions.  This would provide library
support staff the opportunity for the mutual exchange of
information that comes from such relationships.  Meetings were
held throughout the nation to gather information on the problems
and concerns of library technical school students and COLT
members.  A primary concern proved to be the lack of job
placement assistance.  This led COLT to develop its own
newsletter.  The format included articles and ideas from the
membership and job listings from potential employers.  With the
introduction of _Library Mosaics_ in 1988, COLT ceased
publication of its newsletter.  Instead, COLT members receive a
subscription to the first nationwide journal for library support
staff.   A COLT information column is a regular feature of
Library Mosaics.
In 1982, COLT provided assistance with the planned revision of
the standards for the S-1411 (Library Technician) series of the
U.S. Office of Personnel Management Staff.  COLT reviewed the
tentative standard changes, and forwarded a response with
recommendations.  Through the years, COLT also assisted with
updating and revising the Library Technician's information
section of the Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook
Handbook.   This was also the year that guidelines for library
groups interested in becoming chapters of COLT were adopted.
COLT Presidents Barbara Humlicek and Bettye Smith oversaw a
period of renewed growth in the late 1980's and early 1990's.
Their many speaking engagements increased COLT's visibility.
During this time organizational structure was tightened as
standing committees' responsibilities were reviewed, revised and
updated, and steps were taken to incorporate as a nonprofit
organization.  In 1991 a new permanent mailing address was
established in Oxon Hill, Maryland.
During the 1991 Mid-Winter ALA Conference, COLT's Executive Board
participated in the first meeting of ALA's library support staff
interest Membership Initiative Group (MIG).  Later, during the
1993 ALA-Midwinter Conference in Denver, Colorado, COLT and the
ALA MIG worked together to create a purpose statement and a
petition for round table status was submitted to the ALA
Committee on Organization.   From this effort, a support staff
round table was formed--Support Staff Interest Round Table
(SSIRT).  Although COLT remains the United States only national
independent paraprofessional organization, we continue to work
closely with SSIRT and other ALA entities.  We have jointly
sponsored programs at ALA conferences and worked side by side on
committees studying library support staff issues.  COLT's
affiliate status and the round table's position provide library
paraprofessionals dual platforms from which to voice their
concerns within ALA.
Another activity that COLT cooperated with ALA to complete is the
ALA Office for Library Personnel Resources, Standing Committee on
Library Education (SCOLE), World Book-Goal Award Project on
Library Support Staff.  SCOLE conducted a series of nationwide
focus groups in 1991.  COLT participated in, and members acted as
facilitators, for many of these discussions.  People representing
all areas of service in public, special and academic libraries
shared in lively discussions of the role of the library support
staff worker.  COLT submitted a chapter for the ALA/SCOLE
casebook developed to characterize the status of library support
staff issues.  Two recent task forces in which COLT has been
involved are the ALCTS task force on meeting the continuing
educational needs of library paraprofessionals and the ALA
Committee on Education's task force to study the need to revise
the criteria of library technical education programs.
So, what else is COLT doing today?  The issues are many and some
are quite complicated.  They are issues that our members have
said are important to them.
Certification for library paraprofessionals has long been a
concern of COLT.  In 1981, a special committee was formed to
study the advisability of certification for Library/Media
Technical Assistants.  The committee consisted of representatives
from the American Library Association, the Association for
Educational Communications and Technology, the American
Association of Law Libraries, and other interested groups.  The
Certification Committee prepared a survey asking specific
questions to obtain information that would be discussed and
debated.  The outcome of that survey and the committee's work was
that the time was not ripe for certification.   The work was
shelved for another day.  That day has come and COLT is again
conducting nationwide surveys and meetings to assess the need and
acceptance of Certification.  We do so because every time that
library support staff are asked what are their issues and
concerns, they place national Certification at the top of the
list.  It is a complicated question with no easy answers.
However, as long as Certification remains a concern for library
support staff, COLT will continue address it as an important
Library Technical Assistant education is another issue important
to COLT.  As is happening with Masters of Library Science
programs, Library Technical Assistant programs are closing at an
alarming rate.  Programs went from a high of 157 schools in 1981,
down to 115 programs by 1992.  COLT supports a comprehensive
examination of this situation, and is cooperating with others to
develop solutions to this disturbing trend.  As mentioned earlier
we are working with ALA to study the need to revise the ALA
criteria of LTA education programs.  We encourage participation
in innovative programs like the "Soaring to Excellence"
teleconference offered by Illinois' College of DuPage and the new
distance LTA program of the Front Range Community College in
Colorado.  COLT also publishes a directory of LTA programs.  The
8th edition of this directory will be out this year.  COLT also
continues to address the issue of continuing education for
library support staff.  Within the past two years COLT has held
workshops or conferences in each of the major regions.
COLT is committed to disseminating information to its members.
_Library Mosaics_ remains the primary communication media for
COLT in conjunction with membership mailings.  We are also
continually exploring new sources of communication.  In the past
two years we have used LIBSUP-L (the Internet listserv for
support staff) to post announcements about COLT activities while
"The Library Support Staff Resource Center", a WWW resource home
page incorporates a variety of information about COLT in its
contents.  COLT is also in the process of developing its own home
page.  And of course, _ASSOCIATES_ has listed COLT activities in
its calendar section and published articles about the
organization.  To spread the word about these excellent
communication sources dedicated to paraprofessional issues, COLT
publishes a brochure describing them all.
COLT growth continues through the recruitment of members and
supporting the establishment of additional local area chapters.
Current chapters exist in Northern and Southern California,
Washington, D.C. and North Florida.  New chapters are proposed
for Central Florida and the Chicago area.  Other areas that have
shown interest are South Florida, South Carolina and
Philadelphia.  COLT chapters are one way we provide leadership
opportunities for our members.  Each chapter is responsible for
their own governance within COLT guidelines.  They develop
workshops, newsletters, job lines and anything else that meet the
needs of their local members.  While conducting these activities,
chapter members develop professional networks and hone their
organization and leadership skills.  Building these skills is
important for the individual and the organization.  The
individual benefits when they transfer these skills to their work
and personal lives.  COLT benefits when the local leaders extend
themselves into national leadership positions.
Not every COLT member belongs to a local chapter.  In some areas
of the country strong local or state paraprofessional
organizations already exist.  In those areas COLT encourages
members to support the local group while maintaining their
involvement in the national organization.  Still other members
live in isolated communities with little face to face contact
with library support staff outside their area. For them the
networking opportunities at conferences and the ability to keep
up with national issues, news and events via *Library Mosaics* is
It is only through the hard work and dedication of its members
that COLT can succeed. This is because COLT is a member-supported
organization.  Its success is dependent on the efforts of member
volunteers.  These volunteers serve on committees and as officers
on the national and local levels.  Because professional
development activities are not normally required for career
advancement for the library paraprofessionals, these volunteers
often work on their personal time and at their own expense.  The
support they receive varies greatly.  For example, the National
Executive Board, made up of the officers, committee chairs and
region directors, meets twice each year.  Since the
Board members are spread throughout the country, at least some of
them must travel to attend meetings.   The amount of assistance
they receive fluctuates with the state of each home library's
financial status and policies.  Some people receive release time
and travel expenses.  The same is true for local chapter
volunteers.  Often the most valued support is for administrators
and supervisors to understand and recognize the importance of
professional development for support staff.
Nearly thirty years ago COLT was formed by library technician
educators to promote recognition and acceptance of library
paraprofessional as important members of the library team.  Today
it continues that tradition.  It has grown to encompass all level
of library workers, each with shared visions and goals.  COLT
remains an organization in which library staff can come together
to support each other and the issues important to them.  It
continues to provide an opportunity for each member to grow
personally and professionally.
COLT OBJECTIVES (abridged from the COLT Bylaws)
*To function as a clearinghouse for information relating to
           library support staff personnel
*To advance the status of library support staff personnel
*To initiate, promote and support activities leading toward the
           appropriate placement, employment and certification of
           library support staff personnel
*To promote effective communication between and among all library
           staff at all levels
*To initiate, promote and support research projects and
           publications for the advancement of knowledge and
           understanding among library support staff personnel
*To study and develop curricula for the education of library
           support staff and develop appropriate standards for
           that education
*To cooperate usefully with other organizations whose purposes
           and objectives are similar to and consistent with,
           those of COLT
For information about joining COLT, contact Linda Owen at or write:
                        P.O. Box 951
                    Oxon Hill, MD 20750