ASSOCIATES (vol. 4, no. 3, March 1998) -

Table of Contents

                        January, 1998

                based on the COLT homepage reports
                 By Joyce Nielsen and Linda Owen

     Certification Committee Chair for the Council on
Library/Media Technicians (COLT), Margaret Barron, coordinated
the COLT Mid-Winter Program held in New Orleans on January 9,
1998.  The topic of this program was Certification for
Library/Media Support Staff: Impact on Libraries. Library
managers and others directly involved in hiring library staff
were especially invited to attend. 

     Kent Slade, president of the Council on Library/Media
Technicians (COLT), welcomed the participants and gave some
background on the involvement of COLT with the issue of
certification of library and media support staff since the
organization formed in 1967.  COLT is active in developing
national criteria for training library support staff and in
updating national career directories.  The Council on
Library/Media Technicians is a natural group to certify support


     Margaret Barron discussed the history of certification for
library support staff.  Twenty years ago the whole idea seemed
much more threatening to degreed librarians.  Now in the late
'90s, the whole library world seems much more ready to consider
such an idea.  The computerization of much library work has
changed how jobs are done and who does them.

     "The situation is very complex.  Even worker titles vary from
one state to another, from one library to another.  There are
tiers of workers to accommodate who have learned their skills in
a variety of ways," Barron explained.

     "As library schools around the country close down, there are
fewer MSLS and MLS graduates available  Libraries are having
trouble finding graduate librarians to fill some positions,
especially in the technical services areas."  Support staff are
filling more and more of these jobs.  Many have learned on the
job.  Another source of new library employees is the two-year
community college.

     The American Library Association is completing the revision
of the criteria statement for training library support staff or
library technical assistants.  Barron pointed out that COLT is
involved in that process by having two representatives on the
Task Force: Annamarie Erickson, the Education Committee Chair,
and Linda Owen, the Immediate Past President.

     "Certification will be voluntary," Barron emphasized.  The
certificate would show that the holder had demonstrated specific
levels of skill and expertise by passing a test.  The certificate
would move with the worker from job to job and from library to
library.  The study manuals to help prepare for the tests and the
tests themselves are not yet written.  The manuals now in use to
prepare for GRE or SAT tests show that such materials may be
successfully written and used  "We should have the pilot project
in place by 1999," Barron asserted.


     Linda Owen, Immediate Past President of the Council on
Library/Media Technicians and COLT Webmaster, talked about how
dramatically the ways we communicate with others in our library
work have changed over the years.  "Twenty years ago communication
was predominately in a straight line.  Your supervisor provided
directions to you.  You might go to a colleague for specific
information and share information, but that was still centered
around a central authoritarian core much like a spider web."

     "Today communication networks look more like tapestries as
many thoughts and ideas from many sources are interwoven.  How we
communicate has been affected by the methods by which we
communicate.  First the fax machine and now the Internet make
communication of complex ideas quick and easy.  We pick and chose
from many sources to weave our own answer and then add that
answer to the network."  With the electronic internet, a question
placed on the Libsup-L listserv might garner an answer "from the
next city, the next state, across the country, or from Canada,
Australia, or Singapore."

     Library support staff who responded to Linda's request for
personal experiences with library networking agreed that it has
improved how they do their jobs and how they relate to librarians
and others in the workplace.  It is very true that "more
communicating helps staff learn to communicate more clearly and

     "How does all of this relate to certification?" Owen asked.
"Through this enhanced network of communication we will be able
to make clear to librarians and to support staff what is meant by
certification, and how it can benefit libraries and the people
who work in them," she insisted. 


     Annamarie Erickson, Education Committee Chair of the Council
on Library/Media Technicians presented Education Programs for
Support Staff.  As a library staff member she completed a Library
Technical Assistant (LTA) program, and later as a librarian she
directed an LTA program; she brings excellent credentials to this

     As library support staff positions have become more complex,
involving fewer basic clerical skills and requiring more
technical and computer skills, the need for support staff
training has increased.  These courses have many different names,
but are often available in community colleges as Library
Technical Assistant curricula.  Those that lead to an Associate
of Arts diploma are usually transferable into a four-year college
program.  In some states, unfortunately these classes are
considered vocational and cannot be used toward higher
educational goals.

     Erickson announced she has just completed editing the 8th
edition of the "Directory of Institutions offering Programs for
the Training of Library/Media Technicians."  It lists information
about the programs offered in over 40 schools in North America
that responded to her inquiries.  It gives current information,
including the names and locations of the schools, the directors
of the programs, and the courses available.  You may obtain
information about ordering a Directory by writing to Council on
Library/Media Technicians, Inc., PO Box 951, Oxon Hill, MD 20750,
or by visiting the COLT homepage on the World Wide Web.


     Dorothy Morgan, Northeast Region Director for the Council on
Library/Media Technicians (COLT), discussed Alternative
Recognition Programs for Library/Media Support Staff.  She used as
her major example the "Certificate of Achievement" program
available from the New York State Library Assistants' Association
(NYSLAA), a program developed specifically to be free of
examinations and to be entirely voluntary.

     Morgan's enthusiasm in presenting the history and
implementation of this program was infectious.  She told a story
of hard work to achieve a worthwhile goal, both in setting up the
NYSLAA program and in getting her personal Certificate of

     This certificate does not substitute for an MLS or any other
library or professional credentials or certificates.  It is a
"system that uses points to assign value to an individual's
library work experience, formal education, and a variety of other
library related activities."  It is intended to "motivate library
assistants to seek out and participate in continuing education
and to "acknowledge library assistants' support of libraries and
the library profession," and to increase "the recognition of
qualified workers in the field."

     Even library support staff in other states may earn this
Certificate of Achievement.  Learn more about doing this by
contacting Dorothy Morgan, Liverpool Public Library, 310 Tulip
Street, Liverpool, NY 13088, or by visiting the NYSLAA home page: