ASSOCIATES (vol. 3, no. 1, July 1996) -

Table of Contents

                    _BEEN THERE, DONE THAT, AND GLAD OF IT!


                              MaryAnn Davison 
                      University Library Assistant IV 
                         University of Connecticut

With all of the incumbent stereotypical pictures of serenity, books and
pleasant people, I took a part time job in the small public library in
town several years ago.  I should have known better than to have all of
those stereotypical pictures.  After all, I'd been in and out of
libraries since childhood as a student, teacher, parent or volunteer.
However...there I was, with all of my ignorance hanging out and folks
pleasantly showing me the ropes with an entirely new vocabulary.  It
seems I had just stepped into a new world and it was a world changing
rapidly for everyone in it.  How fortunate I was to be in that place at
that time!  For not only did I learn new systems, I learned old systems.
The library world was in a turmoil (with the excitement of an expectant
parent) of barcoding, retrospective conversion, and planning spaces for
computers.  To think that I had been hired to do the story hour and
a little at the circulation desk!  (I wonder, if I'd known what was
coming, if I'd have stayed).  Soon I began hearing other staff talk about
LTA classes.
It's relevant here to note that this job was in addition to a full time
job in another field plus the duties that accompany single parenthood.
So, really, the world was my oyster in a funny sort of way.  At first
the job was a means to improve the bread and butter.  But soon it was
more.  The place and the people were becoming friends and stimulant and
social circle.  In that frame, I took my first LTA class with another
The first class was part one of "Practical library procedures".  It was
focused on public services aspects of the library.  Part two, the next
semester (or whenever it came around again) was the technical services
aspect.  I was hooked.  Now I had to make a decision.  MLS or LTA
certificate.  Hmmm.  'Couldn't decide right away.  But did change the
full time job to one in a small private college library.  WHOA!  Another
new world and just as exciting and pregnant with barcoding, retrospective
conversion and planning spaces for computers.  I continued in the public
library as well.  (LC numbers by day and Dewey by night!)
Some of my new coworkers were in MLS programs so I signed up for a course
along with them.  I didn't like it.  The course was interesting enough
("Issues and trends in...") but the environment and the participants just
didn't fan my flame.  So, it was decided...and back to the LTA program I
ran in earnest.
Over the next three years I took one class each semester.  They were
"Reference services"; "Cataloging and classification";  "Supervision and
computers in library applications".  Because I already had a bachelor's
degree, I was able to transfer credits to "English literature",
"Children's literature"; and "English composition I and II".  I had now
completed the 30 credit LTA program and obtained the certificate.
During the three years in the program, I was learning daily everything
that all of my coworkers were learning on the job.  I feel this was a
real advantage because I never felt the strains of the MLS vs. non-MLS.
The computer revolution put us all on the same plane.  And, as a matter
of fact, the combination of my coursework and on-the-job training gave
me the qualifications to obtain my current job.  (Well, it's not the
same job now that it was 10 years ago, but it's the same position...
fodder for another article.)  Those courses and training alongside other
professionals gave me the terminologies, strategies, thought processes,
problem-solving logic, intuition and confidence to forge ahead, perform
professionally, participate in professional activities and feel equal
among my peers in the profession.  I enjoy what I do and am earning a
living wage to boot.  That's quite a lovely combination which many folks
in many jobs do not have.
So, do I favor certification for library support staff?  Maybe, maybe
not.  I favor professional development, learning new skills, and
participation in professional associations.  If a full fledged LTA
program seems like too large an undertaking, try one class that is of
Did the certificate program benefit me?  Undoubtedly it provided skills
which provided job mobility and improvement (including increased wages
and benefits).