ASSOCIATES (vol. 8 no. 3, March 2002) -

Spotlight CLASS:
CLA Support Staff Section


Kris Golden
LTA and Chair, C.L.A.S.S. Section of CLA
Willimantic Library Service Center
Willimantic, CT 06226

CLASS, the Connecticut Library Association Support Staff Section formerly the LTA Section) is led by paraprofessionals who serve the library community and promote educational opportunities for their colleagues. When I was asked to write about what our section is and what we do--past, present, and future--I had to dig deep into the past for the history of the section. The present is easy, and the future, who knows?

First, a little history. The LTA Committee became a CLA section in 1973. In 1976, membership in the section totaled 200 people, but membership started to decline in 1978. The section continued to have meetings and workshops--one on book repair in 1979, another on Connecticut state documents in 1980, and a summer reading program, also in 1980. In the fall of 1980, we held a program on the legislature and the library community, and in the winter of 1981, we sponsored a program on serving the disabled patron. At the 1981 annual conference we presented "Making Yourself Look Good Without an MLS." Then, in 1982, the section disbanded! In the CLA notebook that is passed from each section chair to his or her successor, I found a "Eulogy for the LTA Section," written in 1982. Where did all those members go?

The notebook picks up again in 1988, when a support staff survey was done. In 1996, the section, revived somewhere along the way, planned a fall program and a CLA conference program called "On the Front Line: Working in CT libraries." Our 1997 fall program, co-sponsored with the College & University Section, was titled "Library Reorganization: New Rules/New Roles." In the spring of 1998, we arranged four sessions of hands-on introductory Internet training at community college sites around the state. We have also co-sponsored programs, on occasion, with Eastern CT Libraries and other sections of CLA.

I joined the section in May 1998. That year, we conducted an LTA Salary Survey with help from the CT State Library. (We hope to conduct another salary survey in 2002.) We also worked on a generic job description for library assistants. In 1999, we presented a reference program in Middletown and repeated it the following year. We initiated support staff awards at the 2000 CLA Conference--Support Staff of the Year and Supporter of Support Staff of the Year. And at the association's annual business meeting in April 2001, our section was formally renamed as the CLA Support Staff Section--CLASS.

In January 2001, the section undertook to compile a list of LTA Competencies, which was completed in August 2001 and endorsed by the CLA Executive Board that month. The document is available at Already, the list has been used by the LTA certificate program at Three Rivers Community College in Norwich to set program objectives. We hope that libraries will use these core competencies when compiling support staff job descriptions, and that the list will aid the Statewide Continuing Education Committee in planning workshops for paraprofessionals.

The section sponsored its first annual fall conference in 1999, entitled "You, Your Job & Your Future." Our 2000 conference was called "Tools For Growth," and the 2001 edition was "Your Role in Library Service." Our fourth annual conference, scheduled for November 1, 2002 at Manchester Community College, will be entitled "Tomorrow's Technology Today." The section has also presented programs every year at the CLA Annual Conference. Some of those include: "Conflict Management in the Library Setting," "Unlocking the Mystery of E-mail," "Weeding in the Garden of Good and Evil," "The Future in You," and more recently, "Paraprofessionals Reach Out Beyond Print" and "What Do They Do All Day?"

Our conferences and workshops are geared to developing paraprofessionals' skills and knowledge. We offer these educational opportunities so that our colleagues may further themselves on the job. However, it's not always possible for them to attend conferences or workshops because of lack of money in their library's budget for "non-professional" staff.

Another issue that concerns us is that paraprofessionals are sometimes required to take on jobs, often those performed by professional librarians in the past, with no increase in pay. This is not uncommon in the academic and public library area, and it is why it is important for our section to do a salary survey and to establish a minimum LTA recommended salary. In this way, we hope to help paraprofessionals receive the pay they deserve for the work they do.

Yet another concern is being able to contact LTAs; not all of them have e-mail accounts or access to professional literature. We try to address this problem by compiling a database of email addresses for those who attend section programs. And, of course, we try continually to recruit new members to our section.

Over the years, CLASS has accomplished many significant things and will continue to do so whether there are five members or 200. We are involved with interesting, important, even fun, projects. Join us! Kris Golden is chair of the CLASS Section and LTA at CSL's Willimantic Library Service Center, Willimantic, Connecticut. This article is reprinted from Connecticut Libraries, February 2002.

CLASS Milestones

1970 Guidelines for training LTAs
1973 LTA section formed
1979 First workshop: "Book Repair"
1982 Section disbanded
1988 LTA survey conducted
1990 Section revived
1998 Internet training sessions with CLSUs
1998 LTA salary survey
1999 First annual paraprofessional conference
1999 Annual awards initiated
2001 LTA section becomes CLASS
2001 LTA core competencies endorsed by CLA Board

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