ASSOCIATES (vol. 5, no. 3, March 1999) -

Two Minnesota Paraprofessional Expand Their Horizons


Lori Hedstrom
Program Manager,
Library Relations
West Online

         West Group is the nation's largest publisher of legal and business information in print, CD-ROM, online, and Internet formats, and law librarians are some of our best customers. As part of our service to customers, we provide educational opportunities on technical, research, and management topics in law firms, law schools, corporate law departments, and at chapter meetings as well as the annual meeting of the association as a whole. As Manager of Library Services, I work with West departments on librarian programs and issues.

         Several years ago one of the paraprofessionals on our corporate library staff attended Branch Out, a conference sponsored by and for library support staff. I was so impressed by the content of that program and the enthusiast response of this staff member that I wanted to learn more about it. I found out that this annual conference is but one of the many varied learning opportunities available to library workers in Minnesota and I wanted to share some of this knowledge with my fellow library directors at the AALL 1998 Annual meeting. Too often "continuing education" implies "for professionals only," and directors need to be aware of the benefits continuing education can bring to all members of the library staff.

         I contact Virginia Heinrich of the Support Staff Section and she referred me to Marcia Semerau of the Duluth Public Library. Since the theme for the Annual Meeting was to be "New Horizons", we called the session "Expanding the Horizons of Paraprofessionals" to show that there is more to the topic than might first meet the eye. Because it is such a wide-ranging subject, Marcia chose Nancy King of the Arrowhead Library System as co-presenter, since they had worked together on similar programs before.

        The results were impressive! Marcia and Nancy put together a complete introduction to the in-house and outreach sources available to Minnesota paraprofessionals and detailed many programs and training opportunities from NMLA and other entities. Details of e-mail and Internet resources and listservs that connect us to our colleagues were shared, along with information on electronic journals and other library literature that allow us to be well-informed on the advances of our profession.

        Many of these issues did not exist when my colleagues and I went to library school; but now growing use of technology in libraries and paraprofessional career paths require that directors keep up with the times and, specifically, insist on budget dollars to fund required training.

        In part, because paraprofessionals are doing many of the jobs that professionals used to do, continuing education benefits the organization as a whole by opening communication channels and enhancing job skills. Specifically it allows staff members to keep up with changes, especially in technology, which in turn maximizes productivity and aids in career development. Support staff members who have a broader vision and career commitments help insure that any library is successful in its mission to serve its patrons at the highest possible level.

        Responses from AALL program attendees indicated an interest ion follow up articles and perhaps a moderated e-mail discussion of the topics presented. Suggestions included making the program available to paraprofessionals around the country to enable them to act on the opportunities that exist for them even if they choose not to go to library school. Marcia and Nancy certainly expanded our horizons (and their own!) with this presentation and West Group was very pleased to bring this important topic to AALL members.

[Reprinted with permission of the author.]

[These buttons are no longer active. To return to Table of Contents for this issue, click here.]

Go Back ArrowReturn to Top of Page