The field of library science is a diverse one, a key reason why I was initially attracted to library service. There are corporate, public, archival, health, legal and school libraries just to name a few types. Positions available may be the “librarian” as we know it, but also very specialized facets, such as IT, administration, finance, media, research and more. A key role in many units of service is the paraprofessional, or support staff position.
I’ve been teaching at the College of DuPage for 14 years and have seen the explosion of opportunities for students seeking the Library Technical Assistant certificate as well as the ongoing development of curriculum to meet changing needs in an information rich field. The Library Technical Assistant program is soon celebrating a 50th anniversary and has led the nation in many respects while launching graduates into all of our surrounding counties and now the world.
The program began in 1968 with the recommendation of an advisory committee on the subject and has grown from an initial seven courses to offering the first program in the country approved to participate in the library support staff certification sponsored by the American Library Association. In 2011 the entire program had online offerings with students in other states and countries, including Canada, France and China. It has been interesting to teach students from around the world and often times they bring value to discussions as we learn about our differences and strengths. The program now holds nine courses available both on campus and online.
Personally I have taught students interested in working in libraries while they change careers seeking greater fulfillment, mentored those attracted to a value-based profession, and a few that just “love libraries” and thought “why not?” There is also a growing base of students that do not wish to pay the high ticket of a graduate degree and find a local community program ever more affordable as they strive to get their foot in the door. I find the adults coming back to school perhaps the most exciting as a late-in-life change is a leap of faith, and often times they have a wide body of life experience that will be very valuable in the profession. The students also keep me on my toes as I thrive on the discussions, an opportunity for my ongoing professional development as to teach one must always be learning.
Just since my career began in library services I’ve seen incredible revolutions, particularly in how we deploy technology as well as view our role. We’ve gone from places solely devoted to books to cultural community centers as we continue to evolve based on patron needs. The support staff members are a key role in our success. Here at the Sugar Grove Library our Technical Services Manager, Mary Clapp, is a graduate and we think she is amazing. So happy anniversary to the College of DuPage Library Technical Assistant program, and we appreciate the value you bring to our libraries.
Shannon Halikias is the director of the Sugar Grove Public Library, a professor at College of DuPage, leads a local writing group and is an active outdoors lover with two rowdy boys. You can reach her at email@example.com. Feedback on this column can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.