Working Knowledge: Going Paraprofessional

Article excerpt

Q I am a career-changer, albeit one who never really chose a career in the first place. My experience is mostly in clerical work, and for the past six months I've been temping in a library. My supervisor thinks I am a good fit here and has suggested I consider becoming a library technician. What can you tell me about such training?

Trying the Library on for Size

A Like many people, you may have accidentally discovered a career path that you didn't know you were searching for. In fact, I've heard that story a lot from library workers: how they decided to pursue training--whether it was obtaining a certificate or getting an MLS--after falling into a job in a library setting and realizing how much they liked it.

Employment for library technicians is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2008. Increasing use of library automation is expected to cause a demand for library technical assistants as computerized circulation and information systems are implemented.

"There is a very bright outlook for jobs for LTAs in the future," says Linda Slusar, assistant professor and coordinator of the library technical assistant program at the College of DuPage in Illinois. "LTA positions are replacing some librarian positions," she adds. "I don't think that this is a bad thing for our profession at all. This trend provides more time for MLS librarians to become teachers rather than simply providers of information."

Requirements to become a library technician range from a high school diploma to an associate's or bachelor's degree, and computer skills are certainly a plus. Formal training for your new career would begin with courses in library technology in which you learn to order, process, locate, and circulate library materials in addition to operating computer systems. For a listing of U.S. library technician programs, see colt.ucr.edu/ltprograms.html. Also remember that to become a library media assistant working in a school library may require state certification--be sure to check with the state where you live if you are interested in eventually working in a school system.

For detailed information on work as a library technician, I suggest you read the full description in the Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook and the job profile "Library Technician: A Day in the Life" at Hobsons College View. …