Technology Brings Challenges and Opportunities for Support Staff

By Berger, Marshall A. | American Libraries, March 1997 | Go to article overview

Technology Brings Challenges and Opportunities for Support Staff


Berger, Marshall A., American Libraries


The growth of technology in both academic and public libraries has created a new and unexpected set of challenges for all library personnel. Initially there was concern over how library personnel would adapt to the technology itself. Questions arose over staff members' ability to learn and use new technology. However, the transition from card catalogs and P-slips to computers and printers appears to have been simpler than most libraries expected.

Library personnel, contrary to popular belief, handle change in the same way all humans do. Initially there may be mild tremors of discontent, but eventually we simply adapt. It is not the technology that has had such a strong effect on us; it is how that technology has changed our independent roles in the library environment. These changes are challenging tradition and eliminating some old standards.

One short decade ago library computers were usually found only in cataloging departments or on secretaries' desks. Smaller libraries may have had one librarian and perhaps one support-staff member working with those computers. Remaining support-staff responsibilities ranged from working circulation desks to shelving books or sorting the daily mail. Librarians devoted their time to collection development, cataloging, research, professional development, and reference duties. Support staff rarely attended round-table discussions, held retreats or in-service days, or traveled to library conventions. Librarians were the library professionals, and support staff members were, simply put, support staff. Tradition often barred support personnel from learning and performing duties normally reserved for librarians.

A vigorous revolution

A simple look back over the past 10 years reveals a vigorous revolution in the relationship between library professionals and their support staff. Technology has had a tremendous impact on all aspects of the library working environment. I have a fond memory of a television news story about a government report on stress in the workplace that aired in the late 1980s. According to the study, the least-stressful job in America was working in a library.

I seriously doubt the results would be the same today. Libraries are providing patrons with access to a virtual ocean of new information. Electronic information on CD-ROM and over the Internet is in high demand and is expanding at an astonishing rate. Academic librarians are learning new ways of instructing students, and all librarians must learn new ways to prepare and present library materials.

Many libraries have been unable to hire additional librarians to deal with this new technology; as an alternative they have increased the responsibilities of existing personnel. Librarians are spending more time working with new technology and are passing along some of their former duties to support staff.

Public and academic libraries are witnessing an influx of new library support positions - positions with such new titles as library technical assistant (LTA), computer specialist, and library technician. These new titles are replacing those of the library aides, media specialists, and administrative assistants.

Libraries have a growing need for expertise in computer hardware and software, and in many institutions support personnel are providing such expertise. Librarians with little or no time for computer training outside the library are already receiving that training from their own support staff.

LTAs and library technicians are now in charge of many library departments. In some situations they may do nearly all the cataloging of books, manage serial and circulation departments, or direct interlibrary loan operations. These "new professionals" are attending faculty meetings, chairing conferences, and serving as committee heads. They are being elected to lead membership organizations and organizing round-table discussions.

A new standard

The changes taking place in today's libraries are setting new standards for all support personnel. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Upgrade your membership to receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad‑free environment

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Upgrade your membership to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Technology Brings Challenges and Opportunities for Support Staff
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved in your active project from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Upgrade your membership to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.