The role of paraprofessional staff in libraries is rapidly changing as specialization is increasing and tasks performed by paraprofessional staff are becoming more complex. This has led to an increased demand in the areas of staff development and continuing education for paraprofessional staff.
While it has always been important to provide all staff in libraries with needed training and educational opportunities, it is even more important today as emerging technologies are integrated into library operations.
In consideration of these essentials, ALCTS President Jennifer Younger appointed the ALCTS Task Force on Meeting the Continuing Needs of Paraprofessionals in September, 1993. The Task Force met at all ALA Midwinter and ALA Conferences during 1993-95 to fulfill its charge:
"to identify continuing education and training needs of paraprofessionals working in the areas of library collections and technical services, and to identify what ALCTS can do to meet these needs."
During the first year (1993-94) the Task Force investigated existing programs and opportunities for paraprofessional staff within ALCTS and ALA. It was determined that no programs or services existed within these organizations specifically for paraprofessional staff development needs. However, programs exist in many state and regional organizations. As ALA and other conferences are prohibitively expensive and travel support is variable across libraries, these state and regional library organizations are important potential partners in the development and delivery of programs and services to paraprofessionals. COLT (Council on Library/Media Technicians) is very active on the national level and is also a potential partner.
An important conclusion after the first year's work by the Task Force is that ALCTS should work with national, state and regional groups in identifying and meeting paraprofessional needs in technical services areas.
The second year (1994-95) was spent discussing and writing the recommendations which fallow:
- Training Workshops Offered Via the Internet. Deliver a series of programs on various topics of interest to paraprofessionals accessible over Internet. Instructors would be selected by ALCTS and would conduct interactive workshops consisting of "lessons" distributed via the Internet to those registered in advance.
- Train the Trainers. In partnership with national, regional, and state organizations, deliver workshops to instruct paraprofessional staff in training skills. ALCTS wold draw on its membership for the expertise necessary to conduct workshops, which would focus on those skills helpful to paraprofessionals.
- Staff Development. Opportunities In partnership with national, regional and state organizations, deliver programs on topics and issues of interest to paraprofessionals. ALCTS would draw on its membership for the expertise necessary to conduct these programs. ALCTS would also inform its members of other staff development opportunities for paraprofessionals.
- Publications. Identify and prepare publications relating to technical services issues and paraprofessionals for inclusion in state and regional library association publications, Associate - the Electronic Library Support Staff Journal and Library Mosaics, The Magazine for Support Staff. The ALCTS Education Committee, working with the ALCTS Publications Committee, would identify topics and an ongoing group of ALCTS members would be established to develop articles.
- Information Clearinghouse. Establish a clearinghouse for publications and resources in the field of interest to paraprofessionals. Abstracts would be prepared to better describe the materials included in the clearinghouse.
- ALCTS Structure. Establish means to continue to address paraprofessional needs in conjunction with ALCTS stated mission and goals. Assign ongoing responsibility to a coordination committee to foster the implementation of the recommendations in this report. It is recommended that the ALCTS Education Committee working with section education committees, take this role. This committee would encourage and support as well as coordinate all activities meeting the continuing education needs of paraprofessionals. The various sections of ALCTS would broaden the focus of their work to include services for paraprofessional staff such as publications, workshops and other activities, and would work with the ALCTS Education Committee.
Charge of the ALCTS Education Committee To study and review the educational needs of resources and technical services librarians; to identify and propose methods and materials for recruitment to careers in the area; to explore and foster the development of curricula and continuing education programs; and to act as a catalyst in promoting communication between resources and technical service librarians and library educators.
Charge of the ALCTS Program Committee To oversee the division's program planning, including conference, preconference and institute planning; to develop criteria for such programs; to review plans; to recommend approval of the annual conference programs to the Board; to provide advice to the committee planning preconference and institute programs; and to serve as ALCTS liaison with similar committees of other divisions and units within ALA.