American Library Association Committee on Education

Task Force for Review of the Criteria

for Programs to Prepare Library Technical Assistants

The following document, "Criteria for Programs to Prepare Library Technical Assistants," was presented to the American Library Association's Committee on Education by the committee's Task Force to Review the Criteria for Programs to Prepare Library Technical Assistants at the Midwinter 1998 meeting. The report was accepted by the committee and will be forwarded to the ALA Council for further action. For additional information about the task force or its work, contact:

Dr. David R. Dowell

Director, Learning Resources

Cuesta College

P.O. Box 8106

San Luis Obispo, CA 93403-8106

Voice: (805) 546-3159 Fax: (805) 546-3109

Internet e-mail:

Revised by the Task Force and recommended to ALA Committee on Education for action at Midwinter 98


In revising the 1979 statement, the task force considered recent changes in Librarianship and job assignments of technicians. The magnitude of these changes is immense. It is clear that those who see themselves as "keepers of the books" will soon be shelved while those who are able to help others solve their information problems will always be in demand. We are about to enter a new century. Simultaneously we are on the threshold of exploring brave new ways of delivering training to Library Technical Assistants (LTAs), of performing library activities and of delivering library services to our clients. No longer must we be constrained by a need to be physically present at the same time and in the same location. Although the term "Cybrary Technical Assistant" may be off putting to many of us, we must adjust our mental pictures of what we are doing since the students being trained are preparing for jobs that will be performed in the 21st Century. At this writing at least one institution is initiating an Associate Degree Program over the Internet. Equally dramatic changes are occurring in the job content of LTAs. The criteria below is an attempt to give guidance in this rapidly changing arena

This revision is intended to serve as a guide for planning programs or for the evaluation of existing programs for Library Technical Assistants. The vocational specialization is conceived as introductory preparation of personnel to fill beginning positions in the range of Library Technical Assistant positions in a variety of situations.

Specialized technicians or technical assistants, in media production and development, computers, etc. when employed, will be expected to require a different training program, as will staff assigned duties at the Library Associate level. It is not possible to draw hard and fast lines between those computer and multimedia skills that should be included in the basic training of all LTAs and those, which should be reserved for specialists. At this writing a few school districts are introducing training in keyboarding in second grade and training in web site creation in third grade. However, for the foreseeable future, advanced skills in computer maintenance and multimedia production are beyond the basic training scope for entry level LTAs. Some of the courses designed for training of Library Technical Assistants may be of value to other programs such as those for teacher aides and should be made available.

I. Library Technical Assistants and formal programs

A. Definition.
Library Technical Assistants² (hereafter referred to as LTAs) are persons with certain specifically library related technical skills. As a member of the personnel team they carry out operations and services essential to effective functioning of the organization. LTAs operate, maintain and control established systems within the library. The tasks, performed as supportive staff to Associates and higher ranks, follow established rules and procedure, and include, at top level, supervision of such tasks. The Technical Assistant categories -assume certain kinds of specific "technical" skills. They are not meant simply to accommodate advanced clerks. While clerical skills might well be part of a 'Technical Assistant's repertoire, the emphasis in assignment should be on the special technical skills. For example, when duties and staff are insufficient to warrant a full-time Technical Assistant in any one specialization, the LTA duties may encompass a variety of responsibilities for media equipment and their operation, materials production, display processing, and a wide range of related activities. In many situations it is the LTAs who keep specific functions of a library operating on a day-to-day basis. It is, however, beyond their scope to set policy or to define how the needs of users should be met. LTAs report to a Librarian, Library Specialist, Library Associate, or other supervisor. The statements above are based upon Library Education and Personnel Utilization, a Statement of Policy adopted by the Council of the American Library Association.
B. General statement
1. There are several ports of entry to LTA positions. Completion of formal college programs constitutes one way.
2. Completion of a formal college program will not eliminate the need for on-the-job training but may alter the character and amount on-the-job training required.
3. These criteria deal with formal post secondary programs specifically designed for the preparation of LTAs. The graduates may be employed in a library, media, learning resources, information, or instructional materials center or in another organization engaged in library-related activities.
C. Nature of the work of the LTA
1. LTAs perform supportive paraprofessional tasks under the direction of a librarian, media specialist, library associate, or other supervisor. As members of the personnel team they carry out operations and services essential to effective functioning of the organization.
2. The work of the LTA may fall within one or more functional areas of library media or information center operation, for example technical services, public services, or media services. In some cases LTAs may manage a department, branch or small library.
3. The tasks and types of work assigned to LTAs are more fully outlined below under I. E. "Duties and Responsibilities." By way of definition it may be useful to state four exclusions from the work of the LTA:
a. Tasks that require an in-depth knowledge and ability in production of material, equipment maintenance, or programming, to the extent that specialized training at the technician level is required.
b. Tasks that require a full knowledge of Librarianship or instructional technology and exercise of judgment based on a broad knowledge of library resources, their intellectual organization, or their educational informational, cultural, or scholarly use. Establishment of policies, materials selection, complex information and guidance services are illustrations.
c. Tasks that require other professional, scientific, or specialized education. (Editors, public relations, and other professional specialists fall within this category.)
d. Positions in which the primary duty consists of proficiency in tasks of a general office nature which can be done by individuals with office-type specialized training or experience, e.g., secretary, personnel clerk, accounts maintenance clerk, and file clerk.
D. Duties and responsibilities at the LTA level
1. LTA duties and responsibilities are related to a variety of functions adapted to the objectives of the specific institution and assignment. These may include the performance and/or supervision of:
a. Access services processes, in an online or off-line environment, necessary to the utilization and circulation of materials.
b. Technical services processes, in an online or off-line environment, necessary for acquisition and organization of information.
c. Collection management processes necessary for the processing and preservation of materials.
d. Information services processes, an online or off-line environment, necessary to for retrieval of information from local and remote locations.
1) Answering directional or factualquestions. This may involve use of a limited group of reference tools such as almanacs,encyclopedias, handbooks, dictionaries, periodical indexes.
2) Locating bibliographical information for which complex searching is not required.
3) Providing assistance in the operation of hardware and software
e. Public relations services necessary for the promotion of the collection and institution.

II. Planning programs

A. Goal statement
1. Those planning an LTA program should draft clearly defined objectives for the program, stated in terms of the educational results to be achieved. The goals should be consistent with general LTA roles and relevant policy statements of the American Library Association in regards to curriculum development. These goals should reflect the needs of the constituency the program seeks to serve. Cost estimates for initiating and developing the program should also be prepared and locations for field experience investigated.
2. The library faculty will prepare the statement of goals and develop plans. They will also recommend a local advisory committee.
B. Local advisory committee membership
1. Any college contemplating a program for LTA s should, as a first step, establish a local advisory committee.
2. This committee should be appointed in accordance with the administration policy of the institution and report to the president, the board, or other college administrator as may be appropriate.
3. Membership on the local committee should represent a broad cross section of library employers and might include:
a. A representative from the state library.
b. The director of a major local public library or its personnel director.
c. A school library media supervisor.
d. The librarian of a local four-year academic institution or its designate.
e. The head of a local special library or information center.
f. A representative named by a statewide library or media association or other relevant professional association.
g. A local LTA.
f. The librarian and the LTA program director of the community college should be ex officio committee members.
g. Others may include: local or state civil service board members, placement counselors, deans of graduate library schools or their designates, department heads or supervisors in local libraries, etc.
h. Community people.
4. Membership on the local advisory committee should be for two or three years with staggered terms in order to maintain continuity as well as bring in new ideas.
C. Advisory committee responsibilities.
1. Before any course is planned, announced, or offered, the local advisorycommittee should:
a. Review the statement of goals developed in Part A.
b. Investigate local need for such a program and advise on conduct of a survey relating to employment possibilities for LTAs. No program should be announced or started without a recommendation from the local committee after such investigation.
c. Advise on qualifications for the position of the program director.
d. Advise on the nature and content of the curriculum based on total program objectives.
e. Ensure that program planning, resources, and fundings are adequate prior to initial course offerings.
f. Ensure that courses can be offered in a pattern that will allow students to move through the program in an orderly and expeditious manner.
2. The committee will provide continuing liaison between the community college and employers of supportive library staff personnel.
3. The committee should ensure that programs meet state and national standards.
4. The committee should meet as regularly as needed but not less than once each year.
5. The local advisory committee should also communicate freely on civil service, professional relations, etc. regarding the LTA program at state, regional, and national levels, and, if appropriate, establish formal organizations and channels to facilitate such communication.

III. Administrative and financial framework for programs

A. This is a specialized, occupational, non-baccalaureate program. The program shouldbe administered under the appropriate instructional department. It should have its own full-time director other than the administrator of the college library learning resource center. The director would be expected to have a master's degree in a pertinent field. The director should never be the sole member of the instructional staff.
B. Financing of the program should be a part of the instructional budget of the college and not part of the regular library budget. The program should be financed at a level and in a manner commensurate with other technical specialty instructional programs.

IV. Faculty

A. Minimum number of faculty for technical specialty programs.
1. In addition to a full-time program director (department head) who should teach at least one course, there should be one full-time faculty member at minimum. If it is not possible to have a full-time director, there shall be a designated "lead instructor" with paid time to coordinate the program and move it forward. Part-time faculty who bring a needed expertness and teaching ability are expected to supplement the regular teaching staff.
B. Qualifications
1. Faculty members should have teaching ability and competence in the areas in which they will teach as well as such certification as regional accreditation and state agency policies may require.
2. They should have practical and recent working experience relative to the subject taught.
C. Teaching loads
1. They should be commensurate with teaching loads of faculty in other instructional departments.
2. Preparation and student guidance counseling time must be provided.
Library learning resource center staff who teach should be compensated above their base salary through overload pay or "load banking," or by counting the assignment as part of their assigned "load" and thus releasing them from other duties in proportion to their teaching responsibilities.
D. Encouragement of professional development
All teachers must be encouraged to update and expand their knowledge of current library issues and practices, teaching techniques, and innovations in education. [Can CE credits be applicable?]
Active participation in professional library, media, and educational associations should be encouraged.

V. Facilities and equipment

A. College library learning resource center. The library learning resource center provides essential resource support for the curriculum and it meets the Guidelines forTwo Year College Learning Resource Centers in terms of space, collection, organization of materials, staff, and other minimum standards which will directly influence the quality of the program.
Classrooms, laboratories, and faculty offices should be available.

VI. Curriculum (for an Associate Degree)

A. Objectives.
The curriculum should reflect program objectives and should be based upon a set of clearly stated goals for the total program. It should provide for upgrading of appropriate level library center employees as well as recent high school graduates or people reentering the work force.
B. Course distribution
1. Generally, a two-year program leading to an Associate degree will be divided into three broad areas, all three of which are essential and interrelated in the preparation of LTAs. They are:
a. General education courses.
b. Library technical specialty courses.
c. Courses related to the library technical specialty program.
2. General education courses should constitute approximately 50 percent of the total program, e.g., communication skills, English composition, social sciences, computer science, etc. The general courses should be selected from those offered for students planning to transfer to an upper division of a college. Remedial courses should be additions, if needed, rather than replacing required courses.
a. Introduction to the library field should include an overview of all the different types of libraries and library-like organizations, the functions common to all such operations, the variety of types and forms of materials and the role of the paraprofessional in bringing all this together. The interconnectedness of the world of information both within the library and beyond its walls should be stressed.
b. Support operations for technical services. A solid understanding of bibliographic organization is essential to a working framework for most library activities whether in technical services or not.
c. Support operations for public services (reader services, information, etc.) to include basic sources of information and skills in dealing with the public.
d. No service area in which LTAs are employed is without computer applications. Therefore, a basic understanding of the use of computer workstations is essential. These include but are not limited to the following: Acquisitions, which has online ordering, receiving and fund accounting. Periodicals, which has online check-in (sometimes incorporating barcodes applied by the publisher), and claiming. Media services use online media booking as well as data presentation equipment. The inventory control activities of circulation and interlibrary loan also rely on use of computers.
e. Practical experience and supervised field work (practicum) in local libraries in addition to the course work received. In general this should be outside the local college library at the institution where the instructional program is located. This should be closely supervised and accompanied by seminar sessions. Emphasis should be on the practical how-to rather than the theoretical why, so than the course reflects its orientation to the paraprofessional level of employment.
4. Appropriate related specialized electives should constitute approximately 15 percent of the total curriculum. The abilities and interests of the student and the employment market may call for specialization in areas such as personal computer applications, computer networking, computer repairs and maintenance, maintenance and operation of audiovisual equipment, multimedia materials production, storytelling, office management, medical terminology, and so forth. Not all students need take the same courses. Special interest courses will normally be offered in other departments of the college.
C. Course sequence. A logical sequence of courses should be established. Generally in the first semester of the first year, the student would take only one library course, while carrying general academic courses. Field work must be preceded by established course prerequisites to make the field experience meaningful.
D. Relationship to education for professional Librarianship. It should be clearly understood that the aforementioned courses relate to the lower division of an undergraduate curriculum (i.e., the first two years.) Lower-division undergraduate courses are neither substitute nor waivers for upper-division undergraduate or graduate level courses in library service. Vocational courses in library service are designed to prepare the LTA. However, the decision as to the transfer of courses remains the province of the school to which transfer is taking place, acting after suitable interaction with the transferee.

VII. Curriculum (for Certificates)

Often students in LTA programs already have Associate degrees, Bachelor degrees, Master degrees and even rarely Doctor degrees. Their interest is in securing a certificate validating skills that will allow them to change career fields or reenter the job market.
A. Objectives (Similar to VI.A (above) However, the goal is to fast-track those who already have another degree and those who may be working on a degree in another field. This option may actually be a preferred option for those without degrees who plan to transfer to four-year programs in states which do not offer four-year degrees in library science. In this scenario the student would major in another academic field (e.g., early childhood education or Spanish) and simultaneously qualify for an LTA certificate. For some this may provide an easier route to a subsequent four-year degree.
B. Course distribution Basically the courses required for the Certificate should parallel those required for the academic major for the associate degree. Library technical courses as defined in VI. B. 3 (above) should be required to the same extent that they are required for degree candidates. These should be supplemented by the specialized courses defined in VI. B. 4 (above), and a very limited number of general education courses.

VIII. Student recruitment and selection

A. Recruitment
1. Publicity should clearly state the program objectives emphasizing preparation for employment as a skilled technical assistant.
2. Student counseling must be realistic in terms of the expectations of employment.
3. Counseling students as to expectations, limitations and relation of the program to professional education is essential. While the general education (liberal arts) courses are transferable, there should be no suggestion of the transferability of the technical specialty courses toward a baccalaureate or graduate professional degree program.
B. Student selection
1. Admissions should be based on regular local institutional requirements and related to the local employment market.
2. The program director should interview candidates for the LTA specialization.

VIII. Student progress, placement and follow-up

A. Records. Adequate student records should be maintained in the office of the program director to assist both faculty and students during and after admission as well as subsequent to completion of the program.
B. Student placement
1. Placement of graduates is an important and multifaceted responsibility involving the program director, the faculty, and other members of the college staff.
2. Graduates should be aided in every possible way in finding suitable employment.
3. Prospective employers should be provided with statements of the qualifications of graduates.
4. Outstanding and successfully placed graduates and their employers often become the most effective advertisers of the program.
C. Follow-up. In order to improve curriculum and teaching techniques, evaluate training effectiveness, maintain good employer-educator relationship, and continue evaluation of total program, periodic follow-up studies of graduates are imperative. Therefore, provision should be made for follow-up studies.

IX. Supplementary training.

The community college and the employer have responsibility to insure the availability of opportunity for supplementing, updating, and enhancing skills for the student who has completed his basic two-year program.

X. Library Technical Courses

Descriptions of this area of the curriculum are located Appendix A.

Respectfully submitted by the Task Force to Review the Criteria Statement of the ALA Committee on Education, David Dowell, chair, Annamarie Erickson, AnnaMarie Kehnast, Linda Owen.

¹In this document the term Library Technical Assistant (LTA) is used in its most inclusive sense. For simplification, it is being substituted for the term Library Media Technical Assistant (LMTA) which was used in prior versions of this Criteria Statement. Those programs which find the previous term useful in local practice should feel free to continue its use.

²In some regions or types of libraries they are also known as Media Technicians. The American Association of School Librarians uses the designations of School Library Media Aids and School Library Media Technicians, differentiating between the two in competencies and responsibilities, but both are below the Library Associate level.


Library Technical Courses

The Library Technical courses recommended constitute approximately 30 percent of the total curriculum leading to an associate degree. An amplification of descriptions of content for the four subject areas recommended in Section VI B.3 are outlined below. These do not necessarily coincide with course titles.

I. An introduction to Libraries and the Information Industry, to include:
A. Description of types of libraries, media and information centers, including the "virtual library."
B. The role of the LTA in the delivery of services
C. Basic library/media/information center tools and terminology
D. An explanation of Library Bill of Rights, and basic freedom of information and privacy issues.
E. The role of library associations on the local, state, regional and national levels.
F. A review of paraprofessional journals and listservs.
Examples of performance objectives: The student will be able to:
A. List and differentiate among types of library/media agencies and their use resources and services.
B. Use basic library/media center terminology correctly.
C. Define the role of the LTA in the overall staff patterns of library,/media centers.
D. Locate and find a variety of materials through public access catalogs by a variety of access points (e.g. title and subject. and key words).
E. Identify the Library Bill of Rights and explain its relationship to the work of the LTA.
F. Identify relevant local, state regional and national associations and describe actions they have taken relevant to LTAs.
G. Identify paraprofessional journals and listservs and explain their benefit to the LTA and other aspects of the library profession.
II. Introduction to Technical Services Acquisition Processes.
An introduction to the Technical Services Processes by which materials are acquired for the collection from the decision to purchase to its receipt and distribution, to include:
A. Tasks necessary for this process. Students will master these tasks to the level that after appropriate experience they can supervise them.)
B. Knowledge of basic bibliographic search tools, e.g., Books in Print, publishers catalogs, online resources to include the Internet, and local files.
C. Knowledge of basic acquisition terminology.
D. Knowledge of serials ordering, check-in and claim processes
Examples of performance objectives: The student will be able to:
A. Given order requests for a variety of materials in various formats, e.g., books, periodicals, videos, CD-ROMs, video disks, microforms, computer files, etc., the student will be able to:
1. Check for possible duplication using locally designated catalogs and/or databases
2. Identify bibliographic data for ordering
3. Prepare orders, annotating all locally designated files
4. Identify types of ordering options.
5. Claim missing materials
B. Given a group of materials received, the student will be able to:
1. Match material against original order file
2. Identify duplicates
3. Resolve discrepancies and other problems
4. Coordinate invoices with billing department
5. Distribute materials
6. Use basic acquisitions terminology correctly
III. Introduction to Technical Services Cataloging Processes.
An introduction to the Technical Services Processes by which materials are organized and prepared for public access, to include:
A. Tasks necessary for this process
B. Knowledge of cataloging and processing terminology
C. Knowledge of cataloging reference tools and resources, e.g., AACR2, LC Subject Headings, online bibliographic utilities, etc.
D. Knowledge of and ability to apply U.S. MARC coding
E. Knowledge of basic processing and preservation techniques.
Examples of performance objectives: The student will be able to:
A. Given a group of materials to be cataloged, the student, in an online environment, will be able to do:
1. Search for an existing bibliographic record in online bibliographic utilities
2. Match materials to existing bibliographic record
3. Prepare descriptive cataloging for selected materials
4. Completely process monographs with existing bibliographic copy
5. Completely process added copies, shelf list in local catalog and revise call number cutter as necessary
6. Apply to and/or revise U.S. MARC coding to bibliographic record
B. Given a group of materials to be processed, the student will be able to:
1. Apply label and protective stripping
2. Apply security devices
3. Perform basic repairs
4. Prepare materials and maintain records for binding
5. Use basic cataloging and processing terminology correctly
IV. Introduction to Public Services Circulation Services Processes.
An introduction to the Public Services Processes by which materials are made available to the customers of the library to include:
A. Knowledge of patterns of user service requests
B. Knowledge of objectives and operation of circulation systems
C. Hands-on demonstration of local library circulation systems
D. Analysis and comparison of individual library circulation policies and procedures
E. Rationale and procedures for patron registration, overdues, fines and fees
F. Reserve collections, patron holds and requests
G. Interlibrary loan systems and services including document delivery
H. Copyright issues which impact reserve collections, interlibrary loans and other circulation activities
I. Basic circulation terminology
J. Public relations services necessary for the promotion of the collection and institution
K. The importance of confidentiality of the information sought and read by customers
L. Rationale for different patterns of circulating (or not circulating library materials
M. Security of library materials
N. Public relations aspects of the circulation department
O. Shelving, stacks maintenance and taking inventories of materials
P. Circulation statistics, tracking, use and interpretation
Examples of performance objectives: The student will be able to:
A. Explain and operate manual and automated library circulation systems for charging and discharging of print and audiovisual materials
B. Track and compile overdue records and generate patron requests
C. Set up and control a reserve collection
D. Maintain records to access and collect fines for overdue and/or damaged library materials
E. Recommend appropriate circulation periods and policies for various types of library materials
F. Verify, place and track interlibrary loan and document delivery requests
G. Shelve and shelf-read library materials and train pages in these procedures
H. Register and track accounts of library patrons
I. Compile and interpret circulation statistics
J. Inventory library collections
K. Administer the operation of a library theft system
L. Explain the interrelation of the components of a library circulation system
V. Introduction to Information Sources and Services to include:
A. Philosophy of Reference/Information Services
B. Criteria to evaluate an information source.
C. Information sources both print and electronic
D. Reference interviewing
E. Search strategy
F. Boolean searching
G. WWW Browsers
Examples of performance objectives: The student will be able to:
A. Answer directional questions or simple factual questions involving the use of a limited group of reference tools, for example: almanacs, encyclopedias, handbooks, dictionaries, public access catalogs, WWW and periodical indexes.
B. Locate bibliographic information.
C. Identify questions which should be referred to a librarian
D. Conduct an effective reference interview.
E. Perform Boolean searches involving "AND", "OR", "NOT" and proximity elements.
F. Explain simple Boolean searching to library patrons.
G. Employ a search strategy to identify appropriate information tools.
H. Explain to a patron when to search a periodical index, the library catalog or the WWW.
I. Demonstrate to patron how to search a periodical index, the library catalog or the WWW
VI. Workplace survival skills to include:
A. Job seeking skills
B. Communication skills both written and oral
C. Time management
D. Ergonomics
E. Library specialty vendors
G. Stress management
H. Personality types
I. Conflict resolution
J. Coping with change
Examples of performance objectives: The student will be able to:
A. Prepare a resume and cover letter
B. Present a written report
C. Present an oral report
D. Engage in active listening
E. Set priorities
F. Analyze a workstation to minimize egonomic concerns
G. Order library specialty supplies and equipment
H. Identify workplace elements which produce stress
I. Identify own personality type and the personality types of others
J. Depersonalize workplace disagreements
K. Understand the permanent process of change to enhance services
VII. Practicum and seminar
Description. Carefully planned and closely supervised field work in one or more libraries or media centers in addition to the classroom coursework completed in the classroom. A variety of learning experiences will be included. Group discussion and evaluation of the learning opportunity and an introduction to supervisory techniques and other employer-employee relationships will be the focus of the seminar meetings.
Examples of performance objectives. The student will be able to:
A. Perform a variety of tasks in different Library situations
B. Recognize the responsibilities of an employee in a Library center setting
C. Demonstrate an understanding of elementary supervisory techniques


U.S. Library Technician Programs List

Library Technical Assistant Education Discussion Group

Position Paper on Certification for Library/Media Support Staff

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