Library Support Staff in an Age of Change: Utilization, Role Definition and Status. ERIC Digest. I recently worked on an unsuccessful proposal for a presentation for the LOEX Conference this year. It was titled, "The Use of Support Staff in Library Instruction." While I am not surprised the proposal was not selected (many of my library instruction colleagues resist using support staff for library instruction roles), I was disappointed. The roles of support staff in libraries are continuing to evolve and instruction is just one area that papaprofessionals are actively assisting librarians in.
From the article:
THE EMERGENCE OF THE PARAPROFESSIONAL
Over the past twenty or more years, automation of library processes, declining budgets, contraction of higher education generally, and entry into the electronic information age have changed libraries. New library tasks have been created and others realigned. This redistribution of the library workload has given rise to a new category of employee, the paraprofessional. Driven largely by forces from outside the profession, the emergence of a paraprofessional category of library employment has been largely uninhibited by associational policy or guidelines.
THE ROLE OF THE PARAPROFESSIONAL
In a recent survey of their role, status, and working conditions, Oberg (1992) found that paraprofessionals constitute a vital, growing force within our libraries. Few traditional or newly created tasks are off-limits, and paraprofessionals are assigned complex duties that a generation ago characterized the work of librarians. Today, paraprofessionals administer major functional areas of our libraries, are assigned reference and information desk duties, perform a variety of systems work, and catalog most of the books that are added to our collections.
Paraprofessionals have had a dramatic impact upon technical services. In the brief period since the advent of the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), they have come to dominate this workforce. A similar increase in the utilization of support staff may be occurring in public services as well. A movement toward tiered (or differentiated) reference service, and a past record of successful performance at reference and information desks is ensuring paraprofessionals a larger role in the direct provision of information. In a number of libraries, they have already assumed primary responsibility for basic reference. Full article at http://www.ericdigests.org/1996-1/support.htm.