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Slide Notes

Professional Development for library staff is an often neglected aspect of our profession.

We will consider the Self-Directed Learning model of training. In addition, we will look at the Massachusetts state certification for paralibrarians.


Published on Nov 23, 2015

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Professional Development for library staff is an often neglected aspect of our profession.

We will consider the Self-Directed Learning model of training. In addition, we will look at the Massachusetts state certification for paralibrarians.

Karen Horn  Circulation/ILL Services

Sturgis Library   Barnstable, MA                     
I currently serve as the Assistant Director at Sturgis Library and oversee the Circulation/ILL department.

Sturgis Library has the distinction of being housed in the oldest structure still standing in America where religious services were regularly held. (1644) Today, Sturgis Library is a national treasure, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

We have a staff of 10.


When we think about outreach, we tend to think of our community and patrons. I believe that in order to have effective outreach, we need to have a dedicated, well trained and well respected staff.
Photo by Rick Camacho

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The way to insure that we have a well trained, competent staff is by encouraging them to keep up with the latest trends in technology and library services, and improve and increase their skill set on an ongoing basis.
Photo by romana klee


Workshops, webinars, conference sessions, and staff development days all fit into the traditional training model: a group of people learning the same thing at the same time, in the same way.

The hope is that the knowledge or skill is retained until such time as it is needed.

This type of training often involves money and travel time.

Perhaps there is a more effective model for training?
Photo by UofSLibrary


Reading Public Library hosted a session at the 2015 MLA Conference in Worcester on the topic of bite sized learning: staff training a little at a time. They shared details of a program they had implemented the previous year.

Web Junction has two related webinars.. One by the Toole City Library in Utah titled Self directed achievement: if you give library staff an hour. The other by Web Junction titled Put a goal on it.
Photo by Dusty J


Self directed learning is well suited to meet the needs of continuing education for library staff.

Adults are naturally self directed learners. They know what they need to know, they know why they need to know it, and they know how they learn best.

Adults tend to be task or goal oriented in their learning. The training needs to be relevant and timely. Very often, what our staff needs or wants to learn is based on a desire to better serve their patrons.
Photo by jonwick04

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"Successful learning involves linking new knowledge to what is already known.".

It is this concept that makes way for successful training for our staff based on the self- directed , bite-size learning model.
Photo by dkuropatwa


In implementing a self-directed training program, planning is essential. Having someone to oversee it is equally important.

This facilitator does not provide the actual training, although some training for the staff on the details of this new learning culture/training program is helpful.

instead, the facilitator can help each person identify a starting point, offer ideas on training sites and plan ahead for future sessions.

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The benefits are many.
No formal training program is required.
It is compatible with all learning styles.
It is an economic and practical response to learning needs. Flexibility of scheduling doesn't negatively impact productivity.

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In preparation for this new journey of learning with our staff, I asked them 4 questions. The fourth one may surprise you....


Providing the resources and setting aside the time for these one hour learning blocks is critical. In order for this type of program to work, new habits must be formed.

Staff must be encouraged to take ownership of their learning hour and supervisors and directors need to make sure there is adequate coverage while they are engaged in their learning.
Photo by flod

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I guarantee that your staff will thank you. Ours are very appreciative of this learning opportunity and were quite surprised at the autonomy given to them.
Photo by Neal.


Now that we have staff engaged in learning...their skill set is growing...confidence in performing their job is improving....

what's the next step?

Is there a next step?

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Yes, I believe there is....

For your non-degreed librarians* and library support staff or paralibrarians, there is a state certification available to them. Perhaps you know about it, perhaps not. It is the PAralibrarian Recognition of Achievement Certification.


*non-degreed librarians are those staff whose title includes "librarian" even though they don't have an MLS or similar degree


In 2004, the newly formed and renamed Paralibrarian Section of the MLA, formerly know as the Paraprofessional Section, began work on a voluntary recognition program for paralibrarians in the state of MA.

From 2006- 2013, PARA* (PAralibrarian Recognition of Achievement) Notices were awarded.

In 2013, members of the Paralibrarian Section approached Rob Maier of the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners and the Executive Board of the MLA requesting that this very successful program be given approval as a state approved Certification. It was to remain a voluntary program.

In May of 2014, we awarded the first PARA Certifications.


Who? paralibrarians and
non MLS degreed

What? voluntary, state
approved Certification.
It is designed to be flexible.

How? applicants accumulate
points for various
types of training,
employment and other
library related

Why? to recognize library
staff that continue to
increase their job
knowledge through
workshops, continuing
education, conferences,
committee involvement

a great addition to a

serves as a confirmation
chosen career path


There are many benefits to professional certification.

Among them...
>> builds self confidence
>> improves the public's
perception of our profession
>> encourages a culture of
lifelong learning
>> allows for individual career
>> serves as confirmation
of career choice/career path


Applicants can received points from 4 sources of experience or training:

professional activities
Photo by justmakeit


There are 7 Areas of Library Service that these points can be applied to:

Youth Services
Adult Services
Technical Services

and more details...

There are 4 levels of certification:

I - 200 points
3 of 7 areas of service
2 - 350 points
4 of 7 areas of service
3 - 600 points
5 of 7 areas of service
4 - 1000 points
5 of 7 areas of service

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Several members of the Paralibrarian Section are available to mentor new applicants through the process of assembling a portfolio of their documentation and the application process.
Photo by ell brown


PARA Application and Review Board Deadlines:

Friday, December 4, 2015

Wednesday, March 4, 2016

Approved applications are sent on to the Executive Board of the MLA and the MBLC for signatures on the Certificates.

2007 Reuben Hoar Library
Littleton, MA

In 2007, every Paralibrarian on staff at Reuben Hoar Library in Littleton, MA received a PARA Notice of Achievement at the MLA Conference. Their director used this as a cross training and team building tool.

2015 MLA Conference

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Karen Horn

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