Sunday, December 02, 2007

Certification Confusion (LONG post)

Houston, we have failure to understand.

Birdie, over at LisNews, posted an interesting story about a director in a near locale who is on a bit of probationary status while trying to get her MLS degree. I knew one of the consortia people had mentioned to me that there were various requirements for directors but, since I'm not one and I'm not expecting to be one in the next few months, I'll admit that I hadn't particularly paid a lot of attention to it.

I was reminded, though, of hearing about proposed changes to the Indiana requirements for librarians and I headed over to their state site to see what was going on. The document that I find with its "final recommendations" leaves a lot of questions and to me, seems really restrictive. I'll give you my spin on it and then maybe someone can explain the parts to me that don't make sense.

According to the recommendations, if I'm reading correctly, everyone except the circulation clerks, some office personnel and the pages would be affected by this change. All full time, part time, professional and paraprofessionals are listed as required to have certain educational requirements to get hired—many of them involving required library science education—and really strong continuing education requirements.

Now, I'm all for continuing education. I got a flyer from one of the local colleges today in the mail and I'm going to check out their spring offerings. But that's a "my time, my dime" kind of thing. Continuing education is also highly encouraged by my POW—which rocks—and comes with some potential financial support instead of merely spouted platitudes about life long learning. I'm all for encouraging professional development in the workplace—but this document seems to shove it down one's throat.

There are a lot of library science education requirements for a state with one library school and there doesn't seem to be any provisions for hiring a person willing to come in and then get required education either at IU or online. That, to me, seems like it would put a serious cramp on hiring people. Many people come to libraries as a second career or maybe after college but before they really have determined their vocation. I was searching for an example in my mind and this is what came up:

A position opens for a part-time youth services associate at a public library that serves 45,000 people. A teacher with three years of elementary education experience who has decided she doesn't want to teach and able to take part time work, applies for the position. She knows about libraries but hasn't determined if she's really interested in going back for her MLS. She couldn't even be considered because she hasn't already put in time getting mandatory library education. You couldn't even hire her and say, okay, great but now we'd like you to get this education in the next year.

So there's no provision to grow your own capable people—which looks like a turn off to me.

Probably most importantly though, I can't figure out where the funding for all of the continuing education is supposed to come from. Every single person but your circ clerks has to be certified every five years and then also a minimum of 50 hours of continuing education units? Just the certification would be expensive—and I can't imagine a library being willing to pay for everyone's certification. Similarly with continuing education: Even if you are only covering their time and not paying for the courses (which seems impossible to require—can you make a 10/hr per week copy cataloging person pay for 10 hours a year of continuing education?) how will that mess up your scheduling? Covering vacations is a challenge for some places—can you imagine adding everyone rotating out for continuing ed? This isn't a school where everyone is potentially off for the summer with the chance to take classes in June and July. Where can people find job relevant courses affordably? Or if the library does pay for all of that continuing education—does that mean then that for every CEU, a library worker "owes" the library a certain amount of time—as can happen when a library puts a person through library school? [And why is my laptop beeping so much this evening for no apparently reason?] Many part time people are hired to work what are considered undesirable shifts—evenings and weekends. Asking a 15-hour a week paraprofessional who is making just slightly more than minimum wage to pay for their certification and continuing education themselves seems less than thought through. Asking them to do it on their own time seems quite above and beyond. Indiana State Library's site lists mostly out of state suggestions for continuing education—so I'm not sure where these relevant courses are supposed to be coming from.

Finally, Indiana, as Jessamyn pointed out to us recently, is trying to get the libraries to spend less through consolidation. So, let's assume the consolidation passed. Now all the libraries serve 40,000 or more. Which, if the certification document was then applied, would mean that no one could be hired in the state of Indiana to do anything in a library other than check people out and shelve books unless he/she not only had an associates degree but also has 9 credit hours of library science education under their belt? Is that undergrad or graduate level hours? Am I reading this correctly? Has anyone warned IU about this so they can offer an obscene amount of "intro to LIS" classes to meet this?

I'm originally from Indiana, so I have some vested concern in seeing what happens with the recommendation. It has not yet been passed and if it does, it looks like it will cause a lot of long range shake up. But overall it just doesn't make sense to me. Can someone out there explain it better?

2 comments:

Arlita Harris said...

WebJunction Indiana offers free continuing education courses to those working in Indiana's libraries. They include the University of North Texas' Lifelong Education @ Desktop (LE@D) courses which cover library skills, as well as other technical tutorials. For more information, visit the WebJunction Indiana site at http://in.webjunction.org/do/Home or www.leadonline.info

Hedgehog Librarian said...

Thanks for noting the WebJunction availability-- it's a non-bold hyperlink on the State site that could be easily overlooked. http://www.statelib.lib.in.us/www/isl/ldo/contedlinks.html

While WebJunction is an available and often useful learning site, I don't think it can be a comprehensive answer in this case. Of the 220 courses listed in that link for Indiana -- 35 deal with software that is either rarely in use in libraries (Outlook 98) or most incoming staff will already be familiar with (Microsoft Word). A further 83 courses deal with various types of servers (49) or web design (35)--which makes them of limited appeal and assumes access to technology that may not be available. Finally--many of these courses don't appear to be CEU certified. I assume UNT is working to certify those--but currently they aren't available for credit.

It's wonderful that there are free options and I'm a firm believer in using WebJunction as an independent learner--but forcing people to sit through three hours of Basic Introduction to Excel because it's the certified class available doesn't make sense to me.

Linking to it does point out one other issue though-- each 3 hour course is only worth 1.5 CEU-- so the time needed for each employee to be off the desk/away from their regular tasks to meet the CEU requirements just doubled.