If you like working with the public, helping people search for information and learning something new every day, consider a career in library technical assisting.
OCC offers the only Library Technical Assistant program in the state, and you can earn either a one-year certificate or a two-year associateís degree in this field, according to Jaema Berman, coordinator for the Library Technical Assistant program.
What do you need to start? People skills. Keyboarding skills. And a service-oriented personality. "If youíre the kind of person whoíd like to sit behind a desk and be by yourself all day, this probably isnít the career for you," Berman says.
Library technical assistants are the ones who keep a library in good working order. They order books and films, catalog them, repair and maintain them, take care of circulation and interlibrary loans, and assist library patrons with research. Often their duties overlap with those of librarians who hold masterís degrees in Library Science.
"There can be a lot of teaching involved in a position as a library technical assistant," Berman says. So youíd need to learn to handle the equipment and software that are part of a modern library. "Library technical assistants also need to do presentations and training sessions for teachers and staff, and help students access databases," Berman says. OCCís courses emphasize the "handson" training students need to be successful in this career. Library Assisting is proving to be a popular second career for many people, Berman explains: "These jobs are really attractive to people returning to the work world or to those who are retired but looking for part time, flexible employment." "Libraries cannot fill enough of these positions," she adds.
Graduates can expect to earn between $20,000 and $40,000 a year depending on the size and funding of the library. And youíd be surprised to know just how many libraries there are out there. Universities and colleges, high schools and elementary schools and public libraries immediately come to mind. But many companies and industries maintain their own libraries as well.
Julie Toole graduated from OCC in June 2001 with an associateís degree in Library Technical Assisting, but libraries have been part of her career for many years.
While attending Imlay City High School, Julie worked in the school library for two and a half years. After high school, she held a variety of jobs, got married and had two daughters. "One day when my girls were still young, I happened to walk into the library in Imlay City to see if they had any part-time positions," Julie says.
She came on exactly the right day. The library, then housed in a storefront, had just received a sizeable bequest and was planning to build a new facility. Julie joined the staff and has been at the Ruth Hughes Memorial Library for the past 12 years.
Six years ago, one of her co-workers completed a masterís degree in Library Science and began urging Julie to go to school also. "I was a little bit afraid to go to school at age 31 after all those years," Julie admits, "but I really liked the OCC experience. The classes were small, you got lots of individual attention and I felt comfortable enough to ask questions that I might not have asked in a bigger class."
Taking one or two courses at a time, Julie completed her degree in six years. Her advice to students of any age: "Donít give up. Donít get discouraged. And take every class seriously because when you go into your profession, you want to know and understand what youíre doing." Julieís hard work and perseverance paid off for her in a unique way. A year and a half ago, she was named administrator of the Hughes Memorial Library which serves about 12,500 people living in Attica Township, Imlay City and Township, and portions of Arcadia and Goodland Townships.
Itís unusual not to have a librarian holding a masterís degree as head of a public library. But because of Julieís outstanding work over so many years, the library board chose her from a field of other candidates. Today, she has traded her beloved job of cataloging the libraryís collections for more administrative tasks that include hiring and scheduling employees, handling payroll and vendors, solving computer glitches, and working with the board in planning for a library expansion scheduled to begin in spring 2002.