Thursday, 11 October 2007

Teaching Library Technicians

I have recently attended the second annual jamboree for the people who teach library technicians - the ALIA Library Technician Educators' Forum, held in Melbourne on Monday. About 25 people from TAFEs around Australia got together, and the whole thing was organised and run by Professor Gill Hallam (QUT) and Dr Paul Genoni (Curtin).

There are in fact 16 TAFE locations and one private provider, in every state and territory, where you can study to become a library technician. There were a little over 2000 enrolments in library technician courses in 2005, down from 3000 in 1995. My role at the event was definitely to observe - I went in knowing very little about library technicians' education, and came out knowing slightly more.

What were the educators concerned about? This is a personal take and I might have got some things wrong, but some of the concerns were
  • the attrition rate has fallen - fewer drop out of courses - but it is unclear why
  • there does not seem to be much information about graduate destinations - what do graduates of library technician training end up doing?
  • in general it is not possible to be very selective in choosing entrants, although they all require completion of year 12
  • most of the intake are mature age
  • many of the students have been referred by Centrelink
  • the diploma course is inexpensive compared with a one- or two-year higher education course, for which full fees are likely to apply
  • there is a significant proportion of graduates who are studying to be library technicians - maybe 5-10% of intakes
  • a significant proportion of students are teachers who wish to work in school libraries - although they do not qualify as teacher librarians, schools may accept them as such anyway
  • many courses do not permit choice of electives
  • there is significant variation in conditions in different states
  • it seems likely that we haven't got a systematic enough approach to articulation between paraprofessional and professional qualifications
  • there is a strong preoccupation with the relative roles and status of librarians and library technicians, as one might expect
Naturally, all of this, including the part of the Forum that I missed, will feed into the Library Workforce Summit on 28 March. Next, I am off to the library technicians conference, also in Melbourne.

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