Tag Archives: library support staff

Program Profile: Library Support Staff Certification

Remember this Further Questions post, where I asked If the Library Support Staff Certification (LSSC) program gave candidates an edge?

I reached out to see if I could do a follow-up post with the people who run the LSSC program and got a very enthusiastic response, despite making contact right in the middle of Annual.  So here for you my dears, is more information about this new program. I find it very interesting, because it allows candidates to pursue certification either through classes or through an e-Portfolio.  It seems like an elegant compromise to the experience v. education clash that crops up so frequently in discussions of library education.

The answers to these “interview” questions were written by the two project directors, Karen Strege and Nancy Bolt, and the program’s research associate, Ian Lashbrook. They tell me that

Karen and Nancy have been with the program since its inception and only recently left when the second IMLS grant which funded the program ended. The program is now managed by the American Library Association-Allied Professional Association and its Director, Lorelle Swader, and Research Associate, Ian Lashbrook. 


Can you give us a brief introduction to the Library Support Staff Certification (LSSC) Program?

The Library Support Staff Certification (LSSC) Program has been discussed for over 30 years. The 3rd Congress on Professional Education in 2004 identified support staff certification as a priority. This led to a year-long needs assessment culminating in a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to establish LSSC. The American Library Association Executive Board approved the program in July, 2009 and began accepting candidate applications in January, 2010. The American Library Association-Allied Professional Association manages the LSSC Program.

LSSC is designed to recognize the achievements of support staff and provides Library Support Staff a way to achieve needed competencies.

ALAAPA logo 1

What kind of work does earning LSSC entail?

LSSC adopted 10 Competency Sets and to become certified, candidates must achieve six of them. Three are required: Foundations of Library Service, Technology, and Communication and Teamwork. The seven electives are Access Services, Adult Readers’ Advisory, Cataloging and Classification, Collections, Reference and Information Services, Supervision and Management, and Youth Services.
Candidates have three options for completing a Competency Set. They may complete a course approved by LSSC. A candidate may also complete a portfolio in a Competency Set. The third way to achieve certification is for the candidate to receive a degree or certification from a community college program that has a Letter of Recognition with LSSC. This occurs when LSSC reviews the community college program and determines that the program covers the three required and three elective competency sets. In order to be eligible for LSSC enrollment, candidates must have a high school degree and at least one year of library experience, paid or volunteer, over the last five years.

How much time does it take and does it cost anything?

Candidates have four years to complete their work towards certification. Once they begin, most candidates complete their certification work in two-three years. The cost to enroll in the LSSC Program is $350. Providers of LSSC approved courses set their fees for candidates to enroll. The cost ranges from $75 to over $1000. Candidates can choose which course to take in a time frame and location that meets their needs. Many of the courses can be completed completely online.
The portfolio option, which allows candidates to demonstrate their experience and knowledge of a competency set through self-directed assignments or the presentation of professional artifacts, currently has no charge associated with it. Portfolios are submitted and then reviewed by two experts in the competency set covered in the portfolio. The submission and review process for portfolios will remain free of charge until January, 2014, at which point a portfolio review will cost $50 for ALA members, $60 for non-ALA members. Candidates have the option to take all courses, complete all portfolios, or a combination of the two.

How many people have earned their certification so far?

There are currently 428 candidates in the program; 60 of those have graduated and become Certified Library Support Staff.

Are there any generalizations you can make about the characteristics of people pursuing LSSC? I’m particularly wondering about things like where they are in their library careers, if they are employed, if their employer paid for certification…

LSSC candidates are library workers who have decided that their career is working in libraries. Our profile shows that 95% are female. In terms of age, 41% are between 45-54; 21% between 35-44; 20% are between 55-64; and 17% are between 25-34.
We are particularly proud that 21% of our candidates are people of color as compared with only 11% of people with an MLS.
We don’t have specific data but we believe most of our candidates are employed, particularly since they must have one year of employment before enrolling.

LSSC logo

Have certificate holders expressed that it has helped them to get hired, or to earn increased pay or responsibility?

Yes, some have. We are getting ready to conduct an evaluation of all candidates and that is definitely a question we will ask. Anecdotal messages indicated that they do receive both raises and more responsibility. We will have more thorough statistical data in November 2013.

Have certificate holders reported any other career advantages?

Yes, many have. Certification holders indicate they now understand why they do things in the library. Another comment we hear often is that they feel more confident; they have the knowledge and skills to offer suggestions about library services. Here is my favorite quote because it summarizes what we hear from many:

When I first read Nancy’s email request [for anecdotes about the value of LSSC] and had to reflect on how things may have changed for me since obtaining my certification, my only thought was that my Director took me to lunch. But since then, I have reflected more and have discovered that the process of obtaining my certification has indeed made me a better person, a better employee, and I now have a powerful entry on my resume should I decide to make a change.
The economy is the problem in receiving any promotions or pay increase as all these actions are ‘frozen’ in my little corner of the world and I suspect elsewhere as well. There has been movement in my position at the library and I have benefited from being in the right place at the right time, and further with the right attitude and skills while working towards certification.
But, the personal satisfaction I have as a graduate is a treasure and an investment in myself that I will always be so very proud of. I encourage all paraprofessionals to pursue this certification as I believe it serves to set us apart as knowledgeable and informed individuals serious about our profession, library support staff. And I agree the finances can pose some issues, but I also agree the benefits will be well worth it over time if you can find a way to make the investment.

Is support for job hunting or career development included as a program element?

Not at the present time.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about the program?

Thank you for featuring the Library Support Staff Certification (LSSC) Program!


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Filed under Library Assistants, Paraprofessional, Program Profile

Further Questions: Does Library Support Staff Certification Give Candidates an Edge?

This week someone on Twitter inspired me to want to know more about a new-ish program from the ALA-APA.  This week I asked people who hire librarians library support staff:

What value do you see in the Library Support Staff Certification (LSSC) program? Would it give an edge to candidates? Have you ever hired someone with this certification?

Marleah AugustineI’ve never had any experience with the certification program, but I have read a bit about it. I do think it would give candidates an edge, because it would show that this isn’t “just another part-time job” and would show the candidate’s level of commitment. That being said, I wouldn’t NOT hire someone just because they didn’t have the certification. It would simply be one more piece that would help me make a hiring decision.

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

I have not seen the Library Support Staff Certification on any resume that I have personally reviewed and I do not know anyone who has one so I do not know that I can speak to the benefit of the certificate or if it would give a candidate an edge overall.

There really is no substitute for on the job experience and that is what I am looking for when I hire support staff; however, if I was looking at external candidates, and both candidates had the same level of minimum and preferred qualifications that I listed on the job description and the same amount of time working in libraries, this certificate would give them an edge over another candidate.

– Julie Leuzinger, Department Head, Eagle Commons Library, University of North Texas Libraries

Alison M. Armstrong Collection Development & Cataloging Specialist McConnell Library Photo by Lora Gordon/Radford UniversityWhen I was a paraprofessional, I took several of the ALCTS courses both before and after I got my MLIS and I see them as very beneficial. I haven’t taken any of the other courses. I don’t necessarily see the need for the certificate for a lot of staff positions, particularly in this economy, because the paraprofessionals out there are generally overqualified for the positions they are in and funding for training is limited.  It certainly would make a paraprofessional more marketable though and, personally, if a candidate had an LSSC, they would definitely be moved up in my pile of applicants. If I had not been hired in my current position after getting my MLIS, I would have strongly considered working toward the LSSC to try to set myself apart.

I currently supervise my former position and encourage my staff person to take the courses. In my opinion, they offer some supplemental information to what is learned in school. For people who have an MLIS but didn’t focus in this particular area, it is good training for them.  The ALCTS courses are nice in that there is a discussion forum which brings in diverse levels of experiences, knowledge and perspectives. I don’t think we have had applicants who have an LSSC but, my experience has been limited.  As someone who plans to be an instructor of one of the ALCTS courses, I am a huge cheerleader of them.

– Alison M. Armstrong, Collection Management Librarian, McConnell Library, Radford University

I actually have never had an applicant who claimed to have this certification. I have had employees who have taken some of the classes, specifically those from DACC in NM when I worked there. It would give an edge if all other factors were equal. However, having some real library experience would be preferable to the qualification for me. I also emphasize hiring for talent rather than skills. People can always learn new skills, but they must have enthusiasm, initiative, and the capability to learn. We can always encourage them to take classes later. Depending on the hiring system involved, applicants might get an edge for having these college credits, but it probably wouldn’t matter that they are in library-specific classes. I don’t think there is a critical mass of people out there with the certification at this point.

– Anonymous

Jonathan Harwell

I’m interested in the ALA-APA’s certification.  I’ve worked with ALA-APA for years, and would definitely see this qualification as an asset for a staff candidate.  I have at least one current staff member who’s interested in doing this certification, and that would be one factor that would help me to advocate for higher merit increases for those individuals.  I have yet to meet anyone who has this certification, however.

– Jonathan H. Harwell, Head of Collections & Systems, Olin Library, Rollins College

Sherle Abramson-BluhmI think that there is always value in gaining knowledge and this is one way to do that. I believe it might be a way for someone interested in the field to get a bit of formal education before investing in the full Masters Degree. I hire staff in print acquisitions (ordering, serials and monograph receiving, cat-on receipt) and have no positions which require a degree.  I have not hired someone with the certification. I think it would be a factor in considering a candidate, but would not weigh more than experience.  My biggest concern is that with the entry level pay that these positions are compensated, I am not sure it would be worth the expense to the individual.

– Sherle Abramson-Bluhm, Head, Print Acquisitions, University of Michigan

I haven’t had any applications from candidates with the certification.   However, if I saw it on a resume it would definitely move that candidate to the top of the pile.  To me, it signifies a person who is interested in libraries as a long-term career (good for reducing staff turnover) and who has gained insight into the operation of libraries beyond the routine duties that many staff members are limited to.  It indicates potential for growth and promotion.

– Anonymous

I think the value of the LSSC program works in two directions – value to the candidates and value to libraries.
I think value to the candidates is derived from multiple aspects: from the content of the work they do to either in courses or through self-study and preparing a portfolio, from the experience of going through the certification process and identifying and reflecting on their learning, and then from the credentialing that certification represents.   I don’t know if it is the case or not because I have not had the opportunity to speak with any candidates who have completed certification, but would hope that the accomplishment provides personal satisfaction as well as contributing to the candidate’s sense of professional identity, and affirming their feeling valued by the rest of the profession.

The value to libraries is similarly derived from multiple aspects:  from the content of the training and self-study that support staff receive and undertake and then take back to their libraries, from the boost that having employees taking on professional development brings to the organization, and from having the competencies themselves articulated and then certified.  I think having a pathway that explicitly recognizes and certifies the knowledge and abilities that support staff contribute is important for the profession.

It could give an edge to candidates if all else were equal, but opportunities to participate vary so widely that it wouldn’t necessarily.  We have not hired anyone with this certification at our library, nor do I recall ever seeing an applicant who had it, but we have a very small staff and very few support staff openings.  It may also be more typically held by applicants to school or public libraries.

If the question is about whether it is “worth it” to pursue LSSC certification, I would encourage candidates to do so if they have the intrinsic motivation to seek such a credential, and if it will be meaningful to them irrespective of whether it will provide any hiring edge or salary benefit.  At least in academic libraries I think those benefits cannot be relied on or maybe even considered as possibilities, so it has to be worth it to the candidate just because they want to do it for their own learning and satisfaction.

– Ann Glannon, Associate Director, Wheelock College Library, Boston, MA

I have never hired someone who has been through the certification program, but I have hired people with a library technician AA degree, and all three were rather a disaster. At the time of hiring, I thought the degree would give the person an edge, but it did not.  These experiences come from two previous libraries, not my current institution.  In one case the person didn’t seem to know more than someone would have who had had library experience, and I was disappointed in what I might call library service values. Things like getting cards filed quickly (this was back in the days of card catalogs) so users could find the books I cataloged or responding to users as invitingly as I would have wished.  In two other cases, the library assistants seemed to have the knowledge from the classes they took, but the work just didn’t get done as efficiently as we needed to be successful. It wasn’t just our expectations, as the replacements were extremely successful. These were people without the library technician degree but had library experience (in one case circulation, particularly ILL and the other was cataloging). Maybe it’s just bad luck, but it’s three out of three.

Who goes for the certification?  If they have good experience and good references, I would go with them and probably wouldn’t give the certification any boost. I have been extremely lucky hiring fabulous library assistants, so I think experience, interview, and references tell me more than certification.

– Anonymous

bonnie smithTo my knowledge we have never had anyone apply for a position with this certification yet. But the certification is well regarded and would definitely be noticed and considered a plus. We are always looking for staff who can fit right in and get started on the job at hand. This certification means that less time is spent on training during the first phases of employment. With a better understanding of how libraries function, from a broad perspective, individuals in this program can better serve patrons and feel more confident about their service.

– Bonnie Smith, Assistant Program Director for Human Resources, University of Florida, George A. Smathers Libraries


I think the library support staff certificate has it’s value but how valuable would come out in an interview.   Probably a reason to interview someone.

– Jan Wilbur, Library Director, Mondor/Eagen Library/Information Commons, Anna Maria College

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight. If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

Thank YOU for reading! When you’re not strong/I’ll be your friend/I’ll help you comment.

*edited 8/10/2013 to add Jan Wilbur’s response


Filed under Academic, Further Questions, Public