Online Academic Certificate Program in Library Information Technology at Lexington Community College

“It was a near-class experience,” a Lexington Community College student wrote at the end of her first online undergraduate library science course. With five years of experience in distance education, we are seeing much greater acceptance of the idea that non-face-to-face, asynchronous education really can work and we are recognizing the value of education for library paraprofessionals.

Since 1998, Lexington Community College (LCC) has offered online library information technology courses designed to meet state certification requirements for Kentucky public library paraprofessional staff. With IMLS funding, LCC developed curriculum for an 18-credit hour academic certificate and an associate degree program. During the past five years, more than 1000 students have completed courses, and the first three academic certificates were awarded in December 2003.

This year LCC formed a partnership with the Southeastern Library Network (SOLINET) to make the online courses available to employees of SOLINET libraries at the in-state tuition rate. [As of this writing, tuition is $279 per three-hour course, but we anticipate an increase before the Fall 2004 semester begins.]

The LCC Library Information Technology Program was designed originally for paraprofessionals already working in a library. The classes involve a great deal of hands-on work and usually require a service learning project that students complete in their own workplace-a project that hopefully will benefit both the student and the library. Several students who have never worked in libraries, but who may have had extensive careers in other fields, have begun the program to prepare themselves for entry into the library workforce.

The LCC Library Information Technology curriculum follows a traditional library science approach with courses in reference, technical services, administration, and public services classes for preschool children’s services, children’s services, young adult services, and adult services. Additional classes include genealogy services, web publishing, and a selected topic course that can be developed to address specific education and training needs. For example, in Fall 2004, the selected topic course is Advanced Cataloging, which covered non-print and non-book formats.

Libraries are now recognizing the importance of well-educated paraprofessional staff to carry out highly technical duties. In addition, public libraries, particularly in rural areas, may depend entirely on non-MLS staff. This makes distance education in library science and the undergraduate level not merely possible, but also desirable. The retention rate is extremely high. Each semester, more than 90% of enrolled students complete their classes and in the past five years, almost 100 students have completed at least 12 hours of coursework. The Lexington Community College Library Information Technology Academic Certificate serves as an exemplary program in delivering affordable education to time-bound and place-bound library employees. The online format of the program also benefits faculty who wish to teach but who do not live in Lexington.

Web site:

See also: Watkins, Christine. 2002. “Library Ed Online from Lexington.”American Libraries 33, no. 9: 15.

Online paraprofessional certification program at special SOLINET rates is a big success.

Swain, Sara. 2004. “‘Build it and they will come’: Online paraprofessional certification program proves to be a big draw.” Solinet

Martha Birchfield is a Professor of Information Management & Design at Lexington (Ky.) Community College; (859) 257-4872, ext. 4159 or 1-866-774-4872, ext. 4159.