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Library Technicians

History

The earliest libraries, referred to in Egyptian manuscripts, date from 3000 B.C. The centuries since have seen great changes in libraries and their place in society. In the Middle Ages, books were so rare that they were often chained to shelves to prevent loss. The inventions of the printing press and movable type increased the literacy rate, and the increasing availability of books and periodicals all contributed to the growth of libraries.

The growth of public education in the 1800s was accompanied by a rapid growth of public libraries across the United States, greatly aided in the latter part of the century by the generosity of philanthropists such as Andrew Carnegie. Aids to locating information were developed, such as the Dewey Decimal System in 1876 and Poole's Index to Periodical Literature in 1882, and these aids made libraries much more convenient for users. The American Library Association was founded in 1876, an event that is usually regarded as marking the birth of librarianship as a profession.

The great increase in the amount of recorded information in the 20th century has led to a steady increase in the number of library facilities and services. It is estimated that the amount of information published on almost every general subject doubles every 10 to 20 years. Libraries depend on trained personnel to keep informed about what new information is available, to be selective about what materials are purchased, and to share materials with other libraries as an extension of their own resources.

As the responsibilities of librarians became more complex, the need for technically trained workers to support them became evident. During the 1940s many libraries began training their own support staffs. In-service training programs proved costly, however, and since 1965 the bulk of library technician training has been assumed by community colleges. Now that computers are used for many of the technical and user services, library technicians perform many of the tasks once handled exclusively by librarians.