Title: Realizing the Democratic Idea: Community College LIS Education as Transformative Experience



    When reflecting on the nature of library education and its position to a community, we are faced with lines of inquiry: Whom are we in LIS educating? For what purpose? How do our programs seek to serve the community, and what, indeed, is "the community?" We in LIS higher education tend to focus on graduate programs' position within the library information profession. Our paper, instead, takes the view of the "majority minority": that of the non-MLS library worker/LTA student and her community circles of influence. In particular, we examine the role community college LTA programs play in democratization of higher education; community engagement; and social change. Indeed, there is an intricate intertwining of students' life experience and the classroom; service to community and creativity; and education for personal and societal transformation.


    An illustration of such an artful balance hangs on the wall of Linda's office: a sturdy quilt created by a former LTA student, with stitched images of books and computers, and needlepoint names of her library colleagues and children. The quilt represents what Dewey might have called the student's way of describing her life as a "situated whole": a culminating work of art that expressed her relationship to her library education, her communities, and even technology. The quilt brings to mind Phil Jackson's words on Dewey and art; specifically, that art's purpose is "...to reawaken our sensibilities, causing us to see once again what we have come to overlook," 


    Similarly, the purpose of our paper is to share with other LIS educators what may tend to be overlooked: the transformative role LTA programs play in social and community engagement.


    Drawing on personal narratives of former and current LTA students and library worker, we illustrate how: 


  1. The community college serves a role in democratization of LIS education, making it accessible and affordable to the lowest paid within the library profession, and to those who are often in personal transition
  2. The unique position of a community college extends conditions for educative experience for students already deeply engaged in community service in their local schools, churches, social agencies, and libraries
  3. LTA programs provide a step toward what Dewey described as the Great Community by directly addressing the power imbalances within the library profession. 


Respect and inclusion in decision-making were key concerns noted at the Congress on Professional Education (COPE 3) in 2003 that brought together non-MLS holding library workers nationwide. LTA programs provide professional development and credentials to all library workers, empowering and supporting their position to incite reflective and deliberate social change