Typically on a first low-level shoplifting offense, a person without a record would be offered a diversion type of disposition. That's a special form of supervision during which the defendant would have to stay out of trouble, perform community service, pay fines and take anti-shoplifting classes. If he or she performs all of that successfully, the case gets dismissed and so the conviction will be removed from his criminal record. Or the case could be reduced to a civil infraction. Although you'd be eligible for something like that, it may have to be negotiated for you.
If you don't want to take any kind of plea disposition, you could fight the case, all the way to trial, if necessary. If convicted after trial, however, you'd have a misdemeanor on your record which could hamper you personally and professionally. And you'd face at least some jail time, because you'd have been proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
So the best thing you can do for yourself, no matter how you want to proceed with this case, is to see to it that you have a lawyer with you when you appear in court. He can see the court papers, confer with the judge and the prosecutor and then tell you of all of your rights and choices so that you can make an intelligent decision as to how you want to handle your case. Nobody other than a defense lawyer will do that for you. It's not the job of the prosecutor and the judge to represent you.
Your first date in court is generally your arraignment. That's where you come before the judge, your charges are formally placed into the court record and you are asked how you plead. If you have a lawyer with you, he will tell you what to do and take it from there. If you are unable to afford a criminal lawyer, you can plead not guilty to keep all of your rights open, then tell the judge you are too poor to afford a lawyer and ask him for a public defender.