CiL 2008: Staff Tech Training

Speaker: Sarah Houghton-Jan

It’s important to invest in staff training to build staff skills and morale, in addition to improving customer service. It takes time and money, which are not often plentiful. Evaluate where you are and what you need to get to where you want to be: planning & brainstorming to creation to assessment to training to reassessment to planning & brainstorming, etc.

What does your staff need to know how to do with technology to do their jobs well? Using competencies creates equitable expectations for all staff, reveals training needs, accurate job descriptions, helps with performance evaluations, consistent customer service, and helps staff adjust and handle change. Work with your staff to brainstorm on what they want to learn, and be sure to reassure them that they don’t need to know everything right now.

Work with a well-represented taskforce to create competencies and get management buy-in. Oh, and don’t call them competencies! Call them technology skills or anything else with less negative connotations. Break competencies out by categories, and be sure to include a “staying current” category. Best practices: keep it core & task-based, be aware of the different needs of different positions, include competencies in job descriptions, and revise frequently as new technologies are adopted in your library.

Online survey tools are the easiest way to assess competencies, but take care with how the results are presented so that there is less of a negative impact. Self-assessment is best. Review the assessments to track trends and then work with supervisors to create training lists for specific employees.

Training techniques will be determined based on topic and need, and there are plenty of resources out there to help with that. Just make sure you have the budget to do whatever you decide to do. People like rewards, as was noted in this morning’s keynote, so include that in your training budget.

Reassess on a regular basis, and include rewards and consequences to be effective. Celebrate the success of your staff!

Speakers: Maurice Coleman & Annette Gaskins

They are at a public library system with a very diverse population. The library staff wanted to have a technology fair/petting zoo, and there was enough buy-in from administration and the resources to do it. Time was the most crucial factor in planning for this. The topics were picked based on the tools that public service staff would use on a regular basis, as well as hot 2.0 topics that attract patron participation.

If you are planning to do several sessions in one day, make sure you have plenty of trainers so that no one gets burnt out. Also, have people available to direct people traffic. Make sure the facilities you use are sufficient to meet the needs of the training and the attendees.

I found it difficult to find take-away things from this presentation. Houghton-Jan went over the concepts behind the process, and I was hoping that Coleman & Gaskins could go into the applied aspect, which they did, but at such a detailed level that I couldn’t find many things relevant to my own library. Most of what they had to say were basic event planning tips, which are useful, but not what I came into the session expecting to get. Maybe I should have read the description in more detail.

I got skillz and I know how to use them

What I wouldn’t give for a pre-conference workshop on XML or SQL or some programming language that I could apply to my daily work!

Recently, Dorothea Salo was bemoaning the lack of technology skills among librarians. I hear her, and I agree, but I don’t think that the library science programs have as much blame as she wants to assign to them.

Librarianship has created an immense Somebody Else’s Problem field around computers. Unlike reference work, unlike cataloguing, unlike management, systems is all too often not considered a librarian specialization. It is therefore not taught at a basic level in some library schools, not offered as a clear specialization track, and not recruited for as it needs to be. And it is not often addressed in a systematic fashion by continuing-education programs in librarianship.

I guess my program, eight years ago, was not one of those library schools that doesn’t teach basic computer technology. Considering that my program was not a highly ranked program, nor one known for being techie, I’m surprised to learn that we had a one-up on some other library science programs. Not only were there several library tech (and basic tech) courses available, everyone was required to take at least one computer course to learn hardware and software basics, as well as rudimentary HTML.

That being said, I suspect that the root of Salo’s ire is based in what librarians have done with the tech knowledge they were taught. In many cases, they have done nothing, letting those who are interested or have greater aptitude take over the role of tech guru in their libraries. Those of us who are interested in tech in general, and library tech in specific, have gone on to make use of what we were taught, and have added to our arsenal of skills.

My complaint, and one shared by Salo, is that we are not given very many options for learning more through professional continuing education venues that cover areas considered to be traditional librarian skills. What I wouldn’t give for a pre-conference workshop on XML or SQL or some programming language that I could apply to my daily work!