Technology Training for library staff: Creativity works
Maurice Coleman and Annette Gaskins from Hartford County public library from Maryland spoke about a specific project, the "petting zoo" that they ran to introduce their staff to new technology. And Sarah Houghton-Jan, the Librarian In Black!, discussed the benefits of a coordinated effort at staff training.
1st up were Maurice and Annette, who are both trainers for their library system. The state of Maryland gave a mandate for all public libraries staff to learn about Library 2.0, based upon the PLMC model. We learned that Hartford County has a diverse population from urban to Amish (they even have a hitching post at one of their libraries!) Maurice and Anette were tasked with a way to introduce the library staff to Library 2.0 concepts, before they did the Library 2.0 PLMC model (23 things to learning about Library 2.0). The goal was to introduce the staff to the basics were before discussing them more in depth.
The librarians at their libraries, didn't understand new technology, such as Facebook, Youtube, etc. that their users were asking about. Some staff just wanted to be able to keep up with their own kids. Anette and Maurice began by conducting a survey of the staff to find out what they wanted to learn and what couldn't be covered in the regular training sessions that they provided to library staff.They decided to go with the "petting zoo" model, which is where people have a chance to hear and play with the tools. Why this model? It provided the staff with a laboratory setting to play with the devices that they would be learning about in the Library 2.0 concepts. They trained all public service staff (required) and most of the support staff. One of the major challenges was that they had to do this without disrupting public services.
The first steps:
They had the support of the administration, who required all public services staff to attend and strongly encouraged others. More importantly they had visible support. The managers even participated in the training, and they have pictures to prove it! They even paid the PT staff to come in! Get people to buy into the program and get them excited about. Get them to talk about it with each other. It was decided that the best time to do this training would be on Wed. mornings when most of the library branches didn't open until after 12. The program was a half-day training, which included one hour of lecture and two hours of hands on activities. With the day and time chosen they divided people into groups of 6. Each group had twenty minutes at each of the 6 stations.
They decided that they would have six different workstations for staff to try out:
What did they expect the staff to learn? A couple of the main points were:
To have an introduction and be comfortable to working with new things
A chance to try hands on activities--many things they only had the equipment for just the day of the event
And of course to learn about library 2.0
Each station had at least two trainers to be available and answer questions. They had a station master who was in charge of presenting and station staff that could help answer the questions. These were people that were knowledgeable about what they were speaking on and could answer questions that might arise. One thing that the library did was partner with a big box store, Best Buy, that not only provided resources--such as TVs, etc, they also provided staff that were available to help answer questions. Best Buy actually approached the library in this case and asked what they could do. They were able to secure monitors and flat screens to use for the day. They suggested that libraries talk to these stores, see what they could offer. Many offer community outreach and maybe able to help out.
They had host/hostesses that helped guide groups to the stations and provide additional support.
Most importantly they had "geek" and facility support. These were people that helped ensure that everything was in working order. To find people to station masters and staff they tapped into the people in the organization who were early adopters, aka "technology people by default." They utilized natural tech people and library trainers. They also tapped into their younger staff like pages and clerks. In the academic world I'm imagining this being able to work with student assistants or maybe even patrons that frequent the library! And don't forget the "curious learner" those that like to learn about everything. These people can be your best allies in training.
Space, you can never have too much of it. Find as much as you can with plenty of parking. You need space to move, space to hear, and space to play. Most importantly you need space with a good electronic infrastructure, internet access and plenty of electric outlets. Make sure that there is a good "flow" to the room and that people aren't bumping into each other. If you use gaming you may want to have it in a separate area since it can be kinda of loud.
Make sure that you have all of the equipment that you need, including computers, keyboards, mice, plugs, extension cords, etc., etc. Borrow from your sister counties see if you can pool resources together. Make sure everything is labeled so that it gets back to the right person. IT staff will remember what you borrowed from them! If you have projectors, make sure you have projection surfaces that work! They showed green walls where they couldn't see what was being used, so they improvised with bed sheets and paper.
Most importantly--do a dry run! Set it up make sure it works, and then test again! Make sure everyone whose going to be there knows how the equipment works and how to do troubleshooting.
The Big day!
One thing that they didn't think about was breaks, food, or drink. They were lucky in that someone could go grab food and drink. In the future they would plan for that. And have more people to help step in so that someone could have a break. You can never have too many people. Make sure that there are seating options for those that can't stand and that everything is labeled. Which way to go, how to get to places, and anything else that they might need to know.
Make sure that you have good team skills and personalities working together. Make sure staff schedulers know that staff need time for lunch and time for breaks after training. Communicate again and again, about where people need to be, what time they need to be there, and so on.
Patience is a virtue. The other shoe will drop, learn to let go and let the chips fall where they may. Make sure that you have troubleshooters identified to help handle the problems. Make sure people know where to go, how to get there, and what to do when they get there.
Document the "zoo" as you go along! Blog, photograph, survey, anecdotal. What did they learn? Now staff can truly engage patrons about new technology. They've started new 2.0 projects to use in the library, such as a wiki and a del.icio.us account. It took 4 to 5 months to put together, but was considered a success.
Next up was the Librarian in Black!
Sarah talks about technology training for staff on a large scale. As it stands know the users know more than the librarians. Why the lack of coordinated effort? Because of the size of the project and costs. First up, why should you train staff? She discusses a number of different reasons, such as saving money, increasing staff petition rate, improving customer service, increase productivity, and so on.
What does it take to do this type of training? Time and Money! Libraries should be ready to devote significant amounts of both to do this type of training. You need to be able to attend training sessions and conferences that will continue to improve staff skills.
When planning for training start with staff competencies. What do they need to do their job? Most importantly make sure that one person doesn't become the "tech pack mule" someone that has to stop what their doing to answer everyone's questions, all the time. This will help prevent these people from leaving, which is not what you want to happen. Figure out what staff need! Do they need to know how to forward e-mail? How to do word processing? Create a list of what's needed. Do an assessment to determine what's needed. This helps create job descriptions, with performance evaluations, helps create expectations for all staff and create consistent customer service.
Get your staff to buy in and use their input! What are the challenges to this? Make sure that everyone is kept informed about what's going on. The managers must follow the project plan. Hold a brainstorming party. Reward people! Have fun!
Have a taskforce that helps plan this with people from all levels. Use this time to determine how the library fits into the community in teaching technology. Make sure that the competencies determine who learns what, how it relates to their jobs, and has space for comments. Most important make sure that their is ongoing learning! Libraries should never stop learning. Provide a glossary of terms. Create this on paper and create it online. An important step, make sure you talk to the person currently in the job about what skills they think they need and then talk to management.
Make sure you determine how you're going to assess the training. Who reviews the results? IMPORTANT! Give the training coordinator the authority and credibility to tell the person that they need to go to a certain training session, even if they think they don't. You have to have the backing of supervisors and management. Deadline is important with assessment. Review the results and work with the supervisors to create training needs for each person.
Have scheduled learning time. Training is essential!! Make sure you have sufficient budget, funding and time to accomplish this. Start with the basic topics first, such as how to use a computer. Open up trainings to all staff. If the person feels that they need to go, let them go. This is where it is very important to have the support of management to get someone to go to a training session.
Have unscheduled learning: book, article, blogs, online tutorials, field trips to see what other nearby libraries are doing, watching podcasts, webcasts, etc. Have on the spot peer training. This is where the tech person can come in handy. They aren't having to answer all questions, but just a few.
To help staff to continue to learn:
Give staff 15 minutes a day to study/learn
Schedule 1 off desk hour for self study
Encourage conference/lecture attendance
Share online tutorials, printed materials, demos
Have prizes. Encourage learning. Use real world experiences. Do a continual reassessment of the project. What will be needed next? Are there are other ways to do this? Make sure you have ways to meassure success, and what happens if people don't meet the goals they are supposed too. Just as their should be rewards, there should be consequences as well. This is again where its important to have the support of managers. It may require a demotion, transfer, pay cut, or in worst cases--firing.
Make sure you celebrate the successes! Do something out of the ordinary!