Designing a Library Staff Computer Training Program: Implementation of Core Competencies. (Tutorial)

Article excerpt

Through a process of data gathering and analysis along with a review of current library literature, a need was identified to establish a continuum of staff training in technology. The educational needs of library staff at the Ehrman Medical Library (EML) of New York University School of Medicine were assessed via observation, interviews, logging incoming questions at public service areas, and reviewing Helpline e-mails. Data gathered during the assessment assisted in the development and design of a staff training program and will be used in project evaluation. This tutorial outlines a process of designing and implementing a staff computer-training program while providing general tips and strategies.

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The Ehrman Medical Library (EML) has sixty-one FTE staff, a mix of professional and paraprofessionals working both part- and full-time. The majority of staff are onsite; however, about 5 percent work at affiliated libraries offsite at branch facilities. The level of comfort with technology and computer proficiency varies greatly among staff. Each staff member has access to a personal computer and most staff members serve the public at one of three areas: the circulation desk, the information desk, or the computer media center. All professional librarians and several paraprofessionals staff the library's information desk. The library's computers are a mix of platforms and operating systems with about 60 percent of staff using Windows platforms and 40 percent of staff using Macintoshes. Approximately 90 percent of the public computers are Windows-based.

Through data gathering and analysis, a need was determined to establish a base level of computer competencies for all library staff. Although they were eligible to take microcomputer classes in MS Office applications offered by the institution at large as well as Internet training courses offered by the library, there had never been any form of onsite staff computer training. It was determined that an ongoing, mandatory, formal training program for all library staff would prove most advantageous.

The project as conceived by the systems librarian and the coordinator for user services had two main objectives--first, to improve the staff's ability to troubleshoot their own desktop machines, and second, to improve the level of assistance provided to patrons in public service areas. An upcoming library renovation would combine all points of public service into one location. This too was considered in the need for a core level of skills.

Top-level library administrators were queried during one of their regular weekly meetings to ascertain their interest in such a project and to determine if such a program would be supported. Once verbal approval was received from the library director, project development got underway. It is vital to get the support of the library director and department heads before such an undertaking. There must be a buy-in at all levels, but rallying department heads at the onset proved to be an important step in securing attendance and overall support of all staff members for the training program.

Data Gathering and Analysis

A literature review is a good start in developing an ongoing training program. A review of articles on staff computer training reinforced the value of such an undertaking. By further focusing the literature review on academic libraries, good starting points for actual program design began to emerge. In the academic institutions, in-house training programs were more likely to be developed and implemented, while training programs in corporate settings tended to be outsourced, something that library budgets do not often provide for. Academic libraries, in particular, are able to use valuable staff resources to cull instructors and budget constraints have reinforced the do-it-yourself attitude in many individual libraries.

A training model designed for the University of Wisconsin-Madison was ultimately adopted. …