Academic journal article Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services

Training in the Electronic Environment: Designing Courses for Your Clientele

Academic journal article Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services

Training in the Electronic Environment: Designing Courses for Your Clientele

Article excerpt

In 1995 Mornington Peninsula Libraries were the first in Victoria to offer public internet access. After conducting electronic training courses for users through Infosentials, the libraries decided to plan and conduct their own programs. This was found to need very considerable planning and work requiring continuous change. Described are planning processes, implementation and outcomes for courses of users and library staff

Mornington Peninsula Libraries provide library and information services for the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council in Victoria, which covers from Mount Eliza down to Portsea and across the Peninsula from Mornington to Hastings and all points in between. There are four branches located at Hastings, Mornington, Somerville and Rosebud and a bookmobile which stops at sixteen locations across the entire Peninsula on a weekly timetable.

In March 1995 Mornington Library was reported to be the first public library in Victoria to provide internet access to the public. Since then, access for the public has expanded across the Peninsula. The three main branches, Hastings, Mornington and Rosebud, all have multiple public access computers, with internet, Word97 and Excel. Somerville Library has two public access terminals with internet access.

Background

Changes to Victorian local government philosophy encouraged libraries to become more business oriented in their service delivery, and to explore income generating activities and services. One way thought of to attract income was fee based internet courses for the public. These courses would help fill the gaps in knowledge of many people currently using the internet terminals as well as attract those who were not using them. The courses would promote library resources, re-emphasise the role of the library as a repository of information, and would raise its profile within the community.

A decision was made to join Infosentials, previously known as the Internet Training Institute (ITI). The advantages of offering courses through this company were numerous. First, it had prepared courses with manuals, lesson plans, certificates and evaluation forms. There was a well documented formula to follow for the courses and someone to communicate with if there were any problems. It held regular user meetings where problems and concerns could be discussed, and new ideas and innovations previewed. Infosentials advertised on a regular basis through a variety of media, and made business arrangements to attract large companies for training throughout Australia.

Four staff were initially trained with ITI in a two day program for the introduction to the internet course. The training provided information about the internet, filling in knowledge where there may have been gaps. It also provided information about the structure of the internet course we had chosen to offer. The second part of the training session dealt with presentation skills. Both parts of the course were essential to the training of library staff.

After eighteen months of offering the one course, interest was waning because there was no diversity. The extra business we hoped to gain through Infosentials' various business ventures did not eventuate. Staff were also frustrated teaching parts of the manual that we could not demonstrate, as they were not accessible on public terminals. It became harder to describe things such as Telnet and ftp when staff had no experience of it. Whilst the support Infosentials provided was more than adequate and the materials it designed were thorough, it was evident that it was no longer sufficient. The decision was made to provide our own fee based courses.

Planning

In the recent expansion of my position to include the coordination of reference issues, I was delegated the task of coordinator of training. Because of my teaching background it was thought that I would have the necessary knowledge and skills to develop the courses and provide training for staff. …

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