Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Everything You Need to Know about Training You Learned in Summer Reading Programs: What If Technology Trainers Used Some of the Paths Already Forged by Summer Reading Program Planners?

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Everything You Need to Know about Training You Learned in Summer Reading Programs: What If Technology Trainers Used Some of the Paths Already Forged by Summer Reading Program Planners?

Article excerpt

Fall is here and children's librarians everywhere are breathing a sigh of relief; summer reading programs are over for another year. Or are they?

I spent 4 1/2 years traveling to public libraries around the U.S. as a computer trainer in The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's U.S. library program, and no matter where I went it seemed the librarians were in some way thinking about or working on summer reading programs, regardless of the season and regardless of the size of the library. When I would teach PowerPoint, librarians would use the program to create summer reading program slide shows. When I would teach Microsoft Publisher, they would want to use it to make signs and brochures for their summer reading programs.

In addition to teaching applications, I also talked to library staff members about doing technology training for their patrons. Some libraries have active technology training programs running; others are struggling with getting started or with sustaining the momentum of current programs. I heard and understood many of the frustrations that staff members were feeling. Technology is always changing. There's never enough time for planning and promotion. Staff members don't feel qualified to teach. As I listened to these frustrations, however, I started to wonder whether the place to look for answers about running technology training might be in a successful yet not-so-obvious place--summer reading programs. Just as the Internet was built upon the already-existing structure of telephone and cable television networks, perhaps technology trainers can use some of the paths already forged by summer reading program planners.

I've developed a plan based on what libraries are already doing with their summer reading programs. If you follow it you might find that planning for your technology training becomes easier. I'll demonstrate how it could work by sharing examples that I've seen in my travels to libraries across the U.S.

One Plan Leads to Another

Very few libraries design their own summer reading programs from scratch; it's almost always a group effort. So it could be with their training. Here are some lessons many have learned from summer reading programs that also lend themselves well to technology training:

* Share resources and work together.

* Plan ahead.

* Themes are fun.

* Offer goals and incentives.

* Outreach is vital.

* Involve the community.

* Literacy is the core value.

* Do it with gusto!

Share Resources and Work Together:

In New Mexico, Kathy Barco, the youth services coordinator for the state, creates a summer reading program manual each year. The manual includes custom graphics, press releases, Web sites, craft ideas, program handouts, and articles on topics such as effective use of volunteers. Barco notes, "Sharing is essential. I really want library staff members to feel like it's an 'our' thing. Sixty-six librarians from around the state sent in items for this year's manual." In addition to distributing the manual, Barco coordinates summer reading program planning workshops around the state. She asserts the important supplementary role the workshops play: "The workshop is motivational. It builds a family feeling. Librarians get to share ideas and hear what others are doing."

Dotz Johnson, who coordinates the summer reading programs at the Detroit Lakes branch of the Lake Agassiz Regional Library System in Minnesota, echoes many of the same sentiments as Barco. The Lake Agassiz system uses a summer reading program manual created by MELSA, a Minnesota library agency. Johnson highlights the importance of the workshops: "One of our most successful new incentive programs came from last year's manual. I saw the idea for a library store outlined in the manual, but don't think I would have implemented it on my own. When I went to the workshop, however, they demonstrated the way library dollars and a store could work, so I went back and tried it. …

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