Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Training: Been There, Done That, Ready to Start Again

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Training: Been There, Done That, Ready to Start Again

Article excerpt

In the nearly 16 years that I've been writing this column, I've covered training several times. While I will admit to a feeling of "deja vu all over again," I also have to admit that it is a topic that is especially timely for me since the Monroeville Public Library is in the middle of migrating to a new automation system. Staff members will be getting new computers with a different OS, which means that they will have to learn how to use the new computers as well as master the features of the new library management system. Patrons will also get a new online catalog with a new look and added features.

While all these changes are meant to he improvements to both efficiency and service, changes are still unsettling to many people, so there will be a period of adjustment. Of course, our vendor will provide training, but there will be more to learn than can be covered in formal sessions, and there will always be new staff and new patrons who need to be taught how to use the library's system. An important part of a successful migration is having a plan for effective training that helps staff and patrons feel comfortable with the new system.

In addition to learning about changes to computer and information technology, librarians must also stay up-to-date on the issues that affect the profession. For example, with the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act, many needed to know what was required for compliance. Some other hot topics that we must learn about are the issues surrounding copyright of digital materials and patron privacy. Besides these weighty issues, librarians are also looking for instruction for both professional and support staff in the latest ideas on library service basics, including readers' advisory for all age groups, reference service, and the all-encompassing topic of customer satisfaction. There will always be something new to learn in this profession, so there will always be a need for continuing education.

The importance of training in today's libraries is demonstrated by the wealth of resources on the topic. I found articles on the subject in nearly every professional journal I picked up, and searches on Google returned results numbering in the tens of thousands. It would be impossible for me to point you toward every possible resource, but this sampling of what is available might help you with your plans for training.

Instructional Services of Professional Organizations

My professional organization, ALA, is aware of the need for ongoing instructional services and has responded to that need. I am currently participating in an e-mail tutorial on privacy from the Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP). This one is free to ALA members and costs $25 for nonmembers. I have also participated in other recent tutorials, including those on UCITA and licensing issues. While I would think that these particular ones will have ended by the time this issue appears, information on the tutorials, including subscription details, is available on the OITP Web site.

ACRL (the Association of College & Research Libraries), a division of ALA, has a separate Instruction Section, which has its own Web page with a discussion of its mission, a recounting of its history, information on its Interact Education Project, a continuing education calendar, and a list of resources for instructors. Not all of the links were functioning at the time of my visit, since the files had not all been uploaded to the ALA site's content management system. However, links to a set of tips for developing Web-based instruction and notes from brainstorming sessions on teaching methods were functional.

Another of our professional organizations, OCLC, has addressed the need for ongoing training through its MindLeaders courses. The more than 600 online technical courses offer librarians the opportunity to improve their technical skills. OCLC refers to this Web-based training as "e-Learning" and believes that the advantages of self-paced, available "anywhere, anytime" courses will fit the needs of many busy professionals. …

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