Thursday, August 30, 2007

Training Opportunities for Staff

Communication takes time

Some standard techniques to keep staff informed are what some people call "management by walking around", talking to staff regularly, having input meetings, and providing constant updates via email or other notes so that staff are aware of what is going on at all times. Especially in times of rapid change or during major projects, staff information and input is critical.

Making training available

After taking the TechAtlas assessment, it said that I should provide training opportunities in a central location and in a way it is easily accessible. Sounds simple.

This isn't an easy task. A library that is open seven days a week and extremely busy requires constant attention. Staff members do not always have the time to check their email or go to a website to check for information. I was able to get their workstations upgraded to Windows XP (brand new Dells). This took longer than expected. It was frustrating that I was able to upgrade all of the library public access computers a year ago and then see the old clunkers library staff had to use. It was impossible before now to have them look at a google calendar of events or look online at anything that required flash or java. Now they can. Now they can check the training opportunities available on Webjunction, AGTS, Amigos, and Arizona State Library Archives and Public Library Records events. The next problem was obvious, how will they check each website to see what programs are available. A time crunch factor.

Combining it all together

RSS Feeds are a wonderful thing. Calendars that can be downloaded and imported are even better. Amigos had RSS and email for its newest programs, and the state library provides updates to classes, as well as webjunction. It is just hard to keep track of everything. To make one clean interface, I took all the program dates and times and put them in a google calendar so that everyone could see the programs all at once. Then I provided a link to the training website of origin. I set up a blog that will send reminders of training out. The google calendar sends a reminder to the staff gmail account, which is then filtered to post to the intranet blog. Staff then can sign up to get updates via email through feedburner on the website since that is what they are most comfortable right now.

I took it even further by printing out the calendars from now until December, with the Agendas printed alongside. The hope is that staff will see the training and know that they can just write their name on programs that they are interested in, and I would sign them up and take care of the details. They were informed of the following:

They can take whatever training they wanted
It would be considered work time (paid to go)
Training would be paid for
They can take time away from the desk to do this
I would set everything up so that they would just need to show up (for instance, an online class)

Getting Ready

We plan to have staff training starting in mid-September to train library staff on deficiencies found during the techatlas survey. Once everyone is comfortable, new duties will be assigned according to interest. If things really go well, then we will being learning 2.0 starting in January. I already have people signed up. The staff are very dedicated to their jobs. There was reluctance to sign up because of this. Many of them did not want to fall behind on their work, but after much encouragement, I have half of the staff signed up. I am very exciting that this is working. It took about a week to track down all the times and put them in the calendar. It is well worth it.

Our site

This is the address of the calendar:

The programs on the calendar will include the following agencies:

Arizona State Library Archives and Public Records Events


Amigos Library Services


Subscribe in a reader

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Next Generation Library Director: Responsive

Fantastic Post about the role of a library director:

Sites and Soundbytes: Library Directors and Customers - What's Our Role?: "
* Directors should work the service desks at their libraries.
Do you know the feel and service your patrons are receiving? (I am posting this from our library's reference desk while the staff has a department meeting, so this is one I personally do whenever I get the chance.) I find that I get a real sense of our patrons, their needs and how the library inter-relates when I do even a short stint at desk.
* Directors should have blogs, newsletters and other ways to talk directly to their patrons. Even more so, the patrons should have the ability to talk directly to the director and be heard. This can happen on the fly in the library itself, with listening sessions, or online.
* Directors should write thank you notes themselves for donations. That personal touch goes a long way.
* Directors should not be dictators. We should listen, listen, listen and trust our staffs. I learn more from my staff and their knowledge of the community and libraries than anywhere else.
* Directors should be willing to take risks. Allow changes to happen. Lead the way to new services. Be brave! What else would you love to see your administrator doing? What do you do as an administrator to better serve your patrons?"

Let's see how many I do:
I work the circulation and reference desk. I need to do a better job in doing it regularly. This is how our staff will be able to have time for training. This allows me to see what the library staff see. This also helps me problem solve along with staff. I can better understand the problem if I can see it first hand. It make me more reactive and proactive for helping getting patrons a better experience and helping staff do the same.

I have a customer care card at the front desk. I respond to each card personally either over the phone, through a letter, or in person if I can. I like that I am able to recognize a person by name on the card, then catch them in person and talk to them. It is always better to respond to everything in person, in your own signature, your own voice, or face-to-face.

I write all the thank you letters for donations. It isn't specific since we can't name a price or list every book. However, it is personally written and signed by me.

I let staff do everything. It is easier for me :) Staff wanted more training, one of the librarians had a plan and ran with it. This is leading to our first full fledge training and will lead to learning 2.0. It is better to listen to staff and implement. I have successfully received three grants that I have written based on staff suggestions.

I sometimes take longer to get to a certain place. I know when the timing is right. We set up a time/print management system for our public access computers a year ago. Everyone wanted an additional station and to print wirelessly. It has been a demand for a year. I knew how to implement it, and I knew where to get the money from. It just took time. Lo and behold after a year, we are setting it up. Change takes time. I just let people know change is coming, hopefully, implementation soon follows.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

One Year of Blogging/What's Next?

I have been struggling with this type of post for some time. I wanted to write one for my 100th post, then for the anniversary of my blog, but constantly became stalled. There is too much good stuff to write about.

Why did I start this blog?

I was inspired by ALA President Leslie Burger's call to transform communities. I was never going to try for the emerging leader thing and I can't get involved in ALA (can't dedicate the time). I thought I would start this blog to share what I was doing in that vein. I felt I was accomplishing a lot for my library and documenting and sharing was worth it alone. I have a bunch of ideas that I wanted to implement and even more now. This blog focuses on those ideas.

The first link came from Steven Cohen at Library Stuff, More Libr* Blogs on July 16, 2006

I originally sub-titled the blog, documenting the success and failures of a library manager. I backed off that sub-title because I thought it was a little harsh, so I just went with documenting the experiences. I am not afraid of failure. Failure is always a learning experience. It is a good thing to fail. If you click on the tag cloud in the side bar that states "Library Problems"
you can read all of the ways I made mistakes. I think sharing both success and failures help any reader since it can make them feel better about their own mistakes, it makes mistakes less scary (I didn't die, the library didn't burn down, I didn't get fired, etc. etc.), and hopefully it will inspire others to share their success stories.

Share success (or just share)

After listening to what Stephen Abrams said during the Do Libraries Innovate Debate, I found that I was on the right course. In fact, that probably should be sharing more about what I am doing. I feel that what I was doing at my library was innovative, I was not developing brand new things, but in implementing what already existed. I liked Karen Schneider's comment on innovation. To paraphrase, it is not so much inventing the wheel, but in placing the wheel on a cart and getting supplies from the town over. The next step is sharing how it was done.

Documenting that success was good for me since that success can go unnoticed. There is no public fanfare in transforming a library, people just notice better services and use them without thought. It is rare that a patron will leave a comment card to us about a compliment of services, but when circulation goes up 30%, computer use goes up 50%, when 80% of the community owns a library card, and a bond passes by 66%, that is how people let you know they like the service. Is the community transformed? I don't know.

What I learned from blogging

I have also learned a great deal from blogging. It developed into something very cathartic for me. My first six months I mostly focused on my library stories that I referred to as Fix It Fridays and Successful Saturdays. The purpose of setting up this template was to keep me writing and to keep me focused on my library's issues. Sometimes, just writing something down helps solve a problem. This blog is more of venue to think out loud and problem solve. So far it is working.

Why the Perry Tour?

The next year will focus on the lead up to a new library building, followed by the renovation of our main library. This was part of the reason I took my staff on a tour of the new Perry Branch of the Maricopa County Library District. It was more to get ideas and to satisfy my curiosity about the deweyless library. Thanks to Karen who provided the link from her ALA Techsource post Raising Arizona.

In that post, I wanted to provide an objective overview since this issue has people very passionate on either side. I also did the tour because the same furnishing company is doing the work for our new library. During an architect meeting, the rep laid out what Perry was doing and told us about it. I told him that we would like to stick with our layout and how we are doing things. Especially since public input helped design the exterior and interior of the library. The rep laid it out like it was the cool new thing to do, not unusual, and the response from another member of our team was "Why aren't we doing this?"

So, now I can reply to them that I have thoroughly reviewed the library and can make an objective decision on it. We are not going deweyless, but it would be easy to implement. However, the costs of making a small collection that is browseable goes against the need for our libraries here. In a rural community (that has no bookstore, no other way to access computers or the internet, or to even to access information), core library services are more important than a browsing collection. I also believe that library collections shouldn't be interfiled in a joint-use library. Patrons have a habit of not getting along. I have toured joint-use libraries where adults were literally running out of the building once school let out. One actually ran out of the library with the laptop still open. They didn't want to be caught in the library, stuck with a bunch of teens.

What's next?

Right now, I am in the process of marketing our library databases, training staff on competencies, and if all goes well, doing the Learning 2.0 beginning in January. This in the middle of building the new library, hiring staff for that library, establishing the opening day collection, architect meetings, furniture meetings, IT meetings, etc. etc.

These will take up a considerable amount of time. It will be difficult to sustain this blog during the process. I think it is worth it though, to write down my thoughts and to continue to document. I am definitely hooked on the process. Reading blogs and writing a blog help expand the capacity to think analytically and to frame thought in a way that actions will result. This, more than anything, is what I have gained from blogging.

Subscribe in a reader

Thursday, August 02, 2007

My first Slideshare/Slidecast

We are trying to promote all of our new databases at my library. (Let me add that I am aware that we should have a better name for databases, right now, that is the handle we are using. Patrons can figure it out for now. )We have over 50, plus, several fantastic ones from our state library. These include, Rosetta Stone, Ebsco Master File Premier, and many others. Our main problem with databases is one of promotion. We do get heavy use, about 5,000 hits per month, but it could be better. Some companies do not even provide the stats, which makes it difficult to determine usefulness.

Ironically, the ones that cost the most, get the least usage. We use a pricing guideline to determine the usefulness of our databases. There isn't a typical cost per click that we use, but if we have a database in which that cost is significantly higher, we need to promote it, or junk it.

Last year we had about 54,000 hits on our databases and spent about $13,000 on them. This ended up being about 25 cents per hit, not bad. However, if we took out the two highest cost per click ratio, the actual ratio was closer to 5 cents per click. So we got rid of those two, but others we felt were useful were still getting dismal numbers. They were in range, but dismal. So we came up with an idea to have a screencast tutorial on how to use the databases.

At first we looked at a full screencast hosting site, fee based. In general, the problems were, it cost too much, and that the screencast took too long to load on our computers. This is especially true since we are trying to expand our internet bandwidth AND most of our community's internet users have dial-up. So we came upon SlideShare. This was a product I had read about through the Librarian in Black Blog back in October. I had it kicking around in my head since it was an easy interface and required little bandwidth. We decided to use it for our tutorials. The first one we tried was Rosetta Stone. What could be better than the ability to learn a new language online FOR FREE! Here is the basics on how we did that:


  1. Go to slideshare and set up an account.

  2. Create a slideshow using Powerpoint

    1. Using screen shots and copy and pasting them into powerpoint is a quick and easy way to do this.

  3. Upload the powerpoint program to slideshare

For the slideshare, that is all. On the sidebar, it has an embed code. Once embedded on a website, a patron just goes to the site, clicks on the arrows for the next slide and that's it. Just as I finished the slideshare, they developed slidecast. Now you can include a podcast that will synchronize with the slides. Here are those steps:
  1. Narrate the slideshow using the phone recorder, or use a headset with microphone with the Microsoft sound recorder program

    1. This program will allow you to record your voice AND to stop and start pieces as you like.

  2. Upload the audio, (use odeo account for this, see how to set up a podcast)

    1. The audio must be hosted by a podcasting site, slideshare doesn't host the audio.
  3. Copy and paste the link url into slideshare by clicking on slidecast and copying the link.

  4. Sync the audio and slide by going to the sync program.

    1. Play your recording and click the slide when you want the slide to run. Save when done.
  5. Save the program and copy the embed code.

  6. Paste the embed code onto the Database of the Week page through Bookletters.

So far, we have had 64 hits in about a week and a half. I am still tweaking it, but I thought I would share it. So far we have had 50 individual users going through 500 different courses. I will see if this will increase the numbers, but the tutorial is getting quite a bit of usage, a good sign.

There is a transcript underneath

Slide 1: Click on Library Databases

Slide 2: Click on Language

Slide 3: Click on Rosetta Stone

Slide 4: If accessing from inside the library, this is the first page you will see. From home, you need to enter you library card # and pin. Your pin is usually First Time, the last four register first. digits of your Returning phone number. visitors, just log in on the side

Slide 5: Create your own username and password, near the bottom, enter your library card #.

Slide 6: Once registered, you can begin your coursework. The first time you launch your course, a free program called Shockwave will load onto your computer.

Slide 7: Shockwave will load. Allow the program to install on your computer. This will take some time depending on your Internet speed.

Slide 8: Welcome Screen, still loading

Slide 9: Once loaded, you can choose what level you would like to begin.

Slide 10: The most basic level wil provide simple identification. When it provides the word in Spanish, you must match it with the picture. After you answer the first 50 questions, you can determine if you are able to continue, or if you need more practice.

Slide 11: Once you have finished the first lesson, you can determine what you would like to work on next. You have four options: LISTENING AND READING LISTENING READING SPEAKING WRITING

Slide 12: If you get stuck, you can go back to the menu screen by clicking on the parachute man on the lower right hand corner of the screen. If you need help, click on the question mark. Live tech support is available Live Tech Support M-F 9AM - 6PM EST 1-800-788-0822 If you have further issues, call the library at 421-8710.

We have the link to the database of the week from the home page, and then the slideshare is embedded in the Library Database of the Week home page with the above text underneath. We are also running the text in the local newspaper to help promote our databases. Hope it works, at least we are marketing them. Whatever they are called, marketing is the problem with databases, not so much the name.

Subscribe in a reader