Friday, July 06, 2007

A Technology Pledge

A great discussion is ongoing in the blogging world regarding technology competencies for librarians. Fortunately, much of this information on what library staff should or shouldn't know is available through resources such as TechAtlas, Webjunction, and other sites.

What I didn't like about the discussion was the "beat you over the head approach" to anyone who is not technology savvy. I commented on a few blogs stating that we need to be patient with the non-techie people so that they will learn. Furthermore, library staff will not remember any training unless they are using it in their day to day jobs. They can be trained and require a competency, but if it is not something that comes up regularly, that information will not be retained. We need to be more patient and more clear in our training and how we provide assistance. Otherwise, many technology experts can look like some IT jerk who thinks everyone is stupid unless they know what they know. What is basic to someone that is familiar with technology is definitely not basic to everyone. Therefore, I make a plege:

"I pledge that I will help those who do not possess the knowledge of our changing world, and help them navigate it in the way that they are comfortable with. I pledge to remember times, in which, I did not know how to do something, yet someone took the time to teach me. I understand that everyone is different and each person's learning style requires something different of me. It is my responsibility to teach them and if a student does not learn that I take responsibility for that."

A library should have a technology plan in place to deal with new technology, staff training, and sustainability. TechAtlas has full host of services for free so that libraries can do this. Send out surveys to staff and develop a training schedule accordingly. Training staff on technology that they will actually use and that the library will implement is very key. If they don't use it, they will lose it.

Here are some sample questions with the results from my staff. It covers familiarity with Word, HTML, tech plans, Public Access Computers, and sustainability.

(Don't worry, it's anonymous) Keep in mind that I run a rural library that serves a population of 38,000 people.

Red means basic, not a great indication depending on who you are asking. I included everyone from librarians to pages in the survey. When I train staff on technology, it is only the technology that is necessary for their jobs. I am introducing new concepts that are more advanced, but only to those who have an interest in the exploration. Staff cannot be forced if it is not necessary.
Here's our six month plan based on information from the survey and recommendations from TechAtlas:

Enhance Training Resources
· Provide all employees with email accounts
· Develop a staff technology-training plan
· Document and maintain a staff technology-training plan
· Create simple, non-technical computer troubleshooting procedures
· Develop anti-phishing materials for training of library staff
· Increase staff awareness and command of computer anti-virus skills and resources
· Create a centralized collection of documentation for the most frequently used library software applications (POLARIS)

Formalize the Training Program
· Make the library a learning organization by supporting on-going and peer learning
· Design and communicate a clear procedure for training requests
· Identify training needs via staff technology skill assessment
· Maintain up-to-date records of library staff technology skillsets
· Develop competencies and learning goals based on each staff member's role
· Proactively market training opportunities to the library staff
· Develop a procedure for evaluating the success of training.

Emphasize Continuous Learning
· Plan for the design and delivery of training
· Support library staff in self-assessing their learning styles
· Support multiple learning styles to increase staff learning success.
· Allow library staff to participate in training events 'on the clock'
· Provide recognition for library staff members who achieve learning goals.
We need to convince libraries to implement technology plans to ensure technology is created and sustainable and that staff are trained appropriately. Without that, all this talk goes nowhere. For some good ways to convince your boss, the Librarian in Black provides some excellent suggestions.


Anonymous said...

I am getting to the point where I honestly believe that if there is a serious problem with technical competencies in a library, those of us who are responsible for technical support have to take some of the blame. We do not have a good handle on teaching technology to our staff. Competencies are important. We need to make people who want to be librarians aware of how important technology is. But, we also cannot leave behind those who currently are already working in libraries.

The bottom line for me is that I am responsible for technical support in my library. I need to be doing a better job of making people comfortable with technology. This is my current struggle.

Great post! I am learning a great deal from this whole discussion.

jdscott50 said...

Thanks for the comment. I would say that if we are frustrated with how things are, we need to take the responsibility to change it. I agree, a majority of it is convincing people why it is important. If we can't do that, then nothing will change.