t’s a dangerous business, predicting the future. Without predicting any specific events, though, it’s a good practice to look at broad trends with curiosity and prepare yourself for what seems most likely. Wayne Gretsky was asked once why he was such a good hockey player. He replied that “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it’s been.” Based on prominent trends in the library world, we can make reasonable predictions about where the puck is headed for library services and train our staff to address the needs we’re likely to encounter. Let me offer three trends and some training to help your library thrive in 2023.Shifting Service Expectations
Most public libraries are seeing lower levels of foot traffic than they did pre-pandemic. Part of that may be that people are less inclined to visit public spaces. It seems also, though, that service expectations have broadly shifted. Patrons simply expect virtual services in a way and to a degree they didn’t before. Luckily, many libraries have learned how to deliver virtual services in new ways—programs, reference interviews, and even library instruction, are all commonplace now in an online setting.
What training can you provide to help your staff shine in online services? Here are three suggestions:
- -How to do reference interviews in live chat
- -Basic eResource training. All your public-facing staff can become familiar with your e-resources to know what problems they solve, the basics of how to access them, and when to recommend them to patrons.
- -Basic online security. Staff should know about common risks with sharing information online and best practices for mitigating those risks.
More Staff Interactions with Patrons Who Have Trauma
Homelessness is at unprecedented levels across the country. Recession, restructuring, and other kinds of economic turmoil always hit hardest at the bottom of the economic ladder. Whether it’s from food insecurity, stress-induced family conflict, or health impacts, your staff will encounter people experiencing serious trauma.
What training can you provide to amplify the positive impact of your staff? Here are three suggestions:
- -Trauma-informed services for libraries. Help your staff learn to recognize the signs of trauma and become confident applying appropriate responses within their reach.
- -De-escalating tense situations. Teach staff skills for diffusing problems before they become crises.
- -Health, legal, and social services reference. Help public-facing staff become familiar with essential resources and feel confident helping patrons connect with local services and advice.
A Greater Need for Library Staff to Combat Disinformation
Nearly all information searches now begin online. That’s not a trend that will reverse itself. And lots of people think they know how to find information online. What they don’t know is how to identify what’s trustworthy and what’s a conspiracy theory or a fraud. To address this, librarians can help introduce people to the basics of information literacy. They can occupy a position of trust and friendship and help people discover these critical skills.
What training will help your staff teach information literacy? Here are three suggestions:
- -Fighting fake news. Help your staff learn how to explain common bad argument patterns like red herrings, ad hominem attacks, and straw man arguments.
- -Research essentials. Help staff learn how to explain the difference between reliable and unreliable sources for specific questions.
- -Building news literacy for tweens and teens. Teen brains have the abstract thinking capabilities required to process these concepts. It’s a great time to introduce them.
Your people are your most valuable resource. When they are well-trained, they can respond to challenges with resilience and imagination. They can rise to meet whatever reality comes their way. With sound training, they will make all the difference in your community.