One of the best parts of my job is finding and scheduling great webinars. When people ask how I choose topics or develop new ideas, I answer honestly: “I try to offer content I wish I had when I was a practicing librarian.” How to answer government documents questions? Teach about disinformation? Audit a library collection? Deal with problem behavior? These are just a few topics I could have used more training on.
Library staff training is all over the map—literally. Some states don’t require any formal professional development to work in a public library. Others require continuing education (CE) or contact hours. I’ve worked in public and academic libraries in three states and, like many librarians, wore lots of hats. I needed training but didn’t always have the time or funds to attend workshops or conferences. And the training I did get didn’t always seem to apply to my work.
We know librarians need training. And we know training should support them in their work and help them impact patrons. But how can we get there?
Train All the Time
Constant change is a key feature of libraries—and communities. High-quality training is one way to prepare for change rather than react to it. Too often, though, training is done in all-day workshops or intensives once or twice a year. But if change is constant, training should be too. If you’re a staff member, try setting aside time to read library literature or news, take a webinar, or watch videos on topics that interest you. If you’re a manager, see if you can rethink how you offer training by incorporating professional development into everyday duties via tutorials or other bite-sized tools employees can access during downtime.
Make it Relevant
I’ll admit it: I’ve sat through training thinking, “Why am I here?” I didn’t always hate the time away from my desk, but I sometimes wondered what the point was. Training that doesn’t apply to people’s actual jobs wastes time, resources, and attention. Consider ditching one-size-fits-all models for tailored experiences that help staff make immediate changes in how they do their jobs. It takes a little extra time upfront, but asking, “does everyone need this training?” and “what are the skills we’re trying to develop?” will produce better results in the long run.
Build on Learning
People are more likely to remember what they learn when it’s tied to something they already know or do. Training should be designed so learners can demonstrate proficiency and then move past that to learn something new that enhances their skills or knowledge. Smart training lets people use their time efficiently so they’re not sitting through something that doesn’t increase their skills or capacities.
Have you ever been in training where it seemed like the facilitator just wanted to hear themselves talk? Shake things up by engaging learners. People want to practice new skills, whether working with a patron who is upset or learning to respond to microaggressions. Incorporating practice time into training keeps people interested. Plus, trying out new skills in a low-stakes situation helps staff apply what they learn more confidently in the library.
Library staff need a host of general and specialized competencies. Training can help meet those, but how do you know if people are absorbing and implementing what they learn? One of the benefits of online training, in particular, is the ability to track learner progress and measure success. The tutorials created by Niche Academy include quizzes and activities to ensure learners are truly building skills, competency, and knowledge that will impact their work. Instead of “completing the training” being the goal, you can focus on “increasing the learning!”
Library staff need more training than ever to meet community needs. Keeping it interesting and engaging will help boost staff morale and increase your impact in the library and beyond.