How the Library of Michigan Created and Deployed a Statewide Professional Development Program Start to Finish in Just 3 Weeks

 

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increasing e-Resource circulations?

Suffolk Public Library went from disappointing eResource circulation numbers to a 70% increase in just 1 year.

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increasing program participation?

Barrie Public Library more than doubled program participation numbers in just 1 year.

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Who is this for?

If you are responsible for new employee onboarding, professional development, or continuing education in a library setting, but feel overwhelmed by the need to find or create and then deliver effective training, this is for you.

The Core Concept

It’s possible to deliver comprehensive staff training without major administrative overhead, but many libraries can’t do that yet because they don’t use online training effectively.

Traditional training methods rely on live (usually in-person) training delivery and limit themselves to in-house expertise. The time required for in-house experts to create and deliver training (in addition to their regular duties) severely limits what training is available and how many people get trained.

More effective always available online training is the key to increasing the kinds of training available, the impact of that training, and the number of people getting trained.

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Our Story

Niche Academy Founder & CEO, Jeromy Wilson, didn’t choose the library life. It chose him. Jeromy was only 4 years old when his father, Jim Wilson, helped found Dynix, a software company responsible for the integrated library system that replaced the need for physical card catalogs. Growing up, he tagged along to countless library conferences and events, before eventually taking a job at Dynix after graduating. But after a few years, as the world was going digital, Jeromy saw a growing need for more efficient staff & patron training and there weren’t any good options available.

Jared Jim Jeromy Niche-1-1Jared, Jim, & Jeromy at PLA 2018

So in 2013, Jeromy set out to find a solution, and that’s where the idea for Niche Academy was born. He started out on his own, adding to the platform in his free time and taking advantage of the industry contacts he’d already made, but he soon realized that he wasn’t going to be able to do it alone. That’s when he decided to recruit the help of former Dynix co-worker Jared Oates. Together, they were able to get Niche Academy off the ground and it wasn’t long before they found a whole team of people who believed in their idea. 

Seven years later, we are now a team of 22 (and counting!), and are trusted by over 800 library systems (including state libraries, local libraries, and consortia) all across the world. 

After getting our start with just a few short library tutorials, we’re now helping to build the future of online resources and e-learning

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A Better Way

Old Approach

Training is live, either online or in-person.

New Approach

Training is always available online.

Old Result

Requires schedule coordination and time away from other duties. Everyone has to move at the same pace, too slow for some, too fast for others. Options for measuring learning are limited.

New Result

Learners can fit training into downtime on their own schedule. Learners move at their own pace, reviewing or moving faster according to their own needs. Online learning can include quizzes, response prompts, and activities to measure learning outcomes.

Always available online training is more efficient for learners than live training and makes it easier for administrators to measure the impact of the training.


Old Approach

Training relies on in-house expertise.

 

New Approach

Training draws from the skillsets of a global body of experts.

Old Result

Training is limited to the skills of current staff and their availability to create and deliver instruction.

New Result

Training can be top quality in terms of the expertise it reflects and the effectiveness of the instructional design. Because more training is available, it can be matched to the unique needs and interests of individual learners.

Tapping into a global pool of training material increases learner engagement by increasing the availability of high quality and individually relevant training.


Old Approach

The ability to track training is ad hoc and based on multiple systems.

New Approach

Training assignment and tracking is managed in a single unified system.

Old Result

Tracking what training has been assigned and what has been completed involves significant administrative overhead (approving specific trainings, collecting and recording certificates, creating and editing spreadsheets, coordinating inputs from multiple managers…)

New Result

Specific training assignments can be made based on staff roles as well as individual needs. Learner reports are automatically updated as learners make progress.

An effective learning management system makes it much easier to invite learners and track their learning progress over time.

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To Dramatically Enhance Staff Skills

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Options

Option 1: In-House Creation of Staff Training System

 

Requires a full-time internal training manager who can: 

  • curate online training from available resources (examples include Web Junction, Infopeople, DigitalLearn.org, or recorded webinars)
  • populate and manage this training within a learning management system
  • create additional training within LMS as needed
  • adapt training to local needs and manage learner enrollment

Result: The actual impact of the effort will depend on the quality and professionalism of the product and how quickly training can be created to match the needs of all library staff.

Cost of a dedicated internal training manager: 

  • Salary: $42K-$84K/yr (based on Glassdoor salary estimates)
  • LMS subscription costs vary, but $3K is a typical annual price.

Timeframe: Most internal training managers spend many months identifying staff needs, finding appropriate training resources, and creating the needed assets within the LMS before being able to launch and actually manage a comprehensive staff training program.

Option 2: 

 

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Niche Academy is a robust learning management system that includes a training marketplace with 1000+ tutorials focused on every aspect of library professional development.

Result: Libraries that use Niche Academy to train their staff see dramatic improvements in customer service and staff efficiency.

Price: Based on service population. Starting as low as $500/yr.

Timeframe: The initial creation of an online staff training academy is included with each subscription. It is typically running and ready to use within less than an hour of library staff time.

Niche Academy is for any library manager responsible for new employee onboarding, professional development, or continuing education who has struggled to find or create and then deliver effective training.

Case Studies

Scottsdale Public Library

Began working with Niche Academy in May 2017

Before Niche...

eResource support was "piecemeal, chaotic almost, and it relied on personal interest of staff. The ones who were interested in the digital world would handle the digital issues.”

Scottsdale was looking for videos and tools to provide patron instruction and looked at creating them in-house. The difficulty was keeping the tutorials up-to-date as the eResources changed and were updated over time. Also, their strategic plan emphasized staff training. The goal was to have all frontline staff familiar enough with the library's resources to navigate and find things and know at least a beginning of how to set things up, particularly on mobile devices. Niche Academy provided both patron instruction and staff training.

 

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With Niche Academy...

Now Scottsdale has everyone handling the digital issues, and Niche has taken staff training to the next level. It allows it to be personal, self-paced, and interactive. Whenever a new service is added, the tutorials can be immediately deployed to the website from Niche Academy's large catalog of ready-to-use tutorials, and it allows for control of the widgets without a single edit to the website.

"Niche Academy was really easy to install. I mean, we've had zero problems technology wise. So, that side has been a relief. We don't have control over our website, so getting things embedded into our website is a big deal.

We use Niche when we add a new resource. We just added Acorn TV and... we've seen a huge use in Acorn TV for patrons, and that's been very helpful in not having it hit me quite so hard. So, it's like we're a team, Niche Academy and me with the patrons, a team up."

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With Niche Academy...

Now, the Library of Michigan has completely transformed their professional development practices and offers hundreds of available courses to their staff through Niche Academy. They can also track which tutorials are being used the most, so they can better supply their staff with the types of courses they want and need. Courses can be created at the point of need and easily supported by other training materials.

Training canceled due to Covid has been replaced by online Niche Academy courses, and library staff all over the state of Michigan now have access to tutorials on various subjects through the Library of Michigan's online academy. Post Covid, the Library of Michigan will use Niche Academy to make in-person training more effective. The training staff can focus on needs that were previously unmet, such as showing libraries how to integrate e-resources into their programming.

The Library of Michigan was able to deliver a comprehensive professional development program after just 3 weeks of development. These courses covered relevant issues such as Covid, diversity, inclusivity, and de-escalation. These tutorials proved to be very helpful to staff, and many were used for continuing education purposes when libraries were shut down due to local lockdown orders. Since then, their academy has continued to grow.

Library of Michigan

Began working with Niche Academy in mid-2019

Before Niche...

Most professional development was done in person by consultants who would go on-site when the time and resources could be dedicated to it, and they were limited in the kind of training they were able to provide. During Covid, this was no longer possible, and staff were in search of ways to learn and continue working online.

The Library of Michigan had previously tried used third-party resources for supplemental education, but had not had much success in its usage and implementation.

LibofMichigan

“Niche has been super useful to me in my job. It makes my job easier... You've got a thousand classes in the marketplace, so I can quick do up a class and then support it with a whole bunch of other material. It is not so time consuming that I can't just do it at the point of need.”

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Niche Academy Helps You

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Dramatically improve staff performance without major new administrative overhead

 

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Reduce the scheduling headaches associated with live training sessions

 

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Avoid the cost of creating training that other experts have already made

 

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Make staff feel more confident in all aspects of their work and expand their individual power to make a difference

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How It Works

Learning Management System

By implementing Niche Academy in place of other learning management systems, you will save up to $3000/yr. Create, edit, and upload tutorials and pathways quickly & easily, right from the platform.

Global Pool of Experts

Creating and maintaining a collection of professional development programs and videos can cost up to $50,000 a year. With Niche Academy, you'll have access to a large selection of instructional videos from experts all over the world. You'll also have access to tutorials created by other libraries and library experts.

 

Always Available Online Training

Save time and maximize efficiency by allowing staff to complete training on their own time. The Niche Academy platforms allows you to set training requirements and track progress in real time.

 

 

 

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Niche Academy Value

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Niche Academy did not increase prices in 2020 due to COVID, but we expect a price increase for new customers in 2021.

Our Policy: No price increase upon renewal. 

If you subscribe before the new year, you’ll be locked in and will not see a price increase.

 


 

COVID has created a focus on eResources. This is an opportunity.

Our Guarantee: If you implement Niche Academy widgets in your website and train your public facing staff,

we guarantee an increase in your eResources usage or we will credit you a full year for free.

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Questions?

Q: Are we limited to a certain number of training and support hours?

A: No. A Niche Academy subscription includes unlimited professional support. See the answer above on what’s included in the price.


Q: What’s the process for reaching Niche Academy support?

A: Niche Academy support specialists can be reached by phone, by email, or through questions submitted within the platform itself. In addition to the live support, Niche Academy provides a searchable knowledge base and a collection of self-paced help tutorials covering basic administrative tasks and the process for tutorial creation.


Q: What maintenance and support is included with a Niche Academy subscription?

A: Niche Academy provides live technical support during business hours. There is no additional charge levied for Niche Academy support and there are no support tiers. Small customers get the same thoughtful attention as everyone else.  

All aspects of initial onboarding are included in the Niche Academy support offering including:

  • The creation of customer academies and initial population of appropriate tutorials from the Niche Academy marketplace.
  • Basic configuration of tutorials within each customer academy including invitation of learners, the addition of custom links, and showing or hiding available tutorial elements appropriately for the intended audience.
  • The creation of website widgets and their integration into a customer’s website. When a customer doesn’t have administrative access to their website, we work directly with the third party who does to ensure efficient communication. In many cases, our customers provide temporary administrative access to Niche Academy support staff in order to maximize the efficiency of widget implementation.
  • Live training calls with all customer staff that need to learn how to use Niche Academy.


Q: How long does it take for Niche Academy to update tutorials when resources change?

A: Depending on the scope of the change, Niche Academy can turn around an update within a few days to a few weeks. Because we actively watch for new and upcoming changes, we’re often able to make the updates before most of our customers are even aware of the change. In some notable cases, we’ve made updates even before the vendor sales staff knew the changes were coming.


Q: Are accessibility features available?

A: Yes. Niche Academy is compliant with the WCAG 2.1 standard at the AA level. This is something we work hard to maintain as we continuously update the platform. If you spot anything that’s slipped through our testing, please let us know. A thorough enumeration of our compliance level is available in the Niche Academy Accessibility Conformance Report.

Q: What if I can’t afford this?

A: Each library needs to determine for itself the value of increasing circulation numbers and program participation rates relative to other priorities for limited library funds. We do make an effort to keep the cost of Niche Academy very low relative to the value we provide. Over the last 6 years, we have increased pricing for new customers commensurate with the increasing value of the service we provide. It is our policy, however, not to raise prices for our existing customers. Libraries are renewed at their original subscription price. Libraries who subscribe at our current pricing will pay less than libraries who start later on. This policy is one factor contributing to a renewal rate of over 95%.


Q: Will this work for a library like mine?

A: We serve libraries of every known shape, size, location, and budget. We serve small libraries with just a few staff as well as the largest systems with many hundreds of employees. We serve libraries that are almost entirely staffed by part timers and volunteers as well as libraries with highly specialized professionals. We serve libraries located on inner city streets as well as on rural routes. We serve libraries with thriving and secure budgets as well as those facing serious cuts. We have built the platform to add value for libraries that can create unique and extensive in-house training, but also get results as a plug-in solution that can work with near zero administrative overhead.


Q: If my state library subscribes to Niche Academy, why does my local library need it?

A: If your state library’s subscription includes a subscription for each local library, you won’t need a separate subscription. If your state library’s subscription does not include a subscription for each local library, you’ll be able to access training that the state library provides, but you won’t have the ability to do any of following:

  • Add widgets to your own website.
  • Create your own local academies.
  • Assign and track training at the local level.
  • Create your own tutorials.

The most significant gains in program participation and eResource usage come when widgets are available within your local library’s website and patrons are connecting to programs created by local librarians.

 

 

 

More questions? Check out our FAQ page.

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