10 Tips for Training in Tough Times

Libraries across the country are being impacted by the economy. Staff are being laid off. Doors are being locked as libraries close or reduce hours. As we face this new reality, how does this impact our roles as trainers/teachers/learners? What can we do to not only support our organizations but secure training’s place within our organizations? Here are ten ideas for you to consider.

  1. Alignment. Align training with strategic priorities. If ever there was a time to tighten the training belt it is now. Do you know what your library’s strategic priorities are? If not, ask. Make sure that all of your training supports those outcomes and priorities for your library.
  2. Attitude. Set a good example. Employees often look at trainers as role models for the organization. Doom and gloom do not do anyone a bit of good. Lead by example. Look for the silver lining that exists and embrace this time as an opportunity for growth and change. Be flexible and willing to do things that may fall outside of your normal realm.
  3. Network and Collaboration. Look for ways to collaborate with other trainers. There are trainers across the country who are ready and willing to share and trade training materials. If you need a handout on the fly try posting to an email list. Or you might decide to create a more formal training exchange with a sister library.
  4. Webinars. ALA Learning will soon be announcing a new resource for sharing training and learning opportunities. Many of these events are free. Better yet many are online and require no travel. Publicize these events to your staff.
  5. Outcomes. Think in terms of outcomes rather than trainings. What outcome or result are you looking for? What problem are you trying to address? Once you’ve determined your outcome then you can determine if training is the best way to reach that outcome (in many cases it’s not). Don’t invest time and resources in training that’s not needed.
  6. Free. Look for free authoring tools. Do a search for “free elearning tools” and you will find lots of great articles. Like this one and this one from our own Jay Turner. With her budget cut to nearly 70% Sue-Minton Colvin, training and development coordinator for Lexington Public Library turned to e-learning. Not already having an established platform, Colvin created an entire training intranet using Shutterfly. Yes, you read that right, Shutterfly. I never even realized you could create a Web site using Shutterfly! Talk about using your resources!
  7. Social Learning. On her Web site Ageless Learner, Marcia Conner says that, “Informal learning accounts for more than 75% of learning that takes place in organizations today.” Embrace the power of Web 2.0 tools such as blogs, wikis, Facebook, and Twitter to facilitate informal learning. Host a discussion. Host a chat. The sky is the limit and we are only on the verge of utilizing these tools fully in learning and staff development.
  8. Visibility. Be visible in your organization. When you work primarily behind the scenes, it’s easy to stay holed up in your office. Get out and talk to staff. Find out what’s going on. Let them know what’s going on with training. Listen with empathy and remember tip #2.
  9. Better With Less. Instead of focusing on how we are doing more with less, focus on the opportunity to do better with less. As I said in tip #1, this blip in the radar gives us a chance to focus on the basics, rethink our training strategies, and truly show an impact on the organizations we serve. Staff training in the library is very different from public training. We are here primarily to improve the performance of staff within libraries so that they can better serve our customers.
  10. Don’t stop. No matter how tight the budget is, it’s a huge mistake for any organization to stop training completely. As the economy ebbs and flows it is crucial that libraries and our staff learn to go with that flow. Only through continuous learning can we keep our workforce’s skills up to date and prepare our employees for the changes that will no doubt take place in organizations.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas about training in tough times. Please comment on this post to continue the discussion!

Lori Reed, managing editor of ALA Learning, is the learning & development coordinator (and mayor 🙂 ) for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. She also blogs at http://lorireed.com.

About Lori Reed

Lori Reed, coauthor of Workplace Learning & Leadership: A Handbook for Library and Non-Profit Trainers, is a learning and communication strategist with more than twenty years experience in learning and development. A 2009 Library Journal Mover & Shaker and a 2010 “One to Watch” for paralibrarians, Lori graduated cum laude from East Carolina University with a Bachelor of Science in Communication. Lori is a certified Synchronous Learning Expert and a North Carolina Master Trainer and has traveled across North America speaking about libraries and training.


  1. Time away from public service desks can be a gigantic barrier to training in your system. Think about taking your training to the trainees. If your service area is large enough, you can host regional or branch specific sessions to cut down on travel costs and time away from public service areas.

    In addition, you can also network yourself silly by participating with other trainers and learning professionals on the LearnRT sponsored podcast T is for Training.

    I hear it is a great resource for trainers and the host is handsome, witty and charming. (Of course I would say that, since I know him so well.)

    Really take Lori’s suggestions to heart and add them to your training bag o’ tricks. This will help you establish/keep training as an important player in your library system.

    • Great thoughts Maurice. Thanks for sharing. When we begin using WebEx this fall I plan to have virtual drop in hours for staff to help meet their needs without me having to travel so much!

      I should have added tisfortraining as #11 🙂

  2. I especially love the idea of doing a training program exchange with regional libraries. In GA, the Georgia Public Library Service provides training statewide, but is also a tremendous resource for naming quality trainers throughout the state. We’re scheduling a program exchange now with an award-winning library. Later in the year we will do a program for them. I love the spirit of cooperation!

    • Georgia is wonderful and so lucky to have Pat Carterette as she is also wonderful! Training exchanges are so important for libraries right now. I am working with two libraries to exchange elearning content so we can all offer more training. Thanks for sharing Robin!

  3. What a timely post for me. Thanks so much Lori. I’m undertaking a system wide assessment for training and these tips will really help!

  4. You’ve created the seeds for a wonderful train-the-trainer program through this post. Each of the 10 items could serve as the topic of an entire module in that sort of program, and the resources–including your link to Jay’s article and to Ageless Learner–give us a lot to absorb. Guess I know how I’lll be spending my “free time” over the next week or two–exploring the additional leads you’ve provided here. Thanks for yet another great addition to ALA Learning’s growing list of just-in-time lessons on line for those of us who learn from what our colleagues take the time to share here.


  1. […] 10 Tips for Training in Tough Times – Lori Reed’s recent post on ALALearning. Libraries across the country are being impacted by the economy. Staff are being laid off. Doors are being locked as libraries close or reduce hours. As we face this new reality, how does this impact our roles as trainers/teachers/learners? What can we do to not only support our organizations but secure training’s place within our organizations? Here are ten ideas for you to consider. […]

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