When the Going Gets Tough, the Staff Needs More Training

Be sure to check out the April 2010 issue of Computers in Libraries Magazine.

I wrote a feature about the new Learning Content Management System launching this month at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. The article tells the story from start to finish of my search for a solution to manage learning when we were faced with not only having less staff but also staff who are busier than ever as our usage soars.

I also want to thank Dick Handshaw and his team at Handshaw, Inc., who donated hosting and support for Luminex Suite for the Library. They have donated resources and precious time to get Lumenix not only up and running but fully integrated with our HR system, PeopleSoft. We need more people and businesses to step forward and help libraries the way Handshaw and his team have!

IL2009: Sneaking the Social Web Into Your Library & Going Beyond 23 Things

I presented this session Monday afternoon with Bobbi Newman and Erin Downey-Howerton. My portion of the session, 23 Things & Beyond, reviewed Learning 2.0 and 23 Things. There were people in the audience who still had not heard of this great program. I introduced the key principles of 23 Things programs connection, collaboration, play, and prizes. Then I presented some ideas for what to do after a 23 Things program.

The challenge here is how to continue the momentum when the prizes are given out and the official program is over. When does learning become its own reward for staff? I shared the Learning 2.1 site which is where PLCMC continued its Web 2.0 learning.  I also shared Learn Chat a twitter based discussion group for trainers that takes place on Twitter on Thursday nights.

One of the keys to engaging learners online is to reach out to them in their native environments. Many of our staff are already on Facebook so that has become a natural place for me to reach them. I’ve begun posting status updates during the day to let staff know where I am and how they can reach me. A few staff contact me regularly through Facebook chat to ask questions about training and registration. I foresee some research in my future about demonstrating the value of allowing staff to use social networking sites while at work.

I ended the presentation with the steps to creating a marketing/learning/really any plan.

  1. Identify a need.
  2. Research.
  3. Identify the audience.
  4. Identify objectives. Output or outcome?
  5. Craft your message.
  6. Find the right platform/tools.
  7. Develop a plan.
  8. Evaluate. How will you know what worked?

Notice that you don’t even consider whether to use Facebook, Twitter, or blogs until step 6. It’s crucial to first identify a need, your audience, and objectives before thinking about how to get your message out. That’s not to say that you can’t play. Play is essential for learning! But when you are creating a strategic, long-term plan it’s important to lay the groundwork for success.

IL2009: E-Learning Trends & Tools

This session began with Frank Cervone talking about the trends in e-learning and I followed with a brief bit about tools for e-learning. The take away for my piece was that it really doesn’t matter what tools you use for learning–it’s how you use them. I really wanted to challenge people to think about e-learning and how they can help to make it more interactive for learners.

There were some really good questions from the audience. I’m posting two of them here for discussion. Please add a comment if you have ideas about either of these questions.

  1. A librarian working with high school students who are taking dual enrollment online courses via Blackboard asked how she can communicate more effectively with the students. She said she gets hundreds of questions via email each week from the students and does not have time to answer them individually. The high school students do not seem to like Blackboard but that is what she has to use. Ideas to help her?
  2. Another question came from an academic librarian about how to verify that a person taking or “attending” an online class is really that person and how can we be sure that the person is not paying someone or having a friend take the class for him or her. Frank gave a really good answer to this but I want to see what your thoughts are on this.

If you want to learn more about designing better self-paced e-learning check out this book: Michael Allen’s Guide to E-Learning

Link to my e-learning bookmarks: http://delicious.com/lorireed/e-learning

DON’T Imagine Them Naked! My Pres4Lib Virtual Presentation

I had a lot of fun putting this together. This was supposed to be my Plan B in case the live feed from my office did not work. But after putting it all together last night this morning, I decided it really would work better as a video rather than live session.


In the spirit of learning here are a few details about how I did this. I always seem to wait until the last minute with presentations. I came up with the title Wednesday night and began working on the PowerPoint Thursday around 5pm. First I did a title and notes for each slide so I would know what the framework would be. Then I used Flickr to find supporting Creative Commons images. It took hours to find the right photos. In all it took about 3 hours to create the PowerPoint.

Sometime during all this I came up with the idea for the opening scene. I tried recording the opening scene with a webcam but the quality was bad…even with a good webcam. My husband, who happens to be a brilliant video editor, asked me why didn’t I use our digital camera. After kicking myself in the head for not thinking of that I set off to find a flashlight and hat. It took about 10 takes to get the flashlight and handheld camera effects right.

After recording the opening scene I used Camtasia to narrate the PowerPoint. This took forever but I consider some of the takes as rehearsal! Next time I will record one slide at a time or a few slides at a time.

Once the PowerPoint narration was done I imported the video from my camera, added a title slide, transitions, and some spooky music. Anyone recognize the tune?

Then I produced the Camtasia project to default Internet settings and uploaded to YouTube. In all it took about 9 hours which comes to about 90 minutes of development per minute of presentation. I would say the norm is about 60 minutes of time per minute of e-learning material.

What does all this mean? When you compare development time of e-learning to face-to-face learning there is a much higher front end investment for e-learning. But once the development is done, you are done. The content is there for your learners to access at any time and you can move on to other projects. However when someone tells you to “whip together a quick tutorial” keep in mind that there is nothing quick about it!

You can read more about e-learning development time on the following sites:



p.s. Just for the record. The words of wisdom did not actually come from “Pete” or anyone else in recent years. I think it actually came to me from an episode of the Brady Bunch.

Thank You and Lessons Learned: Cultivating a Culture of Learning in Libraries

Wow thank you to everyone who attended the webinar today on learning at WebJunction. Emily is working on uploading the archive which will include video and audio as well as a copy of the PowerPoint slides. I’m working on writing a post for BlogJunction summarizing some of the ideas and answering all of the questions that were asked. Feel free to email me if you have more questions.

In the spirit of learning I have to share with you what it was like today from behind the scenes.

First, it takes a lot of time to prepare for a webinar. Luckily I knew that in advance from reading Michele Martin’s post about her first webinar. In a face to face session you can wing it and adjust your content based on audience reaction. Online it’s a little different.

Second, you have to rehearse. I rarely rehearse for face to face training, but because online learning is so different it is essential to rehearse and ensure that your presentation is in synch with the technology.

Third, as Douglas Adam’s says, “Don’t Panic!” It does not matter how many times you rehearse, how well you know the material, or how fast your Internet access is. Stuff happens.

I delivered today’s webinar from home where I thought I would have faster Internet access and less distractions. I had two computers set up, one as a presenter, one as a participant so I could see both sides of the presentation. I dialed in on a land-line rather than rely on VoIP. I wore a headset so I could talk and walk around to keep my energy up. I was prepared!

But stuff happens anyway. Within the first minute my headset speaker fell off the headset. Then about 5 or 10 minutes into the webinar I asked everyone to answer a question in chat, “In one word what is the difference between training and learning?” I waited patiently for responses. None. I asked the question again. Empty chat box. I panicked and thought, “Wow no one is interested in this topic.” Little did I know that the answers were flying by on the screen.

From that point on I was pretty much flying blind. Thank goodness for Emily and her skills as a producer. I think she knew before I even said anything that something was wrong on my end technically. For some reason both my computers lost their connection to the WebJunction classroom. Rather than make a fuss about it, I just relied on the printed out copy of the slides. (Thank goodness I’m not 100% green yet.)

During all of this my cat decided to make an offering to me by puking a hairball at my feet. I’m surprised no one heard him. 🙂

Then the call got dropped. I didn’t even know that happened on land lines. Maybe it was the cat and he really wanted to tell me something. Like I said though, stuff happens.

It’s funny now looking back at it all. Think about it. How many things do we try to control or force? Some things are beyond your control.

Lesson Learned: You have to be flexible and able to adapt. You never know when the unexpected is going to happen and when it does you have two choices, panic or roll with it. Sometimes it’s probably a little of both. The key is knowing when to sweat (ideally do it before you have an audience) and never letting them see you sweat (which I hope I succeeded in doing today).

Again thank you to everyone who came today to hear my ideas about learning and libraries. Stay tuned to BlogJunction for some follow up discussions later this week.