E-readers, Libraries, and Training…Oh My!

After Christmas it hit like a storm. Questions from patrons about e-readers along with usage of NetLibrary and OverDrive soared. With the drop in price of Amazon Kindles and then competitors dropping their prices to match, e-readers went from being the tool of the tech-elite to a device that nearly anyone can afford.

According to Linda Raymond, materials management manager for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, new patron use of OverDrive is up 160% over last year, circulation of digital content increased by 399%, and holds on digital content increased 178%. Raymond says circulation would be even higher if we had more materials to meet the increased demand.

Evolution of Readers

Evolution of Readers by John Blyberg

With this surge in the use of e-readers and library lending of digital materials, questions from the public have increased as well. Nathan Cook, library service specialist II for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library works in the busy Telephone Reference department of the library. Cook says that for the first few days after Christmas nearly every other call was about e-readers–mostly from the elderly who received e-readers as gifts. Now the questions are down to five to six a day

Providing training on e-readers for staff at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library has been challenging due to the fact that we have no money in our current budget to purchase the devices needed to conduct training. Luckily staff from the North Carolina Master Trainer program have been trained in the use of e-readers and are prepared with an “E-Reader Petting Zoo” which will be coming to Charlotte in April.

How has Cook answered this blitz of questions with no training? Cook says, “I’ve answered questions with a combination of guesswork, luck and the printed instructions that are linked from our Media Downloads page. Between using what we already have available on our page, and the Internet to check out the websites and FAQs of the individual readers themselves (or their makers’ companies), I’d estimate I am actually successful in helping at least 75% or 80% of the questions I get about these services.”

I’m always pleased when I see staff like Cook who are resourceful and seek out the information needed to get the job done. Other staff at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library have taken field trips or training classes to Barnes and Noble to try out the Nook. These are the people we need helping us to research and prepare for training! As leaders in training it is our job to not only provide training for staff, like Cook, who field such questions about tech gadgets but to also anticipate “the next big thing” that will impact our staff.

Our theme at ALA Learning for February and March will be staff training on e-readers. Were you prepared for the e-reader craze? How are you preparing now? Do you have any materials you’d like to showcase here on ALA Learning? In addition to posts from our contributing authors, we want to hear from you! If you have a story to tell or training materials to share, please contact me at webmaster@alalearning.org. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

Learning at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library

Learning at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library has changed a great deal since I began working there 11 years ago when most training consisted of courses such as how to use Microsoft Office and how to search online resources and databases. In 2005 I moved from a busy regional branch library to the Human Resources department and created the Library’s Core Competencies program and then in 2006 I worked with Helene Blowers on our Learning 2.0/23 Things Program. Once those programs were complete we received less requests for computer training and more requests for soft skills training such as customer service and communication skills.

Why the change? I think our staff are more tech-savvy and willing to try new things and at the same time technology has evolved to become more intuitive for the end-users.

In 2009 we created a Learning Council comprised of about 10 staff members from all facets of the library. We have a person from technical services, IT, children’s services, adult services, and outreach on the team. There are also staff members from large branches as well as small. We’ve tried to have representation from all parts of the library. Once a year the Learning Council meets to discuss training for the next year. We discuss what’s working well, what’s not working well, what skills are staff lacking, what new products might staff need training in. I also meet with a random sampling of managers to ask the same questions.

Last year I took the time to go through the Library’s strategic plan and define competencies that support that plan. Then I focused training on supporting each of those competencies. You can take a look at the complete curriculum here. The courses for that program were conducted by subject matter experts within the library. We have a separate training curriculum for managers and supervisors that is administered by another member of our HR staff.

This year we face new challenges of reduced staff (from more than 600 to about 300) and reduced hours at all of our locations. The workload for our front line staff has not decreased though. If anything our libraries are busier than ever since the unemployment rate in the area hovers around 10%. This makes it difficult for staff to find time to leave their libraries to attend training.

We’ve been making plans to introduce online learning to our staff for the past two years. It took some time to get the infrastructure in place to do this (you need lots of bandwidth!). I knew what kind of solution we needed or at least what I dreamed of!

We use PeopleSoft for all of our HR functions such as payroll and training registration and record-keeping. I wanted a system where I could create content, then publish the content as courses for our staff to take at their convenience, then have the training records automatically updated in PeopleSoft when the training is complete. I knew this solution would be expensive so I posted this on my local ASTD email list to see what recommendations others might have. Dick Handshaw, president of Handshaw, Inc. contacted me to discuss my needs further, then donated hosting of the learning content management system Lumenix to the Library. You can read more about the LCMS in the April 2010 issue of Computers in Libraries. Look for the article When the Going Gets Tough, the Staff Needs More Training. Below you can see a preview of the course software and a demo course.

The hope is with self-paced learning modules, our staff can complete courses at their own pace and convenience. They will not have to sign up for a course months away and travel to a training site. Instead we can provide solutions for learning on demand. When you need the training it’s there and available to you.

Realizing that self-paced training takes a lot of up front time to develop we are also implementing WebEx for live, online or synchronous learning. WebEx will allow staff to attend training, remotely from any location with Internet access. There are a number of similar Web conferencing platforms available.

Because synchronous learning courses can be developed more quickly then self-paced courses, we’ll be able to get more courses out quickly to our staff. However keep in mind that synchronous learning is not the same thing as a webinar. Synchronous learning courses are limited to a small number of individuals and are highly interactive. If you want to become an expert online trainer look no further than InSync Training and their Synchronous Learning Expert certification.

Our plan is over time to have most of our training available online with supplemental face-to-face sessions offered with more hand-on activities. None of this would be possible without the great team of staff we have who provide content for me to put into the online courses. Training, learning, whatever you want to call it, is definitely a team effort. I work with an amazing staff who always find ways to share the information they’ve learned with other staff.

Vote for Our Teens in the CBS Hawaii Five-0 Video Contest

My corporate friends often ask why I continue to work in libraries with all the cuts we’ve endured over the past two years. I stay for many reasons, and one of the reasons is the staff are just so fun and creative. Christie Buchanan-Wellmon, the teen librarian at Independence Regional Library, put this video together for a contest entry in the CBS Hawaii Five-0 Video Contest. The winner receives a surfboard. While we don’t get waves big enough to surf in Charlotte, the board will be proudly displayed in the teen area. So please watch the video below then vote for Christie and her teens here: http://www.cbs.com/primetime/hawaii_five_0/upload/video_player.php?vid=10503&vs=Default&play=true&section=videos

Innovating During a Time of Change

Slides from my presentation this morning at Computers in Libraries. More thoughts later…

It Takes a Village to Save a Library

This post has been move to the Save Libraries.org Web site.


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