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.

Learning Round Table Programs, Events, Battledecks at ALA Annual

The Learning Round Table has something for everyone at the ALA Annual Conference this year. The following is a list of programs, meetings, and events.

Also note the icons next to each event. These icons have links that will download the program as an appointment to your calendar. If the icon does not work, try right clicking and saving the .ics file before opening it. We also have a flyer that you can print and bring with you (click the image below to download).

Friday, June 25

Beyond Face to Face: New Methods for Staff Training
8:30am-12pm
Renaissance Hotel Congressional Hall C

Limited time and busted budgets make it increasingly difficult for library staff to leave their buildings to attend training events. Maverick library trainer Jay Turner along with T is for Training host Maurice Coleman and instructional designer Mary Beth Faccioli will demonstrate how to engage learners with effective and innovative uses of e-learning. Walk away from this pre-conference knowing how to: Identify free and cost-effective resources for presenting e-learning; Apply best practices in instructional design to e-learning; Recognize technical constraints in publishing e-content. Tickets Onsite: $150. Event Code: LEA1.

Saturday, June 26

Open Board Meeting I
8am-12pm
WCC-159 A/B

Our Board meetings are open to anyone interested in the activities, mission and work of the Learning Round Table. We discuss both old and new business, review goals, strategize and plan for the future, plot out committee work and have fun, too. Join us for all or part of our two meetings. We’d love to meet you!

Building with Competencies
1:30-3:30pm
Grand Hyatt Constitution A

Once you’ve determined the competencies needed by your staff, what next? Competencies are building blocks—there are a variety of constructions to be built with them for guiding staff training, recruitment, and other personnel strategies. Join us as we explore strategies and case studies of competency based staff development efforts. Presented by Betha Gutsche and Sandra Smith.

Sunday, June 27

Library Trainers as Leaders
10:30 am-12pm
WCC-201

Library staff development programs are in a state of flux. It is no longer enough for administrators to tell staff what training to offer. Workplace learning and performance professionals need to be part of the strategic planning of the organization. This interactive session will include audience participation and sharing of best practices as to how library trainers can step up their leadership skills and get a place at the library strategic planning table. Facilitated by Paul Signorelli with panelists Maurice Coleman, Sandra Smith and Louise Whitaker.

Training Showcase: Best Practices in Training, Staff Development & Library Continuing Education
1:30-3:30pm
WCC-Ballroom

The training showcase is a poster session type of program celebrating innovative continuing education, staff development, and training initiatives in all types of libraries and library organizations. Participants present best practices from their organization or institution.

Membership Pavilion Learning Round Table Lightning Talk
3:30-3:45pm
Exhibit Hall

Monday, June 28

Open Board Meeting II
10:30 am-12pm
WCC-156

Our Board meetings are open to anyone interested in the activities, mission and work of the Learning Round Table. We discuss both old and new business, review goals, strategize and plan for the future, plot out committee work and have fun, too. Join us for all or part of our two meetings. We’d love to meet you!

Staff Development Discussion
1:30-3:30pm
WCC-143A

This discussion is a great energizer for those new to staff development as well as for those who’ve been doing it for years. Come early and stay for the raffle at the end of the program.

Battledecks: The ALA Rumble Royale
5:30-7pm
WCC-103A

Battledecks represent the ultimate challenge for public speakers as they are challenged to give a coherent presentation based on hand-selected, seemingly unrelated slides that they see for the very first time live on stage. This competition, often referred to as “PowerPoint Karaoke,” will see our brave and willing participants compete for the glory of being crowned ALA’s reigning Battledecks champion. The participants will face judgment from a panel of four judges, with the winner to be determined based on a variety of criteria and general overall awesomeness. Hilarity, along with some learning, is guaranteed for all!

Defenders of a title:
Michael Porter(Battledecks champion from Internet Librarian 2009)
Andromeda Yelton (Battledecks co-champion from ALA MW 2010)
JP Procaro (Battledecks Champ from Pres4Lib)
Bobbi Newman (Battledecks co-champion from ALA MW 2010)

Contenders for the title:
Jason Griffey
Buffy Hamilton
Lisa Carlucci Thomas
John Chrastka
George Needham

Judges:
Peter Bromberg
Julie Strange
Maurice Coleman
David Lee King
Jenny Levine

Emcee: Janie Hermann
Timekeeper/Vanna White: Patrick Sweeney
Slidemakers: Alice Yucht, Patrick Sweeney, Janie Hermann, Jaime Corris Hammond, Andy Woodworth and anyone else who volunteers.

Event and Prizes sponsored by American Libraries and The Learning Round Table.