What can libraries do to instill a lifetime of learning and relearning?

Thomas L. Friedman, author of The World is Flat, had a fantastic op-ed in the New York Times this week that says we need more than intelligence to survive in the 21st century and its economy. In the old days,” Friedman said, “it was assumed that your educational foundation would last your whole lifetime. That is no longer true.” Friedmans goes on to create some new acronyms declaring that we need “P.Q. (passion quotient) and C.Q. (curiosity quotient).”

I can’t help but think the roles libraries play in these arenas. We’re all about passion, curiosity, and learning. We show it in the storytime we stay up all night preparing for. We show it in the conference presentation we spend weeks preparing for. We show it in the privacy rights we fight for. While these skills come natural some, how do we help instill these skills in our patrons? Our patrons who might be unemployed? Our patrons struggling to find new careers? Our patrons going back to school for the first time in twenty years?

Likewise, how do we help instill passion and curiosity in coworkers who might be hesitant to learn new technologies or new service models?

Friedmans writes in closing that P.Q. and C.Q. are essential to:

…leverage all the newdigital tools to not just find a job, but to invent one or reinvent one, and to not just learn but to relearn for a lifetime.

When you think about the pace of change in our world you can see that Friedman is spot on. We can’t go to school for x number of years and say, “That’s it, I’m done.”

Darwin Quote

The world we live in requires constant learning and as libraries we are poised to become the center of lifelong learning in the community. Many of us have already discovered that learning = play + passion. Is it time to pass this message on to our communities? What can we do to teach the people in our communities not only the skills they need to find a job but the skills they need to develop a passion for lifelong learning…to play…to learn? There is no such thing as the 20 or 30 year job anymore–not even in libraries. We must all be prepared to prepare and adapt to the exponential change that technology and global communication brings.

If you want to see more, take a look at my slide deck on 21st century learning.

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.

Good News for Charlotte

From the Charlotte Observer

Wachovia snubs Citigroup deal, agrees to merger with Wells Fargo

Upending a deal that would have sold part of the company to Citigroup Inc., Wachovia Corp. today said its board last night approved an offer by Wells Fargo & Co. to buy all of the Charlotte-based bank in a stock deal equal to $7 per share.

Wells said the combined company will have a strong presence in Charlotte, which will be the headquarters for the combined company’s East Coast retail and commercial and corporate banking business.

This is great news for Charlotte after the pitiful offer from Citigroup of $1 per share.

Good news for the economy. Good news for the city. Great news for my friends!