Each of us is a Trainer

Training the public, staff, and volunteer on technology.

Brenda Hough of the Northeast Kansas Library System was here at MPOW talking about training. Brenda also facilitates an online series with WebJunction called “InFocus,” which features monthly one-hour presentations on topics of interest to people working in rural libraries. Her previous professional experience includes working as a trainer and staff development coordinator in the US Library Program of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and as a reference librarian for Lake Agassiz Regional Library in Detroit Lakes, MN. Brenda is currently in the doctoral program at Emporia State University´s School of Library Information Management, and her dissertation topic is Wikipedia usage. In her spare time she enjoys biking, reading, kayaking, and travel.

Brenda introduced the session by talking about the wiki she designed for the workshop.  She explained that a wiki is a website that is set up to allow multiple people to contribute the the site.  The Rochester Public Library has a wiki as an intranet for staff.

Brenda advocates for PBWiki as an easy interface to create a wiki.   The hard thing is determining the content and then encouraging people to use it.  Libraries have tended to use the wiki for staff.  Many are using them as their file sharing site
instead of a separate server.

The St. Paul Public Library has a collection on the history of St. Paul.  An attendee from St. Paul is promoting the idea of a wiki for St. Paul, so anyone can contribute to the history of St. Paul.

Discussion of the possibility of vandalism on the wiki, with anonymous people wreaking havoc.  Comment from one attendee that he had written on desks as a kid – and that we will always deal with these kinds of messes to clean up.  At this point, it tends to be technological cleanup.

Set up technology training wiki for public training?  Tutorials on how to use a mouse, etc.

Why do you want to provide technology training?  Seniors who don’t have basic computer skills. Patron wants to use the computer but isn’t computer savvy – the time it takes to train a patron individually can be a problem so classes would be more efficient.  Staff have a hard time moving out of basic skills – would like to train staff to do better searching and expand their skills and use other tools.

Need for proper searching techniques.  Question about whether Wikipedia is considered a “reliable source.”  Need to teach patrons to be good information consumers, and teach how to evaluate a website.  Need to teach computer safety, so that patrons can protect themselves from internet predators.  Teach the use of computer language to use – toolbar, etc.  Searches are all about langualge, too – need to teach the proper language to do an effective search.  Clubs and groups have online sites.  Job applications are online, as well as government information and applications.

Need to resist the temptation to take over the mouse and “drive.”  Need to let the patron do the work, so they will learn. Provide opportunities for them to have some success.  Use consistent language throughout.  Use techie terms if appropriate.  Start  small.

Online databases are underutilized, and so this is a training area.  Target the classes to specific patron interests, like genealogy.

Libraries tend to try to be everything to all people.  We’re more effective if we target audiences.  Example – Wyoming State Library’s mudflap girl, which was sent out to all auto repair shops to advertise the availability to auto repair databases through the libraries.

A good trainer isn’t the sage on the stage, but the guide on the side.  Provide the opportunity for people to interact with the technology, and be there to assist.  Many libraries will have an open lab, instead of a formal class, which allows people to address specific issues or questions that they might have.

Just In Time training very important, and tends to be the way most patrons learn about technology and databases and the ways to use the internet.  Discussion of “teachable moments” where we miss the opportunity to teach patrons because we’re standoffish, or impatient, or incredulous.  This training tends to be the most popular kind of training in libraries.  Give instructions slowly, allowing the user time to orient themselves to the screen.  Ask questions and watch for clues to help assess the user’s level of computer knowledge and lever of interest in learning and alter your approach accordingly.  Take advantage of teachable moments!

People see libraries as a place to go to, not a place online.  Barrier – need the library card number to access the databases.  Some systems are using GPS for authentication of databases, rather than needing a library card number.

Essential qualities of a trainer – the most technological person on the staff is not necessarily the best trainer.   Should be patient and a good listener, with empathy for the students.

More after the break!


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Filed under Customer Service, Libraries and Librarianship, Techie stuff

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