Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Communities of Practice

One of the topics we're exploring at work this year is "Communities of Practice". My co-worker has been doing a lot of research and reading in the area and I'll be excited to think about this more and to put some ideas into play.

I have specifically been thinking about Communities of Practice as they relate to training. Found an interesting article in Training Magazine: "Communities of Practice: Learning is social. Training is irrelevant".

Reading this article is a bit hard for someone who has devoted a great deal of time and energy to the preparation of training materials and the delivery of training classes. I don't think that I'm ready to just give up on training. I think there are ways, however, that we could incorporate more of the communities of practice elements into training sessions.

I find that if I'm doing an all-day workshop and provide time for participant discussion and participant brainstorming, that time is often the portion of the day that people find really useful and engaging.

What are other ways to incorporate elements of a community of practice into training?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

CLENE Training Showcase 2006

The Continuing Library Education and Network Exchange Round Table invites you to attend the 2006 Training Showcase at the ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans. This poster session celebrates innovative initiatives and programs in continuing education, staff development, and training provided by libraries around the world. Take advantage of this unique opportunity to network and exchange ideas with librarians, staff, and professionals in the field about their experiences and successful programs.

Date: Sunday, June 25
Time: 1:30 - 3:30 pm

Click here for proposal submission form. Application deadline is February 5th.

Strut your stuff! See others strut their stuff.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


If you have attended one of my train-the-trainer workshops in the recent past, then you have probably heard me mention The Reading Public Library’s “Geek Out, Don’t Freak Out” classes for patrons. I first read about these classes on trainer-librarian Andrea Mercado’s blog, LibraryTechtonics.

Andrea’s “Geek Out, Don’t Freak Out” classes have covered digital cameras and she will soon be offering a class on MP3 players, too. People are encouraged to bring their own equipment and as the class description states, “we’ll all figure it out together.” She encourages both newbies and more savvy users to attend. This way the group members can help one another, too. Andrea creates a handout of resources for each class. The handout includes an integrated list of library items (she also brings the library items to the class for reference), articles, and web sites. The handout really shows off what the library and librarians can offer them (and provides participants with something to take notes on). She also lists her email address on each handout, just in case participants have future questions. While it might sound like she's asking for trouble, Andrea reports that most often people don't badger her or treat her like tech support.

There are several things that I love about this approach to technology training. First of all, I think it demonstrates a learner-centered, rather than a trainer-centered approach. Encouraging people to bring their own equipment is brave! It is impossible to know exactly how each camera works or how each MP3 player works ahead of time. Too frequently a trainer has a predetermined agenda and predetermined examples and a predetermined flow for the class and focuses on getting through the predetermined material. In the “Geek Out, Don’t Freak Out” classes, the focus really is on helping people learn the things they want and need to know. Seeing a trainer demonstrate a camera is very different from having a trainer help you learn to use your own camera.

A second thing that I appreciate about these classes is that they cover topics that are not necessarily traditional library technology training topics. I think it is important to offer classes on database searching and web searching, etc…, but I think the “Geek Out, Don’t Freak Out” classes really represent a “shifted” approach. I am guessing that the people who attend these classes really develop an appreciation and a broadened perspective regarding libraries and what libraries are about.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Rural Libraries and Patron Training

The Public Libraries and the Internet report states that public libraries are:
"Providing training to help raise patrons’ skill levels. Seniors, people without Internet access at home, and adults seeking continuing education are the primary audiences of technology training. While a majority of libraries offer training, only 28% offer training on a scheduled basis (either weekly or monthly). That percentage drops to approximately 16% for patrons served by rural libraries, but increases to nearly 64% for patrons served by urban libraries".

Only 16% of rural libraries.... This report was published in 2004 - I wonder if that number has increased. I can see why the number is low - lack of staff time, lack of equipment, etc. I do know, however, that there are some rural libraries that have found creative ways to overcome those obstacles and provide great training for their communities. Grant funding for equipment, the use of volunteers as trainers, partnerships with schools or other organizations -- all of these things can help make technology training a possibility. And, it's often one person (with a vision and a mission) who jumpstarts a great training program.

Another thing that can really help rural libraries is being able to "borrow" materials that have been created by larger libraries. Please make your training materials available online and let people know they are there! Hennepin Co, for example, is great about sharing their materials -- check out their extranet to see some recent items of interest to librarians.