Notes from Staff Training Session

Facilitator: Mary Beth Kendrick, Access and Technical Services Librarian, Business Library, Columbia University Libraries

Recorder: Kimberly Burke, Head of ILL and Interim Librarian for Circulation and Access Services, New York University Libraries

Discussion Topics:

  • Reference in Access: What tasks do we perform? What training is necessary?
  • Staff Turnover
  • Continuous Training/Creating a Learning Environment

I. Beyond Circulation

Provision of "reference" services by Access staff: what new tasks are we asking staff to perform, and how do they need to be trained in order to accomplish them.

Reference in Access:

What Training Exists?

What training is necessary?

  • Bibliographic Skills (Reading a MARC Record, Identifying a Series)
  • Maybe OJT in Tech Services
  • "Life of a Book" training (traces acquisitions, cataloging & circulation process through OPAC for new staff)
  • Brown Bag lunch/instruction sessions on what other departments do
  • Training in how to conduct a reference interview so that they can make an appropriate referral.

As the definition of "Access" changes, training, job descriptions and pay scale may also need to be adjusted.

Questions to think about: What services are we providing? Is it consistent among staff? What are the limits of the tools?

Our collections are expensive. One argument is that to make the most of our collections, Access Services staff should be able to show users how to access them. To do this, they will need to be trained.

II. High Turnover

Dumbing down versus smartening up: why bother training when they are only going to quit tomorrow?; or, enhanced training as a tool for retention and improved service quality.

The challenge of training higher level staff is that if we encourage the MLS, they find professional jobs elsewhere.

Training leads to retention

Not everyone wants to be a supervisor-how do you provide continual challenges without increasing supervisory responsibility?

Some degree of turnover is inevitable, perhaps even desirable.

Training for Student Workers:

"The more training, the better," (Univ. Of Chicago). The more work they do, it saves time of the user, it saves time of full time staff, they are retained longer.

One library provides a library-wide student public service training each year, which helps to perpetuate a culture of public service. The training lasts approximately 3 hours. Students are taught approachability and basic customer service and fed pizza. Some don't want to learn, but many do.

Again, how do you guarantee service consistency? Perhaps by creating different levels of student workers.

Adequate training is key, a training manual and check list can be helpful.

III. Training/Learning Environment

  • Creating a continuous training/learning environment in order to keep all levels of staff ready for the next technological advance, the next service quality improvement, the next change in reader expectations, etc.
  • Meetings to inform the staff of small changes are important. They are a type of training and lead to retention.
  • As academic libraries we can't always offer the most competitive pay, but we can offer training
  • Some lucky organizations have staff development/training professionals
  • Most organizations have continuing education schools, potential tuition wavers for job related training, and central HR departments who may offer training sessions for free.
  • The most important types of training today are customer service training and technology training.