Core Competencies in Library Technology: What IT Is and Where IT’s Going

8:00 AM- 10:00 AM Location: Morial Convention Center room: Rm. 398-399

Kevin Moderow, Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County

In the 1990’s most of the Charlotte & Mecklenburg County branch libraries hired Automated Support Coordinators to handle public computer problems so the rest of the library staff did not have to answer those types of questions. The Coordinators were hired by and reported to the branch libraries, not central IT. A new director came on board and wanted to centralize computing support, reduce the number of IT staff, increase the technical skills of all library staff, standardize procedures, and improve communication between IT and the rest of the library. The solution, create a mobile front line support team. Instead of having Coordinators in each library, Level 1 support was responsible for several branches and would go where needed at the time of need. They created Level 2 support teams which were more specialized and had little public interaction. Level 2’s specialized in one of the following areas: network, servers and workstations, ILS, and special projects. An online helpdesk system was implemented to help track requests and projects.

Now that there was no longer a Coordinator in each library it was also decided to create a list of core technical competencies that each staff member should have. Some of those skills included: what is in your library, basic hardware knowledge, basic printer troubleshooting, OS system knowledge, browser familiarity, etc. On the Intranet a core competencies checklist was created for each staff member. That checklist was also monitored by the supervisor. (A screen shot of some of the competencies was projected but I could not catch them because the type was small. Kevin said he would post his presentation along with a more detailed list of the competencies on the LITA Web site. As of this posting they still aren’t there yet.) The competencies were tied to performance evaluations. To get staff excited prizes were given to branches and individuals.

Results included empowering staff, reduced calls to help desk, increased up time, and it reduced the technology gap among staff.

Michelle Robertson, Systems and Web Librarian, Anne Arundel Community College

Michelle’s talk focused more on what type of skills/competencies a Systems Librarian should have or what she called “Survival skills for the lone systems librarian.” Some of the tips she listed included: learn about your patrons, work a desk so you can see the problem in action, hang out and walk around the public areas because you will see problems that no one has reported, and make time for usability testing. She also mentioned some of the staff challenges you may face including: some staff are technically challenged, change averse, the self-taught expert who does too much on their own, mother’s helper, afraid to bother you because you are too busy, etc. Important skills of the lone systems librarian include: good negotiating skills, agitate for change but pick your battles wisely, provide the staff with the tools they need to do their job, communicate across all levels and at the appropriate level for each audience, LISTEN, continue learning, act as a mediator between the Library and IT, keep IT informed and include them when possible on what’s going on.

Richard Wayne, Assistant Director, Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas

Their library created a computer staff training program. The program started 8 years ago and it is on its 4th iteration. In order to provide the training they leveraged existing staff within the library to create a tech team. This team provides the training. When creating the program and when they re-evaluate the program they ask themselves the following questions: what are the basic skills needed, what are the biggest problem areas, what do staff think is important. They also did what he called the iterative method meaning they could change it is they went. Most of the instructors were from the library but they also did bring in people from other parts of the campus. Richard gave examples of what was covered in some of the sessions. There were 5 sessions and each lasted approx. 1 ½ hours. Part 1 covered: unit mission, responsibilities chart/customers responsibilities, their methodology, how to use the helpdesk, interpreting the on call schedule, overview of the technical liaison team, terminology, Q&A, and computer room tour. Part 2 covered: opening up a pc, introduction to the LAN (both library, student and campus), Internet and Internet 2, Windows OS tour, Q&A. Part 3 “the meat and potatoes section” included: how to add and remove a printer, adding shortcuts, network drive uses, accessing reference manager, Microsoft updates, loading software, etc. Part 4 focused on maintenance and troubleshooting including help and PDA’s. (It included more but the slide went by too quickly for me to write the rest down. Richard also said he would post his presentation on the LITA Web site. It was not up when I posted this entry.) Part 5 was devoted to special issues including VPN, burning CDs and DVDs etc. Items have been added and removed as the program evolved. Public computer issues, information security, SP2 have been added as the program evolved. With the newest iteration a new section has been added that focuses on technology issues specific to a department. They have done surveys to determine users needs and after each session they hand out evaluation forms. Each session is videotaped so staff who have missed a session can still see it.

The last part of Richard’s presentation was spent talking about creating the Technical Team. The team was created because sometimes the IT department needs a little help i.e. security emergencies, special projects, etc. The team needs to have a clear purpose. Priorities and responsibilities must be clear especially how this team fits into their “real” job responsibilities.

2 thoughts on “Core Competencies in Library Technology: What IT Is and Where IT’s Going

  1. Michele,

    Thank you for blogging this session. The information you’ve posted has helped me to understand what these folks are doing with their staff training and has revealed what some sites consider to be core competencies.

    I am part of a team at the University of Notre Dame who is looking at establishing core IT competencies for our staff. We’ve made some headway in kickstarting short technology information sessions for our staff. Typically we’ve done as-needed training in the past, and it hasn’t been compulsory.

    For the present, we’ve identified some areas of interest among staff; ideas were solicited in focus groups, and we’re doing short, focused sessions rather than longer lecture sessions. It’s difficult to concentrate the info, but the ‘instructors’ we’ve had so far have done really well with the format.

    We also piloted a month-long self-guided and/or peer learning exercise in file management: learners could work independently or with a partner. Library IT staff were available for consultation. The desktop computing group offered time and space for individuals to use our campus IT department’s documentation to guide learning in Windows-based file management. We had an orientation time, a mid-point check and a wrap-up session. From the feedback we received at mid-point and wrap-up, the concept was positively received, but the content needs some additional tweaking.

    We still need to do some long range planning. I’d like to hear from others who have identified and instituted core competencies in IT and are willing to share. What is included in your compentency list? Do you train specific skills per competency? Are training sessions required? Are you doing assessment to check learning and retention–if so, what tools do you use? Overall, what’s working? What isn’t?

    Many thanks.
    Mandy Havert
    mhavert@nd.edu

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