Preconference II: Library-wide IT Proficiency

Melissa has already blogged the general outline so I’m just adding my comments.

There were 55 folks registered for this 6 hour preconference. Participants were from all types of libraries – academic, special, public, government, etc. Some support just IT proficiency for employees; others support employees and students.

In the discussion on how to get staff involved and interested they suggested sharing the weekly video by David Pogue. He’s with the New York Times and does a weekly tech tip.

Don’t reinvent the wheel – look for existing lists of proficiency topics, other teaching tips, etc. but do tailor what you find to your audience and your situation. You might want to consider doing a user assessment and tailoring needs to this but remember many staff that really need training don’t recognize it. Find fun and interesting ways to encourage people to show up or take part.

We discussed the need to link competency goals and then holding staff responsible for those in their annual evaluation. There needs to be some responsibility for the need to continue to learn. One attendee mentioned the difficulties posed by working with union employees.

So what kinds of things would folks consider in competencies – one level might be for everyone: basic toner in the printer, saving a file, making sure everything is plugged in. Additional levels of competencies can be set based on areas of responsibility – are they public service? Technical service? Or even a manager – one place has a set of competencies for the branch managers.

Staff need to not just attend training but be allowed (and encouraged) to “play” with what they learn – give a task to practice on, maybe a task that relates to a service they are responsible for providing. Some staff are afraid of “breaking” something, getting past that attitude takes some work.

Frequently teaching appropriate vocabulary to non-IT staff is necessary. Having a complete description of the problem makes it easier to know what the problem is or where to start. Instead of “it doesn’t work” someone reporting that they are unable to open the application X.

There was quite a lively discussion on whether it is the younger vs. older librarians or curious vs. afraid of technology librarians. Considering the majority of people sitting in that room were not 20 something, the consensus was it is more a curiosity or willingness to play and learn – not age. BTW – this part made me feel old – I do remember Crosstalk and when we only had one computer in the library.

The suggestion of going out to the users and asking the “good, bad, and ugly” was something that intrigued me. Seeing users concerns, frustrations, etc for improved communications from IT is an area I want to tackle. As well as talking with new employees about IT issues that would relate to them – email space, passwords, etc.

Another lively discussion was held regarding when organizational IT decides to do maintenance. Several attendees mentioned issues with Sunday night maintenances times – right when students decide “oops tomorrow is Monday and I have work”. There was recognition that many times the organizational IT has no consideration of users needs.

Wiki from preconference – http://itproficiencyresources.pbwiki.com/

One comment

  1. Genny

    Hello? The IT department is probably trying to accommodate your schedule, not ignoring it!

    Sunday night is typically the low point of usage levels on any web site (and I have been at public libraries, academic libraries, and private-sector companies). You have to pick sometime to do your maintenance and no time will be convenient for everybody.

    That said, if you frequently have the kind of system maintenance that requires total unavailability of your system, maybe it’s time to look at building in a little more redundancy so you can have one system serving while the other is undergoing maintenance — particularly if you have some kind of five-hour maintenance window.

    At my library, we reboot everything weekly on Thursday night. This causes a service interruption, but only for a few minutes. If the public would like to give us enough money to create a redundant server farm, with no service interruption at all, we would be happy to take it!

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