“Technology Training in Libraries” by Sarah Houghton has become my bible. It was published as part of LITA’s Tech Set series back in 2010 and acts as a no-nonsense guide to technology training for librarians. Before I started my current position, implementing a technology training model seemed easy enough, but I’ve found that there are many layers, including (but certainly not limited to) things like curriculum development, scheduling, learning styles, generational differences, staff buy-in, and assessment. It’s a prickly pear and one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced as a professional librarian.
After several months of training attempts I took a step back after finding inspiration in the bible. In her chapter on planning, Houghton discusses the idea of developing a Technology Needs Pyramid similar to the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs (originally proposed by Aaron Schmidt on the Walking Paper blog). Necessary skills and competencies make up the base and more idealistic areas of interest are at the top. Most of my research has pointed me towards creating a list of competencies, but the pyramid was much more appealing to a visual thinker like me.
In order to construct a pyramid for the Reference Services department, we held a brainstorming session where I asked my co-workers what they feel they need to know to work at the reference desk, followed by what they want to learn. At Houghton’s suggestion, I also bribed them with treats. The results were a mix of topics (things like data visualization and digital mapping) paired with specific software (Outlook, Excel, Photoshop).
Once we had a list I created four levels for our pyramid. “Need to Know” is at the bottom and “Want to Learn” is at the top, with a mix of both in between. I hope that this pyramid will act as a guideline for our department, but more than anything it will act as a guide for me going forward. I’ve already printed it and pinned it to my bulletin board as a friendly daily reminder of what my department needs and what they’re curious about. While I’d like to recommend the Technology Needs Pyramid to everyone, I don’t have the results just yet! I look forward to sharing our progress as we rework our technology plan. In the meantime I can tell you that whether it’s a list, graphic, or narrative; collecting (and demanding) feedback from your colleagues is vital. It’s not always easy, but it’s definitely worth the cost of a dozen donuts.