Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Cultivating Tech-Savvy Library Staff by Sarah Houghton-Jan and David Lee King

Cultivating Tech-Savvy Library Staff was one of the most useful programs I have attended at Internet Librarian. Sarah Houghton-Jan of San Mateo County Library said one of the most important things that I have heard said. It expresses a goal that all libraries that I know have trouble achieving. It is that all public service staff in libraries should meet technical competencies so all library users get the same high level of service. It should not matter who is on duty.

What libraries live up to this goal? Few, I suspect. Sarah's message is somewhat tough, but it is not unreasonable. She is currently writing a book on the topic and has much advice for libraries trying to meet a high standard for user services.

Central to Sarah's message is conducting a competencies evaluation, which can be done for an entire library or by department. The idea is for the staff to determine what skills are needed by all the staff for everyday service, list the skills, and then address bringing all the members of the staff up to standard. This does not mean that every member of the staff has to have every technical skill known to librarianship. The challenge is to have every staff member competent in the skill necessary to serving the everyday needs of library users.

Sarah said much more. In her own post on the program, she links to all of her slides and to a post by Chad Boeninger that outlines most of what she said in the program.

David Lee King presented the second part of the program. He listed 10 ways to keep techies happy.

1. Techies are part of the team. Invite them to important planning discussions that involve technology. They might have important input.
2. Techies need toys and time to play to learn new skills and generate new ideas.
3. Everyone must learn basics. Do not call a techie to replug an electrical cord.
4. Give the techie a time line for your project.
5. If more than one library patron asks for something, it is important to have.
6. Have adequate technical staff.
7. Tell the techie when you do not understand. Don't pretend and then complain about how the techie can't explain the technology.
8. Pay the techie well.
9. Budget appropriately for technology.
10. We are all geeks at something, whether that is with computers, reference books, or cataloguing. Treat the geek respectfully.

Cultivating Tech-Savvy Library Staff was a content packed 45 minutes.


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