A Chance to Meet

Thanks to those who stopped by to say “hi” in Chicago! ALA Annual Chicago

One of my favorite events at the American Library Association’s Annual Conference is the Learning Round Table’s training showcase. It’s a small but mighty gathering of people who are interested in continuing education and staff development for library personnel. Infopeople hosted a table at the event this year and used it as an opportunity to showcase the great work that has been happening as part of our Building an Effective Learning Culture (BELC) initiative.

Have you heard about BELC?

Since January 2017, twelve library teams from the US and Canada have been focused on assessing and strengthening the learning culture in their organizations. Each team has been working with a savvy mentor. Here’s a map, which shows where everyone involved is located. BELC is primarily a virtual project, so meeting a number of team members face to face while at the showcase this past weekend was a special opportunity. (Psst… Team Pickering and Team Pima, did you happen to take any other photos you are willing to share?)


What next?

It has been an amazing project and as it wraps up in the next few weeks, we will be working to share the stories and the lessons learned. Watch this blog for more!

The Building an Effective Learning Culture Initiative – a Midpoint Check In

In mid-January, twelve intrepid teams from libraries and library organizations around North America  started a journey to build an effective learning culture. Since January, they have been hard at work developing vision statements, setting goals, and reading and learning and experimenting with ideas and activities. Each team regularly meets with a mentor for guidance and encouragement.

Yesterday, the 12 teams met online to share their progress. The initiative started in January and will wrap-up in June, so this was a great time for a midpoint check in. It was an inspiring meeting, which highlighted a few common overarching themes, but also underscored the unique ways in which each team is creating a learning culture that makes sense for their staff and their community.

What is an effective learning culture?

Teams shared thoughts and ideas about what an effective learning culture looks like:

  • A culture in which staff exemplify the same qualities they are trying to instill in their patrons, including: curiosity and the spirit of exploration (embracing the idea of being a lifelong learner), flexibility (there is more than one way to do something), and collaboration (use each other and your community as a resource)
  • The ideal learning culture is one where we take chances, are open to new ideas, and learn from our mistakes. We thrive on engaging and motivating our fellow staff, celebrate successes, and make time for all this learning to take place. Working as a team, through trust and communication, we ensure everyone has an opportunity to participate.
  • An environment in which staff will feel curious and excited to learn and safe to take risks

How do you build an effective learning culture?

Teams shared strategies for building that learning culture:

  • One team engaged all employees in co-creating an organizational Learning Philosophy — creating buy-in through employee involvement at all levels in the library.
  • It’s important for leadership to model the happiness that can come from learning new things.
  • A team reminded us, “All learning is lost without time for reflection and practice.”
  • Another team noted that people learn at different rates and by different methods. Someone who isn’t ‘getting with the program’ may be processing differently than everyone else.
  • And thank you to the team that reassured everyone, “It’s okay if you move a little slowly, because Change Is Hard.”
  • A favorite quote was shared: “Your best teacher is your last mistake.”

How do you foster learning?

Teams shared examples of HOW they will foster learning:

  • Library staff think tanks! Open time away from desks to think, explore, and collaborate…
  • All staff create an annual Individualized Learning Plan, which enables them to pursue their goals as they align with the strategic priorities of the Library.
  • One team will be holding their first annual learning summit in August!
  • A team shared the numerous creative opportunities they have for staff to share learning with one another, including podcasts, newsletter articles, and webinars.
  • One library is going to investigate Learning Management Systems that incorporate video and media content for quick training lessons.
  • A library is having their current MLIS student employees develop a “Principles of Libraries” training for new staff.

Thank you to these inspiring teams and individuals for being part of this initiative and for sharing experiences and learning.

faces of belc

Modeling Learning

This content was created as part of Infopeople’s Building a Learning Culture initiative.

Learning is social. Most workplace learning happens as a natural part of our jobs – through daily experiences and in our interactions with coworkers and customers. We learn by doing, but we also learn by observing others. Albert Bandura is a psychologist who has studied the social nature of learning. He states, “Most of the behaviors that people display are learned, either deliberately or inadvertently, through the influence of example.”

How do you learn? Consider customer service, for example. If you feel that delivering effective customer service is a skill or ability that you possess, how did you learn that skill? In part, you probably acquired your skills through trial and error. It’s likely, however, that you also learned customer service skills by observing others. Watching others can be a way to learn what to do (and also what not to do).

Be a learning role model. If we recognize that people learn by observing others, then how can we use that awareness to foster a strong culture of learning in our library? One of the most effectual strategies we can use to inspire greater workplace learning is simply to model it ourselves. In an organization with an effective learning culture, employees and leaders are intentional about prioritizing learning.


How can you model learning behaviors? Here are 4 strategies to try:


1. Share what you’re learning.


You have probably noticed email signatures that share “What I’m Reading”. It’s fun to see what others are reading and sometimes you will serendipitously discover a title you would like to try or you might just feel more connected to the individual if you discover they are reading a title that you have read, too.

This type of sharing works for more than book titles. Consider sharing “What I’m Learning”!  Are you taking a MOOC that you think others might enjoy, too? Did you find a Lynda.com course that effectively helped you learn a new skill? Has an article from Harvard Business Review really got you thinking? Are you experimenting with the soldering iron in your library’s makerspace? Tell others about it!

You could add “What I’m Learning” as an email signature or you could find other ways to share, too. Consider a bulletin board in the staff break room or a discussion area on the staff intranet. Do you want to share with others beyond library staff? Is there a place on the library’s website or a bulletin board within the library that could feature current learning that’s taking place?   By sharing your learning, you might inspire someone to learn something new or you might connect with someone who wants to learn the same things.

2. Ask others what they are learning. ask-learn

In addition to sharing what you are learning, it’s a great idea to ask others what they are learning, too. Your co-worker just returned from a library conference. Ask about it. Questions like “What was the best session you attended?” or “What trends did you notice?” can elicit useful information. You can do this informally or you may also want to find ways to formalize this type of sharing.What if every time someone goes to a conference, they take time to share highlights, maybe in an email or at a staff meeting?

3. Grow from mistakes (and talk about them). messed-up

I spent years providing library technology training and something I realized is that trying to create a perfectly smooth training experience for learners was actually doing them a disservice. Being a fluent user of technology requires the ability to troubleshoot and to figure out how to do things we’ve never done. Letting learners see me troubleshoot tech issues as they came up was an excellent opportunity for learning.

Learning from mistakes or issues is something that is important in other realms, too, not just technology. When you’re helping someone learn to do something (from processing materials to dealing with tricky customer service issues), don’t be afraid to share stories of times you made mistakes. Your experiences, and reflection about those experiences, can help someone else avoid them.

4. Get intentional about reflection.  program

Learning happens through an ongoing process of action and reflection. When teams reflect together, they are being intentional about learning. Take time to talk about successes and failures and lessons learned.

When a library’s Summer Reading Program wraps up at the end of the season, for example, staff could spend time talking about what went well and what they would change as they start to plan the next year.


What do you think? Are there strategies you would like to try in order to model learning behaviors? Are there successful techniques that you have already been using? Please share in the comments on this post!


Twelve Teams to Participate in Learning Culture Initiative

We are so excited to announce the names of the 12 library teams who will be participating in our videoBuilding an Effective Learning Culture (BELC) online learning initiative!

The twelve teams are from:

  • Bucks County Free Library, PA
  • Burbank Public Library, CA
  • Long Beach Public Library, CA
  • Los Angeles Public Library, CA
  • Monrovia Public Library, CA
  • Monterey Public Library, CA
  • Oceanside Public Library, CA
  • Pickering Public Library, Ontario, Canada
  • Pima County Public Library, AZ
  • South Carolina State Library
  • San Jose Public Library, CA
  • Suffolk Public Library, VA

The BELC program will take place from January -June 2017. The 12 participating libraries registered in teams of 3 to 5 people. Each team will work with a virtual mentor and the course content will be broken down into bite-sized chunks.

We’re thrilled to be working with this fantastic group of libraries and will continue to share project updates here in the new year!





Initiative Highlights Bite-sized Learning

Traditional learning is often structured so that it requires participants to spend hours at a time on classes and readings. Finding the time can be a challenge for busy library staff. To address this challenge, the upcoming Infopeople initiative, Building an Effective Learning Culture, will incorporate a “bite-sized learning” (also called microlearning) approach.

Bite-sized content consists of short learning nuggets (maybe 3 to 7 minutes long) designed to meet a specific learning outcome. To better explain the hows and whys of this innovative approach, I talked to Infopeople instructors Stephanie Gerding and Crystal Schimpf and also to Infopeople Training Manager Lisa Barnhart to learn more about their thoughts and feelings about bite-sized learning.

Why is Infopeople using this approach for the new initiative?

“Bite-sized learning has seen a surge of popularity for the modern learner who is many times lisaoverwhelmed, distracted and impatient. Packaging learning in smaller pieces allows us to not only process ideas and concepts quickly, but also create a customized learning experience as we use our own unique perspective to connect these smaller “building blocks” into more foundational concepts,” explains Training Manager/Instructional Designer Lisa Barnhart.

How does bite-sized learning address what we know about how adults learn?

“Educational psychologists have developed learning principles, which support the fact that stephanielearning occurs most effectively when instruction is doled out in small segments. There should be time in between to process and practice, with links made between new ideas and previous learning or experience, and learners should be actively engaged with the material and with each other. BELC combines all of these elements into a fun experience that will change your library culture!” shares Stephanie Gerding, Library Consultant, Infopeople Instructor and author of The Accidental Technology Trainer.

What are the benefits to bite-sized learning?

Crystal Schimpf, Library Consultant and Infopeople Instructor explains, “As a learner, I crystalreally like bite-sized content because I can take in new ideas one piece at a time. Some days I might have a lot of time and can cover several pieces, but other days I might only cover one piece of content.

As an instructor, I like designing bite-sized content because it forces me to really focus on key concepts, one at a time. It helps keep me on track and on point.

Bite-sized content is great for libraries because it can be difficult for library staff to find time to attend longer trainings. Bite-sized content gives staff a chance to learn piece by piece, and to integrate new ideas into daily routine.”

If your team is interested in building a stronger learning culture at your library, but you’re not sure how to find the time to focus on it, consider applying (hurry – deadline approaching soon) to participate in the upcoming initiative. The bite-sized content will make it easy to fit learning in to your busy schedules.

More information and a link to the application can be found at http://www.infopeople.org/belc.