Staff Learning in Libraries: Conversations at ALA Annual 2016

The ALA Annual Conference in Orlando was a great opportunity to learn and connect. While there, I had the chance to be part of two special activities for Infopeople. Both provided opportunities to engage with others who are interested in continuing education and professional development in libraries.

The Training Showcase

lisa brenda training showcase
(I’m the short one.)

Lisa Barnhart and I hosted an Infopeople table at the Learning Round Table’s Training Showcase. It was a small but mighty group, including individuals and organizations focused on training and professional development in libraries. At our table we shared the Infopeople planned training calendar.and talked to people about the deposit accounts that are now available.

Each table host at the Training Showcase was asked to share a training tip with attendees. Here’s our tip: “Create opportunities for staff to share new skills and knowledge gained at conferences and training workshops. By using meaningful methods to share what has been learned, we facilitate deeper learning and knowledge transfer in the individual, while increasing the knowledge base across the organization.”  We shared a Training Tips handout with  more ideas, too. It was a perfect opportunity to talk to people about upcoming training we’ll be doing, focused on Building an Effective Learning Culture.

Conversation Starter

crystal brenda stephanie conversation
(I’m the tall one.)

Crystal Schimpf, Stephanie Gerding and I facilitated a Conversation Starter focused on building an effective learning culture, too. It was a highly interactive session focused on three questions:

  1. What does a supportive learning environment look like?
    We took on different roles and looked at this question from various perspectives including director and front line staff.. and also introvert versus extrovert.
  2. How does meaningful professional learning happen?
    Participants in the session wrote down a professional learning challenge on an index card and then we passed the cards along, each adding suggestions for tackling the challenge.
  3. What is the role of leadership in staff learning?
    Participants were asked to pair up and to have one person focus on the things you do as a leader to support a learning culture. The other person in the pair focused on what you want from a leader (related to a culture of learning in an organization).

Youth ages 0-14: Developmentally Appropriate Programming

dapA child’s brain begins developing in the
uterus and it will develop continually into adulthood. How can library programming support development? Developmentally Appropriate Programming (DAP) is designed to bolster children’s development and learning success.

All children are unique in their needs, abilities, and interests. When you take children’s developmental milestones into account when structuring your programs, you can create programs that support the well-being and development of children in the community. DAP provides a framework for combining youth services library staff members’ knowledge of the communities they serve with brain development research to provide the most supportive, successful library programs possible.

Want to learn more?

  • Useful resources for learning about developmental milestones include the Bright Futures Guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Milestone Moments from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Amy and Amy
  • Want to learn more about developmentally appropriate library programming? The upcoming Infopeople course Developmentally Appropriate Programming for Youth will teach participants to use a rubric that includes the program spaces, formats, content, and staffing models that equip libraries to offer high-impact programs designed precisely for the developmental levels of their intended audiences. Registration for the course is open now.


After the course: Using technology for community engagement

In February 2016 Barbara Alvarez taught a great new c3_fingers_in_circleourse for Infopeople called “Using Technology for Community Engagement.” Participants learned to use readily accessible equipment (such as a smart phone and free or low-cost software) to facilitate the sharing of community stories. Alvarez taught learners to record and upload videos, create podcasts, and virtually broadcast community conversations and events.

As the course wrapped up, learners created action plans in which they outlined their intentions for using technology to engage their communities.  They were enthusiastic about what they had learned and about what they were going to be able to do, “I learned so many things that I could now apply to my job. This course was full of practical ideas and tips on how to get started” and “This has to be one of the most inspiring courses that I’ve taken in a long time. I love technology and social media, so everything in this course: the podcasting, the video production and the broadcasting has set my creativity in motion. There are endless possibilities for Community Engagement.”

A few months after the course ended, we checked in with learners to see what they had done. Here are a few of the sharing_community_storiesresponses we received:

  •  Videos – Jane Dobija, Senior Librarian with the Los Angeles Public Library’s Woodland Hills Branch Library feels “so much more confident” about her awareness of technology’s potential for libraries and community engagement. She’s created a great little video on her tablet about the library’s balcony garden project.
  • Podcasts – Wanangwa Dever, Technical Services Librarian with the Polk County Public Library in Columbus, NC, said that the biggest way the course was helpful for her was with podcasting. She shared information from the class with her co-workers, including programming assistant Amelia Derr, who was just getting ready to start podcasting with teens at their programs. Wanangwa connected Amelia with a classmate who had already done some podcasting with the teens at her library. Here’s a Google Hangouts on Air that Wanangwa and Amelia created to introduce the library’s Teen Scene and here’s a podcast featuring teen book reviews, too.
  • Videos – Katrina E. Laws, Web Librarian at Solano County Library (CA) has created several things since the course.  In March, the library celebrated Women’s History Month by honoring women in the community and Katrina created videos featuring local women, shared on Facebook and on Twitter.  She created a video to promote feminist books in the library’s collection, too!
  •  Podcasts – Pamela Hoppock, Youth Services Consultant at the South Carolina State Library and her coworker are getting ready to start producing two short podcasts every month. They will kick off the series with a podcast talking about summer reading and StoryfestSC (the statewide kick off to summer reading). Hoppock says, “…our purpose is really three-fold:  promote our own services and resources and those of other libraries, educate our listeners—library staff and the non-library staff, and hopefully entertain along the way. We are planning on using social media as the primary way to market our new podcast series.”
  • Social Media – Since taking the online class, Tamara Evans, Digital Services Librarian at the Kings County Library – Hanford Branch (CA), has used social media in order to engage with the community and publicize library events. They recently debuted a Veteran Resource Center and had a successful turnout via people sharing the event from the library’s Facebook page.
  • Podcasts & Live Events & Videos – Crystal Miller, Circulation Manager at the Coeur d’Alene Public Library ID)) says they have added podcasts the library’s long range plan and are also looking into possibly recording more library events and airing them on the local government channel. They are also trying to reinvigorate a Story Catcher program, which collects videos of local oral stories.

Thank you to Barbara for teaching this course and thank you to these learners for sharing the stories of how the course impacted their ability to engage their communities using technology.

(Missed the February course? Good news – it will be offered again in November!)










Libraries and Financial Literacy

April is financial literacy month and Money Smart Week is just around the corner, too. These events make it clear that financial literacy education is an important priority. Recognizing that many libraries want to do more to meet the financial education needs of their communities, Infopeople will be offering a new four-week course, Financial Literacy Programming in Libraries. The course starts April 26th, which is coincidentally during Money Smart Week!

In the course, instructor Jennifer Noble will guide the class through all of the steps jennifer_nobleinvolved in planning financial literacy programming. Building on existing resources, participants will identify the topics and formats that make the most sense for their communities. The importance of building partnerships to support the programming will be highlighted, too. Participants will leave the course with a financial literacy programming action plan tailored for the needs and resources in their own community.

Noble encourages libraries to think creatively about the types of financial programming they could offer. Topics that could be included in financial literacy education include:

  • Saving Money
  • Creating a Budget
  • Planning for Retirement
  • Paying for College
  • Credit Scores
  • Starting a Business
  • And more…

And there are various potential program formats to consider, too:

  • Speakers: Invite an expert to give a presentation on a financial topic, providing time for Q&A, too.
  • Panel Discussion: Instead of just one speaker, consider hosting a panel of experts talking about a specific topic with time for a Q&A afterwards.
  • Instructional Session: This format is perfect for a task-oriented topic (such as filling out financial aid paperwork or applying for a business loan).
  • Workshops: These are like instructional sessions, but may take longer and people leave the session with something completed (paperwork, a plan, etc.).
  • Discussion Groups: In this format, a group of people get together to discuss a topic, often with a facilitator. Consider a book discussion group centered on a financial book.

Consider a variety of target audiences, too. From young children to older adults, almost everyone has financial topics that are relevant and interesting for their current life stage and needs.

Registration for the course is now open. For more information, see




Grant Projects: Learn from Others

In her upcoming Infopeople course Library Grants 101, Stephanie Gerding discusses the value of learning from others as you approach grant projects:

As you are planning your project, investigate similar projects, besgerdingt practices, and lessons learned by others. Make sure you are not duplicating work that has already been done. Contact managers of similar projects and ask them about their experiences and what they have learned. Include this information in your grant proposal to show the funder that you are well informed about what has already been done in the field and that you are knowledgeable about best practices. You may want to build on and extend the work of other projects. Your partners might also have good ideas to contribute.

Gerding’s books, Winning Grants and Grants for Libraries, include grant success stories from libraries across the country. Here are a few examples:

  • The Glendale Public Library received a LSTA grant from the Arizona State Library that included funding for state-of-the-art listening wands for a walking tour of their xeriscape botanical gardens. (Grants for Libraries, p.164)
  • The Laurelton Branch Library of Queens Borough Public Library in New York received a laptop computer lab as part of its Youth Empowerment Initiative, part of a larger, three-year project funded by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services for $470,000. (Grants for Libraries, p. 170)
  • In Maine, Lawrence Junior High Library’s grant project included video journalism, which involved eighth graders creating an informative historical DVD to share with other libraries and students. The $3,500 grant was from the Coburn Classical Institute. (Grants for Libraries, p. 184)
  • Northeastern University Libraries received more than $20,000 for a LSTA grant project for adaptive technology to better serve community members with disabilities. (Grants for Libraries, p. 186)
  • The Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library at the University of Utah received a $450,000 grant for digitizing of materials related to Neuro-Ophthalmology from the National Library of Medicine. (Grants for Libraries, p. 192)

Have a grant project in mind? Have you reached out to others to ask about their experiences? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.

Participants in Gerding’s upcoming course will learn about grant work from start to finish, starting with finding the best funding sources and grant opportunities for your library through planning and writing grant proposals. Registration is now open at!