Building a Culture that Supports Learning

Here at Infopeople, we’re 100% focused on providing continuing education and professional development opportunities for library staff. It’s what we do! Every year we offer hundreds of training events for more than 5,000 people. We regularly and routinely ask those 5000 people for feedback regarding our courses, but we also ask them for feedback and insights about overall learning and training needs in libraries. It’s a huge opportunity for us to learn about workplace learning and what works… and what doesn’t.

Over the years we’ve noticed something interesting. On one side, we hear from library staff who wish for more support for their learning. We also hear from library administrators who wish they knew how to motivate their staff to prioritize learning. Ultimately, everyone wants the same thing. It’s based in awareness that our learning and growth will result in our ability to better serve the ever-changing needs in our communities. It’s important!

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Learning is at the heart of what libraries do, yet we don’t always prioritize our own learning. Meaningful learning in a library is more than a single course or a single person. It’s a culture. That’s why Infopeople is excited to be developing a new initiative called Building an Effective Learning Culture. This 3-minute video describes what we mean by “learning culture”.

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We’re trying some exciting new things with this program:

  • Unlike the typical online course, participants will register in teams from a single library or library system, and will do work individually and in groups.
  • It will include virtual mentoring.
  • It will focus on new delivery methods that are divided into bite-sized chunks.

This pilot initiative will launch in January and run through June of 2017. Application materials will be available soon. Interested in learning more? You can stay current with this new initiative by filling out this form to join our mailing list. You can also register to attend a webinar we’re hosting on November 1st, which will talk more about this important topic and how your library can get involved in the initiative.

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Libraries Seeking Solutions and Serving Communities

Arsolutionse you seeking solutions? If you look at Infopeople’s planned training calendar for 2016/2017, you will see a number of learning opportunities for those seeking to address important challenges in their libraries and communities.

Make a plan for learning! We encourage you to review the options and to make a plan for learning. Which 4-week courses or 1-hour webinars address the topics that are a priority for you? Consider divvying up topics among staff members and then sharing what you learn with one another. To be alerted when registration opens for these options, subscribe to the IFPTraining email list.

November 2016: Active Shooter Policies for Libraries

In this one-hour webinar, participants will learn what an active shooter situation is and how to respond (run, hide, fight). Active shooter policies will be covered, including emergency/disaster, communication, and evacuation plans. Best practices for training library staff will also be included.

Instructor: Mary Soucie is the State Librarian of North Dakota. The North Dakota State Library was one of the first state agencies in North Dakota to write active shooter procedures, with assistance from the ND Highway Patrol.

January 2017: Social Services in the Library

In this one-hour webinar, participants will hear from Elissa Hardy, a social worker working in the Denver Public Library. Denver City Librarian Michelle Jeske said the position is focused on the following outcomes, “To connect people who are at risk with services they need, remove barriers, and we want to do that while making the library a safer, more comfortable place for everyone.”

Instructor: Elissa Hardy, a social worker, is the community resource specialist at the Denver Public Library. In this role, she is making an impact in a way that’s helping many library patrons and also her coworkers.

February 2017: Libraries Services for Patrons Experiencing Homelessness

In this four-week course, participants will learn to provide meaningful library services to library patrons experiencing homelessness. Are you concerned about how to balance the needs of all your library users? Do you find yourself questioning the rules and policies of your library related to those experiencing homelessness but aren’t sure how to create good alternatives? Using real life examples, this course will provide you with the tools you need to navigate the world of services to people experiencing homelessness, helping you figure out your library’s place in that world.

Instructor: As a librarian, Julie Ann Winkelstein worked in a range of positions, from jails and prison librarian to Family Literacy coordinator to children’s and young adult librarian. In 2012 she received her PhD in Communication and Information from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where her research topic was homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) and public libraries. Since 2008 she has taught online and face-to-face undergraduate and graduate courses in children’s and young adult literature, as well as courses in race and gender.

April 2017: Serving People with Mental Illness at Your Library

In this four-week course, the instructor will share a practical, compassionate and understanding approach to the delivery of library services to patrons who have a mental illness. Gain the information and tools needed to better understand mental illnesses. Look at examples of the challenges faced by libraries and their patrons, and learn from the exemplary approach some libraries are taking as they seek to meet the challenges.

Instructor: Josh Berk is the Executive Director of the Bethlehem (PA) Area Public Library. He is actively involved in mental health training in public libraries. He is also the author of four books for children and young adults.

May 2017: Customer Service Challenges

In this four-week course, participants will develop an understanding of and skills to deal with a range of difficult behaviors from merely annoying to potentially harmful. Prevention and proactive approaches will be shared. Library policies and procedures will be covered. Special issues related to safety in small or minimally-staffed libraries will be included.

Instructor: Mary Ross has over 25 years of experience working in public libraries as a children’s and adult services librarian and as a branch manager. She managed the staff training and development program at the Seattle Public Library for eight years. While working at Seattle Public Library she implemented a training program for all staff on dealing with difficult patron behavior. She has helped hundreds of library staff members learn how to safely manage difficult and disruptive patron behavior.

June 2017: Re-Defining Safe at Work

In this four-week course, participants will explore how libraries can develop safe and respectful service environments and workplace cultures. Policies and procedures, job descriptions and performance expectations, behavior and discipline rules, and safety guidelines will be covered. Participants will be encouraged to look at the current conditions in their library – including signage, bathrooms, and parking lots – to assess and make plans for improvement. Everyone, from administrators to staff to customers, can contribute to creating a safe and respectful environment.

Instructor: Catherine Hakala-Ausperk is a 31-year Ohio public library veteran, with experience in everything from direct customer service to management and administration. She is the author of several books including Be a Great Boss, Build a Great Team, and Renew Yourself! A Six-Step Plan for More Meaningful Work.

Learners have come a long way with tech developments

For the past decade, Infopeople has offered a course for all library types and staff classifications on Weeding for Your Library’s Health. More accurately, we’ve offered an ever evolving course addressing this topic and, for me as its decade-long instructor, the evolution is apparent in the participants as well as the format and coverage.

Weeding in libraries calls up all manner of political and emotional red flags, as Boston Public Library most recently demonstrates in national news. Second guessing Any Library’s weeding makes Monday (or Tuesday) morning quarterbacking look useful. Instead of going into all that, what I want to do is share  what the decade shows in terms of Infopeople learner participation.

The first dozen iterations of this workshop were day-long on-ground offerings. Workshop attendees did represent a variety of library types (including private as well as public, school, and academic) and each group shared a general geographic location–which is to say that the collective wisdom in the room tended to be, well, local. And since these were on-ground workshops in which we were all together for one day only and parked in a meeting room, the “hands on” exercises necessarily involved whatever I had toted into that room, or the host library had on offer from recently already-weeded stores. (TSA used to leave very interesting notes in my weeding workshop luggage). Then, at the end of the day, everyone went home, and the next day went back to his or her library and either weeded…or didn’t.

The course moved online even before Infopeople online course moved to Moodle. Online courses were a new experience for lots of library staff. They struggled with posting assignments on top of struggling with weeding. But it was immediately apparent that an online course, unfolding over weeks, was a lot more effective in terms of learning and doing weeding! Participants were in their own locations. The assignments had them working with their own weeding issues on location.

As the years passed, the location diversity among online course participants ramped way up. Now a course complement included diverse library types, diverse classifications, and geographic diversity. Participants began to find support and weeding allies a thousand miles away, while still being able to practice what they were learning right where they needed it to be happening–in their home libraries.

And participants have become increasingly comfortable with online learning, a capacity development which makes everyone’s course experience richer. Forum posts are increasingly substantive, a higher and higher percentage of those who register are active on a frequent basis throughout the course, and questions and suggestions fly between 50+ points of contact instead of within a table group of two or three.

Weeding is never going to be the library world’s favorite task. But every time I spend a month with a new group of participants willing to learn more about weeding well, I come away impressed by how far online learning capacity grows among library staff, well, everywhere.

Fact checking checkup

Ferreting out fact from rumor, uninformed opinion, and outright falsehood underpins the work of all types of libraries. As we continue to work in an information ecosystem undergoing explosive growth and publishing access by authorities of every degree of sophistication, taking time for regular fact checking awareness improves our capacity to distinguish what is from what might be. 

Among the most compelling information literacy exercises of which I’m aware was developed more than a decade ago by the school library media teacher (degreed!) in a small and relatively isolated K-5 school. Each year there, each grade level received information learning scaffolded developmentally and occurring through the full term. For the kindergarteners, the teaching was presented by every adult on campus, whenever he or she was audience to any kindergartener’s declaration of any information: the prescriptive adult response, “How do you know that?” provided the pause we all need to reflect on whether a declaration is supportable by fact.

Of course, when it comes to a five-year-old, a typical response might be that she saw it happen or that her older sister told her so. Additional questions might be placed, depending on the matter at hand, to uncover the accuracy of her witnessing position or her sister’s motivation. Across time, the student could begin to notice she couldn’t really claim to have seen an event that had occured while she was in another room, or that her sister had a penchant for pulling her leg about school-related matters but not family ones. 

What we can take away from this simple exercise, regardless of our age, is the benefit of taking a moment to reflect on whether what we are repeating is worthy of that repetition. If we din’t take that moment, how do we recognize when a visit to Snopes.com might be better than forwarding the “news” we’ve just received?

With increasing access to both big data and resources of open government data, our tools for fact checking also gain power and reach. Along with the utility of tools to ferret out the facts, we also need to notice when we are missing facts, or operating with assumptions. That’s when a fact checking check up can uncover a need to boost our assumption immunity.

The regime for fact checking health isn’t new-fangled at all. We can start with that same question posed to the kindergarteners–along with the other four every journalist in training learns:

  • How do I know that?
  • Who said it?
  • Why was it said?
  • When was that?
  • Where was it occurring?

Such fact checking breaks can position how we move forward, and whether we can.

Teaching privacy?

With the word “privacy” appearing in both online and offline discussions of how we live in 2014, how do we make time to analyze and consider, and then put into use, the very best practices we can in libraryland? Here are a few signposts from recent weeks that limn the current thinking:

Back in May, Barbara Fister wrote a “Peer to Peer” opinion piece at Library Journal taking up that issue; to date, the online piece has received a total of four comments, including one from Ms. Fister acknowledging the points made to her original post and summing up for the next question. 

At the OCLC Symposium held at ALA’s Annual Conference, in June, several audience members pushed back against Daniel Obodovski’s suggestions that data collected as libraries do business might prove useful to harvest to support the expansion of knowledge afforded by the Internet of Things. Expanding local library awareness of user needs, wants, and satisfaction levels, done anonymously, was agreeable; suggesting that libraries become purveyors of data collected from our communities drew a resoundingly negative reaction.

The day before Independence Day, Cory Doctorow published a summary of findings that indicate NSA surveillance seems to be keyed to those online who actively seek privacy information there. That would suggest that as librarians, with a duty to explore as well as maintain privacy standards, we stand to put ourselves in the path of having ours exploited.

So, how do we approach a topic that is getting hotter in the public mind even while we become increasingly aware of how slippery the “it” of privacy is? In essence, how do we teach good online privacy hygiene without introducing the kind of damage hand washing efficacy has suffered with the overuse of antibacterial scrubs for frequent use? 

How are you broaching privacy with your staff? With kids in your community? With adults seeking technical assistance? What tools might be useful for digging our way to daylight? Let us all hear!