August doesn’t mean holidays for many library and information services. All professional service providers - banks, accountancy, consultancy, and law firms - as well as educational establishments will be preparing inductions and training for September’s new starters. So how can we ensure that end-users are equipped with the right research skills to carry out their work?
There is a pressure on library staff to impart information to a lot of people at once. Traditionally, this meant booking the largest room, firing up PowerPoint, and ‘getting them all done as soon as possible’ so they could start work. There was little thought for how successful the training was, and how individuals responded to the delivery of it.
Thankfully, in many organisations this has changed; emphasis is now on the depth of their understanding. In my experience library training should never involve large groups in lecture theatres with text heavy slides - especially in that first week. Don’t forget that your new end-users are under pressure from other departments, so they may be suffering information overload.
Commence library inductions from the moment you meet individuals. Attend your organisation’s new joiner events, introduce yourself, then when you have the library sessions, you are an approachable familiar face. If you have implemented some of the ideas listed below, you will be facilitating meaningful learning in smaller, more active sessions.
If your organisation operates a remote or flexible working policy, I found online library inductions were effective and well received. People want to get comfortable with information services because they are building trust with a new employer, and establishing relationships with colleagues. There should be no difference in how they access library services just because they are not physically in the office.
Bring your own training skills up to scratch
Now you’ve considered your audience, you’re aware that you need more than an hour long lecture on ‘what you can do for them’. Anyone can do a presentation, but doing one well can be a challenge. Legal information professionals know A LOT about finding information in their particular industry - but how do you transfer that knowledge effectively?
Ask the experts: there are many ‘training for trainer’ courses, both paid for and free. Make use of library websites, webinars, free MOOCs, or YouTube videos for presentation ideas and make it part of your own professional development. To ease the pressure, some organisations invite external trainers from publishers to come in and talk about their particular service - if you take time to attend, this can be an excellent way of honing your skills.
Ask your colleagues: there is nothing like practice, so ask others to read your material, listen to your presentations, and get them to offer constructive advice! This has the benefit of library staff training and sharing good practice. Nothing is ever wasted and you will come up with some great ideas.
Start thinking creatively about training
Once you’ve moved away from the large formal lecture, start thinking creatively and actively. Your information staff will have some interesting ideas about training because they will be familiar with what works - and doesn’t. Get training on the library agenda and formulate a plan of action, making use of all available skill sets. Here are some discussion points:
- Make use of your existing resources. Are your social media / intranet pages current and fit for purpose? Do you feel that they are useful and informative?
- Creating material takes time - so why reinvent the wheel? If you put together a core collection of training resources, you can adapt them to suit different audiences
- How can you make use of existing online platforms? Following on from this and prevent repetition, create ‘bitesize’ videos/recordings and publish them in VLEs, YouTube, intranets etc
- Offer relaxed lunch time ‘drop in sessions’. These are perfect for end-users who might feel intimidated about asking questions in large groups. Focus on one database, or an overview of searching, or a particular topic
- Encourage discussion in sessions through quizzes and case studies; make it fun, inclusive and interactive
- Your end-users will have some experience so invite them to talk about when a particular search or database has helped in their work or previous job or studies
- Be inventive. Think about storytelling and infographics in your training.
- Always follow up questions arising from training, these emails can be stored for future reference, and get feedback from your sessions!
Library services are integral to the information wellbeing of the organisation so this investment in end-user training is vital. Your organisation should recognise your part in it. If people get actively involved in learning and collaborating with others, there is better retention of information. Encourage them to become expert searchers and independent researchers.