Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Learning is Doing

I have a theory that goes something like this:

The best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else.

We tend to pay more attention to things when we feel invested in them.  Applying this theory, I assigned each info staff member to a database and asked them to train their coworkers on the ins and outs of their database. I offered myself up for guidance to help plan a course of action and I couldn't be more thrilled with the results.  While we are only half way through the assigned databases, each staff member incorporated a different approach to the training.  By far, my favorite method of training will always be the ones that are interactive.

For her training on Reference USA, a staff member set up her training group on individual computers and facilitated the group as they experienced the database first hand.  She also passed out a simple handout to accompany the training and keep staff engaged.
If you are familiar with the Reference USA database, then you will understand what this staff member was getting at.  The first set of questions prodded participants to use the quick search, map, and corporate tree features of the business section.  The second set of questions highlighted the custom search feature for businesses and the third question demonstrated the residential search.  This was the only handout she gave to participants.

This simple sheet of paper functioned in so many ways: it acted as a point of reference for both her and the attendees, helped to keep the training flowing and difficult participants on topic, and you could recycle it at the end of the training and not feel bad about not keeping the paper.

The best trainings incorporate as many senses as possible.  Since it's not likely that you'll get trainings which utilize your sense of smell or taste, you're batting 1000 if you use the three (sight, sound, and touch.)  This training example does.  Participants are following along with the simple handout, hearing instructions from the trainer, and doing the exercises for maximum retention.

Not every training will fit into this scenario and you always have to take your audience into consideration but, I challenge you to think of ways to incorporate the senses in order to get training to stick.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Rate Your Library

Why We Buy by Paco Underhill

I've been in the throes of customer service training for a couple of months now and, I must say, it is quite a difficult and expansive topic to engage in.  The problem with customer service is that everyone thinks they are good at it when, the truth is, everyone almost always has room to grow.

We all know the basics of customer service in the library, which mostly boils down to model reference behaviors, but there are so many customer service mistakes which happen before the customer seeks out help that it is a wonder a librarian ever gets to the reference interview in the first place.  I highly recommend Why We Buy by Paco Underhill to help you identify some key customer service mistakes that have absolutely nothing to do with human interaction.

 So much information can be gathered just through observation which is why I highly recommend plopping yourself down in a chair in the middle of your library and observing the following things:

  • Flow of Traffic
Where are the people going?  You may notice a big difference between the habits of repeat customers and those who are new to the library.  You can use this information to market to specific customers.

  • Customer Behavior at the Desk and Info Staff Assisting Customers
Do you notice timid customers dancing around the Information Desk?  What behaviors do you notice of the staff?  Do THEY notice the timid customer?  You may consider altering the layout of the desk or adjusting the desktop to make it more conducive to customer-staff discussions.

  • How Customers use the Library
Are visitors using the space as you envisioned or have they made it a place of their own?  A lot of furniture moving is a pretty good indicator that something is amiss.  Check out this post from walkingpaper.org for a better understanding.

  • Customer Browsing Patterns
Most library staff put a lot of time into creating displays but it doesn't do any good if you aren't in touch with how your customers browse.  This can really mean not being married to your shelf arrangements and always being in a state of change.

This is only the tip of the iceberg.  In order for libraries to stay relevant we must be on top of our customer service game.  Shushing people and towering over them at our information desks are a thing of the past (or at least should be) and by reinventing the library's customer service you may just actually save it from extinction.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Understanding the Need

You can train people until you are blue in the face but it won't affect anything unless you've already assessed and understand the need.  Most of the time, and especially if it is mandatory, people do not want to attend the trainings offered because they think there is nothing new to learn.  While there can be meaning in going back to the 'ole tried and true trainings once in a while, I encourage you to step out of the box and ask your trainees what they would like to learn.

A simple survey can go a long way.  For those who want to grow within this profession, whether it be up the chain or in the current position, their interest will be peaked by your fishing for information.  Think about asking open ended questions like these:

What trainings have you attended in the past?
Ask this question to see what has been given in the past to keep from doing repeat classes.
Which ones did you find most effective? Why?
Knowing which offerings were a big hit will allow you the ability to go back and see what content was covered and in what format the information was given.  While you may not want to reuse content, you can certainly reuse format.
Are there topics you would like to see covered in the future?
This is the real question you want answered.  The key to unlocking your staff's wants.
In what format do you prefer your training to be delivered?
This question will give you information on which types of trainings work best.  Every person learns in different ways and this question will allow you to peer inside the minds of your staff members.

Thinking in terms of McGregor's Theory X and Theory Y and Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, staff seek out knowledge and growth.  Putting out a survey is the first step toward fostering a healthy work environment by opening up lines of communication.  Of course, what you do with the feedback will play a big role in how your organization will fit into the X or Y continuum.  But for now, I encourage you to just ask a simple question -  "what would you like to learn?"

Monday, March 19, 2012

PLA 2012

While I did not attend the Public Library Association's 2012 conference in Philadelphia, PA, I must give two thumbs up to my coworkers who did.  From a training point of view, they utilized every free tool on the web available to them in order to share the information with staffers back home.  Just visit their blog and have a look at what they did.

In the past, attending conferences like these has been for the library elite.  It costs an incredible amount of money to travel and attend the conference which means that, if you can't afford the trip yourself, you must hope that your library will pay for you to attend.  While the library would like to send everyone, tight budgets mean only a select few can go.  Those who attend are given massive amounts of information, but what, if anything, do they do with that information?  Information is meant to be shared and if there is not an effective way to disseminate the information gathered at these conferences then the whole point is lost.

My coworkers who attended PLA used email, twitter, blogger, you tube, tumblr, foursquare, and sound cloud to give live coverage of the conference.  This makes the information tangible for those staff who were unable to attend.  There's no need for a top-down approach (i.e. let me share with you what I learned from jane doe at the conference I attended) because the information can now be shared straight from the presenter's mouth.

So, how is your library utilizing these free tools?

Leadership, Training, and Customer Service

Welcome to my first Library Training Wheels blog.  I began this website as an experiment to fulfill a personal and professional goal to stay better informed of library innovations and services.  As a trainer of library staff, I know that the best way to retain information is to put in action and share it with whomever you can.  So that’s what this is – my thought on library leadership, training, and customer service.

Hopefully, together we can explore new and creative ways to keep libraries relevant in our changing society.  Change is a pretty scary word but I know an even scarier one – extinct!  While most people in our profession would claim that the internet and its endless source of information makes librarians more relevant, I would argue what’s the point if no one cares?  In order to keep from becoming extinct, it is crucial that we adapt to the society around us.  Stop thinking in terms of what the library can bring to the community but, instead, ask what can the community bring to the library?  What a paradigm shift!

A great place to start is by training library staff on customer service and how to engage with the community.  View my website for a list of my “go-to” resources.