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David Lee King

Library of Congress Solves their Techie Divide



If you didn’t see this, you should REALLY go read the article (from American Libraries Online; discovered via Michael Casey).

From the ALA article: “… LC Director for Workforce Acquisitions Bill Ayers said 200 employees had taken advantage of a voluntary retirement incentive for librarians who had become “very comfortable” with traditional librarianship and chose not to gain new technological skills. As a result, he said, the library’s full-time staff dropped by 130 between FY 2004 and 2005.” {emphasis mine}

And this quote: “… LC is preparing a workforce transformation initiative to help current employees upgrade their abilities while attracting new staff with digital-era skills.” {emphasis mine}

Did you catch that? This is a great (yet unfortunate) example of the odd digital divide in libraries and among library staff. There are library workers who are capable of gaining “new technological skills” … and there are library workers who for one reason or another “chose not to gain new technology skills.” And LC is being very kind – they’re training people who want to learn, and providing other options for those who do not want to learn.

I’ve been reading up on change management and thinking about how that affects technology change in libraries, and this example fits in well with what I’ve learned so far. Some people simply don’t want to change – they are comfortable with their jobs and their job duties, they might even think the way they do things is The Best Way to do them – so why in the world would they want to change?

I like the pro-active way the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County is dealing with technology change and training with their Learning 2.0 / 23 Things training program. But also – at some point – library managers might need to treat technology skills like any other skill – it’s part of your job, you need to do it or find another job. That seems harsh, but really… would you hire someone to do telephone reference if they had no phone skills, and refused to learn phone skills? Would you hire a cataloger if they couldn’t catalog and didn’t want to learn anything about AACR2? Probably not.

It should be the same with technology skills, which right now are changing pretty rapidly. Think about it.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • http://www.librarycrunch.com/ Michael Casey

    And it’s really not the cutting edge technology skills that library managers need to insist upon. Librarians need the basics — fluency in Windows XP or whatever OS you’re using, web browsers, file and folder management and manipulation, installing and upgrading software, troubleshooting hardware and software problems, scanning, etc. Almost like a simplified A+ certification. Most students exiting university these days already possess these skills.

  • http://www.librarycrunch.com Michael Casey

    And it’s really not the cutting edge technology skills that library managers need to insist upon. Librarians need the basics — fluency in Windows XP or whatever OS you’re using, web browsers, file and folder management and manipulation, installing and upgrading software, troubleshooting hardware and software problems, scanning, etc. Almost like a simplified A+ certification. Most students exiting university these days already possess these skills.

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  • http://morethanlettuce.blogspot.com/ Salad Days

    David mentions the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County’s (PLCMC) program of introducing Web 2.0 technology to thier staff through a voluntary program called Learning 2.0.

    To which Michael Casey responds “And it’s really not the cutting edge technology skills that library managers need to insist upon. Librarians need the basics…”

    I want to mention that PLCMC also insists on basic technology skills for their staff which they call “Core Competencies.” And, it’s imporant to note, those skills are required.

    You won’t see PLCMC’s core competency checklists out there on the web. This training program is housed snuggly on PLCMC’s Intranet, visible only to PLCMC staff.

    That being said, PLCMC’s Core Competencies training program is certainly relevant to other library systems. The basic Core Competency training level (Level I) covers over a hundred everyone-must-know-this skills like, “Knows branch or department logins and passwords,” and “Can reply, forward, and delete an e-mail message,” plus troubleshooting skills like, “Can plug in and unplug a network cable and tell whether the terminator is firmly seated or broken.”

    And the training levels progress. Level II covers technology skills specific to PLCMC’s cataloging software, plus application-specific skills like “Can create and edit tables in Word.” Short online tutorials for these skills are available if needed.

    As of August 22, 2006, all PLCMC staff have completed Core Competencies levels I and II. There are five levels, each with required deadlines for completion, and training staff are available to help ensure that all employees are able — if they’re willing — to complete these checklists.

    PLCMC staff are encouraged to explore new Web 2.0 technologies with the voluntary Learning 2.0 program. But all training isn’t voluntary. You must have the basics.

  • http://morethanlettuce.blogspot.com/ Salad Days

    David mentions the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County’s (PLCMC) program of introducing Web 2.0 technology to thier staff through a voluntary program called Learning 2.0.

    To which Michael Casey responds “And it’s really not the cutting edge technology skills that library managers need to insist upon. Librarians need the basics…”

    I want to mention that PLCMC also insists on basic technology skills for their staff which they call “Core Competencies.” And, it’s imporant to note, those skills are required.

    You won’t see PLCMC’s core competency checklists out there on the web. This training program is housed snuggly on PLCMC’s Intranet, visible only to PLCMC staff.

    That being said, PLCMC’s Core Competencies training program is certainly relevant to other library systems. The basic Core Competency training level (Level I) covers over a hundred everyone-must-know-this skills like, “Knows branch or department logins and passwords,” and “Can reply, forward, and delete an e-mail message,” plus troubleshooting skills like, “Can plug in and unplug a network cable and tell whether the terminator is firmly seated or broken.”

    And the training levels progress. Level II covers technology skills specific to PLCMC’s cataloging software, plus application-specific skills like “Can create and edit tables in Word.” Short online tutorials for these skills are available if needed.

    As of August 22, 2006, all PLCMC staff have completed Core Competencies levels I and II. There are five levels, each with required deadlines for completion, and training staff are available to help ensure that all employees are able — if they’re willing — to complete these checklists.

    PLCMC staff are encouraged to explore new Web 2.0 technologies with the voluntary Learning 2.0 program. But all training isn’t voluntary. You must have the basics.

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  • http://www.ezrasf.com/ ez

    It is great to see LoC joining the real world. My grandmother worked at a university library for just shy of 30 years. She adapted to the computer checkout system of the 1990s (similar to Pine on UNIX). However, the Windows XP upgrade completely threw her. Only no one had the heart to ask her to leave.

  • http://www.ezrasf.com/ ez

    It is great to see LoC joining the real world. My grandmother worked at a university library for just shy of 30 years. She adapted to the computer checkout system of the 1990s (similar to Pine on UNIX). However, the Windows XP upgrade completely threw her. Only no one had the heart to ask her to leave.

  • http://learningexpress.blogspot.com/ Lori Reed

    Salad Days brought up a good point. The Core Competencies training at PLCMC built the foundation for Learning 2.0. All staff–even staff who do not regularly use computers were trained in the basics of computer use. I have post a document outlining our Core Competencies program on the PLCMC Core Competencies blog for anyone who is interested:
    http://plcmccore.blogspot.com/

  • http://learningexpress.blogspot.com Lori Reed

    Salad Days brought up a good point. The Core Competencies training at PLCMC built the foundation for Learning 2.0. All staff–even staff who do not regularly use computers were trained in the basics of computer use. I have post a document outlining our Core Competencies program on the PLCMC Core Competencies blog for anyone who is interested:
    http://plcmccore.blogspot.com/

  • http://sixessevens.typepad.com/library_of_primitive_art/ Ross

    So now that the techie divide has been delineated, does that mean we need a retronym to describe the ‘other side’ of the divide — in the spirit of “acoustic guitar”? May I recommend heritage librarianship. Alas, in ANZ it already has a different meaning.

  • http://sixessevens.typepad.com/library_of_primitive_art/ Ross

    So now that the techie divide has been delineated, does that mean we need a retronym to describe the ‘other side’ of the divide — in the spirit of “acoustic guitar”? May I recommend heritage librarianship. Alas, in ANZ it already has a different meaning.

  • Simon

    Be aware that many organizations have institutionalized and protected those uncomfortable with new tech. This can bring about a situation where those who are comfortable with Web 2.0 decide they’re not being heard and they leave.

    The day to day work in many libraries (even large urban ones) is not shifting towards a tech-centric mentality, it’s about discliping throngs of teens away from the computers because there are only 6 terminals and 35 kids wanting to use them.

  • Simon

    Be aware that many organizations have institutionalized and protected those uncomfortable with new tech. This can bring about a situation where those who are comfortable with Web 2.0 decide they’re not being heard and they leave.

    The day to day work in many libraries (even large urban ones) is not shifting towards a tech-centric mentality, it’s about discliping throngs of teens away from the computers because there are only 6 terminals and 35 kids wanting to use them.

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