Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Training for library and information services

Earlier this year I carried out a survey of Continuing Professional Development and Workforce Development for the library and information services sector in Yorkshire. This originated in a round table meeting that SINTO hosted to discuss the implication of the closure of MLA Yorkshire at the end of 2009. This meeting agreed that the regional provision of LIS training was important and that SINTO could have an expanded role in providing training. It was suggested that SINTO should carry out a mapping exercise to provide some background information.
Financial support for the survey was received from the Yorkshire and Humberside Branch of CILIP but unfortunately Yorkshire Libraries & Information (YLI), the only other regional body in a position to support this, declined to make a contribution. This did limit the time that I was able to devote to this survey and as a result I did not get a response from all of the services I would have liked. However I do feel that the survey has produced significant findings.

I deliberately used the terms Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and Workforce Development (WD) as well as the more general Training. CPD and WD cover the same activities but while CPD focuses on the development needs of individuals WD focuses on the needs of the organisation. When piloting the survey it appeared that although people were aware of the distinction they did not regard it as significant.
The overall purpose of the survey was:

  • To help LIS services and co-operative bodies understand the overall pattern of provision of training in the region and consider if this meets their needs.
  • To help LIS services and individual staff identify providers of training in the region
  • To aid providers of training to co-ordinate their provision
  • To identify any gaps in provision

I interviewed or received survey forms from eleven librarians with responsibility for training in their organisations.
I began by asking respondents about their training budgets. This is more complicated that it might seem! Libraries often have to bid for training funds from a larger institutional budget so there is no set figure. On average people were working within a budget of about £100 per member of staff but there was wide variation. Given that a typical CILIP course in London can cost around £200 or more this obviously does not go very far! Most respondents agreed that funding placed at least some constraint on training provision. The majority said that their budgets had either increased slightly or remained static over the past few years. They reported that training was important to their organisations and were not anticipating significant cuts in budget in the short term. However the survey took place before the recent widespread debate about public spending cuts and I suspect that people are less optimistic now.
As might be expected, all libraries have a similar model for establishing training needs. This consists of appraisals or professional development reviews which establish what staff want and a service development plan which states what the needs of the service are. Senior managers make the final decision based on a balance of these needs and available resources. There was some evidence that the emphasis is shifting away from the needs of individual staff towards the needs of the organisation, but it was stressed that the two were not necessarily in conflict.

There was widespread agreement on the broad priorities for CPD/WD. The top three topics were leadership & management, customer care and IT developments (particularly Web 2.0).

When it came to sourcing training a great deal of generic training e.g. in management skills, was provided by the parent organisation (university or local authority) of the library. However there was a need for training specifically aimed at library staff. The following organisations were used for this training (ranked in order of importance):

  • Regional and local library consortia. SINTO was mentioned by most of the respondents.
  • CILIP National Groups. CILIP subject groups run seminars and conferences including the annual Umbrella event. These cover specialist subjects and are very relevant to LIS staff.
  • Training companies and individual trainers. Libraries bring in trainers to meet specific WD needs
  • National training organisations e.g. Aslib
  • Local colleges and universities. Local departments of information studies make some courses open to local library staff. FE colleges support NVQs and other training.
  • On-line and print training materials. This includes material such as the Intute Virtual Training Suite.
  • CILIP Training & development at CILIP HQ. Most respondents said that these events were highly valued but that take-up was severely limited because of the costs of the seminars and the associated travel costs.
  • Local professional groups such as CILIP Yorkshire & Humberside Branch. The CILIP Branch would be used more but did not provide an active programme of events.

Respondents were asked to identify gaps in provision. The most common issue was the lack of events in the region compared to London. It was felt that events in London were not only expensive in themselves but that travel costs greatly added to the cost. Other gaps identified were courses for para-professional staff, briefings on new topics or technologies and general professional awareness updating.

I will discuss these results in my next blog.

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