Friday, 15 April 2011

Closed for training

The Library is closed for
staff training on
Improving Services
to Customers

This is an old joke but is making a serious point. Many library services are facing cuts to training budgets and I covered that in a previous blog. But some library services are also reporting that it is becoming increasingly difficult to release staff to attend training events because reduced staff numbers mean there is less cover. Many colleagues report that it is difficult to juggle the timetable to enable even a single person to be out of the library for a day and that sickness can easily throw these plans into disarray.

So does this mean that some libraries will have to give up on training staff or that the above notice will be seen more frequently? I doubt that many librarians would contemplate closing a service point to release staff for training but we should all be asking ourselves the question "What is more important - opening the library or training staff?" If you think the answer to this is obvious then ask yourself if you would open the library if you didn't have any books? Of course not! The point is that keeping the library open is not an end in itself - it is a means of providing access to the resources and services you provide. An open library is only of use if it provides your users with what they want and part of this has to be a workforce with the skills and knowledge required to provide that service. If your workforce doesn't have those skills and that knowledge then why are you opening the library?

This only makes sense of course if the training you are contemplating is essential - and by that I mean essential to the library services and not just to the individual needs of library staff. Training, in the sense of workforce development, has to relate to the core strategic goals of the library; the goals that explain why the library is there, why it opens its doors every morning, why it employs library staff.

The following statement on Preparing for the Future is being discussed by the SINTO Training Group in an attempt to develop a training programme that delivers these core goals. If your library would like to be a part of this please get in touch.

Preparing for the Future
The biggest challenge recognised by professional librarians is the need to make fundamental changes in the way in which libraries, and library staff, operate. This is not a result of budget cuts but rather an ongoing development responding to environmental changes. SINTO is responding to the challenges facing the sector by launching a new programme: Preparing for the Future.

Preparing for the Future is an integrated programme of workforce development events and activities. The goal is to strengthen the link between training outcomes and the strategic goals of the library and the organisation it services. The programme has the following aims:

• Events will be affordable and sustainable.

• They will meet the strategic goals of the organisation.

• They will form an integrated package of value to libraries from all sectors.

• There will be long term support and opportunities for networking.

• Local libraries will contribute to the planning and development of courses.

• Libraries will be confident that releasing staff to attend events will outweigh any temporary reduction in frontline services.

• There will be measurable outcomes.

Preparing for the Future has begun with discussions with the SINTO Training Group to identify training needs linked to the strategic goals of libraries. So far the following areas have been identified:

• Impact of library services and advocacy. Hoe we identify and measure the impact of libraries and use this information to gain support and influence in our organisations.

• Income generation. Re-thinking our approach to raising funds from both our own organisation and external sources.

• Marketing library services to users and non-users.

• Community engagement. Building and maintaining partnerships with your community.

• Behavioural competences. Soft skills of value to both front line and managerial staff.

• IT developments. Electronic books, mobile devices etc aimed at both professional and front-line staff.

Many of these are cross sectoral and benefits will accrue from sharing experiences between different libraries. Some activities will focus on individual sectors (e.g. feedback from the Future Libraries project).

In summary, Preparing for the Future is about workforce development. It is not about sending staff out of the library to meet their individual professional development needs; it is about bringing skills and knowledge into the library to achieve the objectives of your organisation.

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