Colorado State Library Expands Online Training Site

The Colorado State Library (CSL) is continuing to build out its Library Creation & Learning Centers website, a free online resource where libraries throughout the state and beyond can access interactive technology and customer service training modules for staff, Maker space programming ideas, curated links to digital creation software, and more. While the site currently focuses primarily on tech-related topics, there are plans to expand it to offer resources and training materials for a range of subjects.
Colorado State Library Tech Training ModulesThe Colorado State Library (CSL) is continuing to build out its Library Creation & Learning Centers website, a free online resource where libraries throughout the state and beyond can access interactive technology and customer service training modules for staff, Maker space programming ideas, curated links to digital creation software, and more. While the site currently focuses primarily on tech-related topics, Christine Kreger, CSL professional development coordinator, plans to expand it to offer resources and training materials for a range of subjects. “My goal is to turn the library creation and learning website into a larger CE [continuing education] area that will go beyond technology…to be a mix of resources, such as archived webinars and e-learning tools, and basically provide content in a variety of ways on a variety of topics,” Kreger said. The site originated with an in-person staff training program launched in 2011 as part of a major rollout of new computer equipment to high-need urban and rural branches throughout Colorado. In September 2010, CSL received a $2.3 million grant from the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). According to a 2012 report published by CSL’s Library Research Service, this funding, along with additional grants and matching donations from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, CSL, local libraries, community organizations, and others, enabled CSL to equip or enhance public computer centers in 88 branches in communities with limited access to public computers, low broadband penetration, or both. Investments included 681 new laptops, 487 desktops, 59 tablets, and 66 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant workstations.

Tech Training Origin

Many of the librarians and staff at these branches needed advice regarding the best ways to assist patrons with the new equipment, teach digital literacy courses, or promote these new resources within their community. So CSL consultants Crystal Schimpf, Kieran Hixon, and Nancy Trimm developed a six-part, in-person “train the trainers” workshop. “All of us on the team had experience teaching computer classes, and we knew what the challenges were,” said Schimpf, who, with Hixon, co-founded library training consultancy Kixal. “We also knew what some of the gaps were in the training materials that were out there, or what it was really like to deliver computer classes” to the public. Based on the trainers’ experiences, and feedback from librarians and staff, these in-person workshops were refined and adjusted during hundreds of sessions held in 2011 and 2012, as the trainers traveled to teach the program at libraries throughout the state. Schimpf estimates that at least half of the training sessions were held for small and rural libraries, “and we knew that those smaller libraries needed a lot of advice on how to adapt this to work for them…. So we added in a lot of different types of service models, and created something where people could really learn how to make better decisions and plan on their own.” For example, many “train the trainer” programs tend to assume that staff will eventually be teaching classes to small groups or labs, but small libraries might need more advice on improving one-on-one instruction. And even at large libraries, staff need to be able to parse out what is causing a patron to struggle with a computer interface or concept, and then clearly explain it. The CSL team ultimately began highlighting more one-on-one teaching strategies in workshops, such as how to break down technology-related questions using simple reference interview techniques. “It can be very challenging to put together computer classes that are ongoing and successful,” Schimpf said. “In some communities, it works very well, and in others, it’s not what the community is demanding, it’s not what their schedules allow for, and a one-on-one type of approach—whether it’s through appointments or through having a more robust drop-in help program—is what’s most effective in transferring technology skills.”

Course Preserved

As the BTOP program began winding down after two years, “we realized we had refined the content, and how important it was to not let it just die,” Schimpf said. Mary Beth Faccioli, who at the time was working as instructional design and technology consultant for CSL, built the Drupal-based Library Creation & Learning Centers site in late 2013 and early 2014 so that libraries in Colorado and elsewhere could continue to access portions of the curriculum, such as skills checklists, handouts, and training outlines. Using Articulate Storyline authoring tools, Faccioli also created a new series of interactive online training modules that communicate several key concepts from the in-person workshops, including how to conduct a technology reference interview; how to assess staff proficiency with technology; how to create resources to help with common questions; how to use effective one-on-one technology training techniques; how to deal with challenging patron situations in a positive way; how to tailor training techniques to the needs of adults; and how to design technology training classes for groups. “I looked through all of their face-to-face curriculum, and tried to figure out what were the things that seemed reasonable to teach in an asynchronous way,” Faccioli explained. Separately, she worked with Kreger and CSL trainer Eileen McClusky to develop a similar series of four online e-learning modules on customer service. Additional content, including a Maker space section that offers a list of links to potential grant and funding bodies, dozens of Maker space programming ideas grouped by skill level, itemized shopping lists to build digital creation stations on a budget, a “3-D Printing 101” section, and more, were also added last year.

Building Out

Based partly on a continuing education needs assessment survey that CSL conducted last September, Kreger is now looking to add new content to the site periodically, on topics ranging from collection development to community engagement. “Hopefully in a year, or a year in a half, it will be a more robust website covering a variety of topics,” she said. “Anything Colorado library staff want to know.” Kreger noted that an ever-expanding variety of online training options are available to libraries, and one of the goals of the assessment survey was to determine what they needed and what they were getting elsewhere, “so that we can fill in the gaps,” Kreger said. A couple of the top-requested topics—Maker spaces and customer service—indicate that the site has already been headed in the right direction. Other common requests included information and training materials regarding copyright issues, a variety of management topics, and basic training courses for staff that do not have a library background. Kreger added that the site will continue to be free to use, even for libraries outside the state. “I’ve gotten requests, not only from other state library agencies, but also from individual libraries. People stumble across this content, and we’re happy to make it available.”

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