21 No. 1 — Jan./Feb. 2007
Promoting Electronic Databases to City Staff Members
Lala Rodgers and Dana Garzolini
In 2005, Chicago Public Library (CPL) commissioner Mary Dempsey was asked by mayor Richard Daley to take on a 6-month assignment to reform the city of Chicago’s Department of Procurement Services. Surprised at how few employees in procurement knew that resources were available to them from the library, a fellow city department, Dempsey envisioned training city department heads and their staffs on CPL’s electronic resources in order to help them work more efficiently.
The response was fantastic. More than 170 employees from 20 departments attended the first round of orientation sessions. Later sessions were also packed.
Preparing to Demo for City Employees
In December 2005, Pam Morgan, then-director of reference and the project manager, sent a systemwide email asking for librarians interested in becoming presenters for the database orientation sessions. She said a training session for presenters would be scheduled in January 2006 and that orientation sessions would be held in February. Dana and I jumped at the opportunity.
Morgan’s second email informed respondents that we would be acquainting attendees with databases that they may use for information gathering and decision making. She listed which ProQuest databases we would be expected to know and asked us to be prepared to answer attendee’s questions about content and searching.
Morgan provided an orientation outline for presenters and handouts for attendees. In our first meeting, Morgan went through the presentation then answered our questions. She stressed that the 2-hour sessions would be demonstration only. Trainers would work in pairs. She asked us to keep track of questions asked and said that if we got stumped, we should ask for a business card and follow up.
Before our second meeting, Morgan updated the orientation materials based on our discussion and scheduled eight 2-hour sessions (two a day on 4 days) in the video theater at the Harold Washington Library Center, CPL’s central library. Morgan sent out invitations to city department heads via email and/or snail mail.
Our second meeting was held in the video theater in late January so that we could get a feel for the room and equipment. We rehearsed, and customized our outlines.
Training Day Plans
Dana came up with the idea of sitting in on one of the presentations that was scheduled prior to ours. She recorded many questions that people asked so we could get an idea of what to expect.
Our big day was Thursday, Feb. 9, 2006. Morgan provided handouts, library card applications, pencils that advertised CPL’s Web site, and staff to handle registration. We were amazed by the large turnout—about 40 people. Morgan gave a brief introduction and acknowledged the various city departments. Dana presented and I “drove” the computer in morning session and we switched in the afternoon. We covered the following:
2. CPL home page overview (www.chicagopubliclibrary.org)
• Library locations, Ask A Librarian email service
3. CPL Databases
• Databases vs. Google, Databases are available from
any PC with a valid CPL library card.
4. How to get a library card
5. What are databases good for?
6. What are your information needs?
7. Database demos and sample searches
Because people need library card accounts to access databases remotely, we asked how many attendees had cards. We pointed out that applications were in their handouts and that they could actually apply and receive cards that day (a plus of having the sessions at the central library). These sessions generated a number of new library card accounts.
We concentrated on four databases: ProQuest Newspapers, ProQuest Research Library (general magazines and journals), ProQuest ABI Inform Global (business), and Gale Business and Company Resource Center. We were proud that our databases actually indexed all of the print sources that attendees inquired about. Since our audience was so diverse, we took our search topics from current news items and conducted the same sample searches across the different databases and showed the results. One department head stated that she might be able to cancel a subscription to an expensive fee-based resource because everything her staff needed seemed to be available in CPL’s databases. Ending with “fun” and kids’ databases that could be used for homework, etc., showed attendees that the databases could be useful in their personal lives as well.
A few days after the last session, Morgan emailed to say that attendees had been telling her how they had been putting the tools to use and asking when we’d be having more sessions. A deputy commissioner stated that she couldn’t believe she had been working without knowledge of these resources.
Debriefing Before Round Two
On April 10, Morgan held a debriefing meeting with all of the trainers. Here are some of our conclusions:
- The video theatre was not a good venue; it was dark and bad for note taking. Some people were dozing off after lunch. A computer classroom would be better.
- Make it clear to participants that they will not be
receiving specific training.
- The sessions need to be more interactive. We need to ask what kind of searches they would like to do.
- Concentrate on the general databases only.
CPL held the next round of sessions during the weeks of April 17 and 24 in its new staff computer classroom at the Harold Washington Library Center. It can accommodate up
to 20 students and has computers with flat-panel monitors. Attendees were more engaged because they had their own computers and trainers could offer them one-on-one assistance. These sessions focused on ProQuest Newspapers and ProQuest Research Library. We gave brief demos of each database, did a couple of sample searches, and asked for search topics. Participants were able to spend a lot of time searching and had positive responses about the databases.
Everyone Reaped Benefits
Plans for future training sessions are in the works, even though Pam Morgan has moved to another organization.CPL reaped these important benefits: a) inexpensive promotion, since invitations were sent by email and snail mail; b) got many new/updated library card accounts; c) we volunteers learned databases more intimately and honed our public speaking and training skills; and d) satisfied attendees became advocates, sharing what they learned about the library’s databases with their co-workers and families.
The city’s benefits included the following: a) employees learned new skills to help them work smarter; b) saved money by dropping some expensive resources and working more efficiently; and c) reached a better understanding of how the city’s departments can learn from and benefit each other.
This is an exciting time for CPL and we know that once the word is out, others will be excited too.