|Do you need a driver's license to
drive a car? Not reallyif you can reach the pedals, see over the steering
wheel, and steer halfway decently, you can drive whether you have a license
or not. But the process of getting a license ensures that you've taken
the necessary steps to understand what driving is all about (laws, courtesies,
common practices, etc.). Working with a training policy is similaryou
can train without one, but by writing one you plan, develop, and implement
a system that takes into account systemwide needs and perspectives.
What Is a Training Policy?
A training policy is not a panacea.
Just because you write one doesn't mean you'll suddenly have a great library,
super-smart patrons, or a self-actualized staff. But at the same time,
the policy does indicate that you want to have thoseit's just up to you
to make it happen once you've committed to it. However, remember that adage
about teaching people how to fish so they'll be able to feed themselves?
There's a parallel hereyou should be sure to carefully think about and
prepare your policy before you try to implement it! As someone who once
stumbled blindly into teaching three kids how to fish, I just want to warn
you that you don't want to end up with a metaphorical (or literal!) fishhook
in the back of your head.
A policy sets out in writing the
purpose, scope, and composition of a training program. It is useful to
have a document that describes the training program from several perspectives.
Administrators may want to set limits on how much the training program
undertakes. Staff members who implement it need to know what their boundaries
and expectations encompass. Staff members who participate in the program
may want to know what they can expect from it.
In many settings, the program may
actually be a section of another unit, such as personnel, human resources,
or staff development. In other cases, it may sit off by itself and include
multiple reporting lines (solid and dotted). For instance, in my case I
work in an area called Staff Development and Training. I work closely with
the staff development coordinator, who reports to the director for administrative
services, although I report straight to the director for information technology.
A well-written training plan makes clear the responsibilities of all vested
What Should You Include?
Your policy may include a number
A mission statement is much broader
than a goal. It is a vision of why something exists. Some may argue that
a policy is subordinate to and thus shares the institution's primary mission.
In lieu of a mission, the policy should at least state the purpose of the
program. In its most general terms a training program exists to further
the mission of the library to serve the information needs of its constituents.
Stated a little more concretely, the purpose of a training program might
be to provide support in the form of training to staff members so that
they can carry out their responsibilities. Likewise, depending on the mission,
the program's purpose might also be to provide support in the form of training
to patrons (customers, clients, etc.) so that they can effectively fill
their information needs.
a mission statement, and/or a purpose,
that delineates the policy's scope
goals that indicate the direction a
objectives of what will be undertaken
(often reformulated each year)
overall guiding principles that
are general and important to mention
considerations regarding people, places,
or things that impact on or are impacted by the training program
Part of the purpose statement may
include background information concerningvarious relationships regarding
training, such as where the responsibility for the training exists and
what avenues exist for collaboration and cooperation. As I said, in my
situation the responsibility for running the program (administration, management,
registration, promotion, etc.) lies with the staff development coordinator,
while responsibility for developing courses (design, implementation, evaluation,
etc.) lies with the training team.
A training program can achieve its
mission or purpose by having a variety of goals. These are usually broad
statements of intent. For instance, it may be, "To train staff to better
help patrons" (i.e., technology training). Or a goal might be, "To train
staff to better carry out the mission of the library" (i.e., professional
development). Another goal could be, "To train patrons to use information
technologies" (i.e., catalogs, indexes, search engines, etc.).
Know Your Objectives, Principles,
An objective is more like a summary
of a plan than a broad direction. To distinguish goals from objectives,
I like to use a definition that has its roots in education: Objectives
are specific statements of action that result in a measurable outcome.
Similar to learning objectives, policy objectives can describe who is impacted
(audience), specific activities involved (behaviors), the circumstances
under which the activities take place (conditions), and the criteria for
measuring success (degree).
For instance, an objective to initiate
training on a new index may be stated simply: "Training will be given on
the new index resource." Expressed a little more concretely, this objective
might be, "Training will be given to staff to ensure they are able to assist
patrons when index X becomes available in the summer." An even more detailed
objective may be stated: "Hands-on training will be provided so that staff
or patrons [audience] will be able to perform searches and retrieve pertinent
results [behavior] when searching the new index for consumer health information
[condition] and download or print off full-text articles that meet their
In addition to mission, goals, and
objectives, a training policy may state principles that should be followed
and considerations that need to be taken into account. For instance, the
library may establish principles involving how or when training is performed.
Perhaps it indicates a set number of hours of training per individual per
year (20), or when training would best be presented (over the summer),
or whether staff would be compensated for coming in during evenings.
Finally, you should consider variables
that can impact or be impacted by the policy. Often it can be difficult
to know exactly how or where these things will be affected,but they should
still be factored into the equation at the appropriate time. For instance,
it may be hard to determine exactlyhow funding will stand in 9 months,
but consideration must be given to the budget (though not as a driving
factor of the policy). Likewise, variables like how many staff members
from the same unit can attend at one time wouldn't be spelled out in the
policy, but there might be a bulleted item that states, "Consideration
should be given to covering absences during training."
Many Types of Training
What types of training should your
policy cover? First, it is likely that this will change over time. Second,
there are many types of training that can take place in an organization,
and so you may have more than one such policy. As I mentioned, I oversee
technology training, from the operating system (Windows) to some applications
(browsers) to electronic resources (indexes) to the Internet (search engines,
etc.). The staff development coordinator oversees "soft skill" training
(working in teams, etc.). Other departments on campus cover things like
ergonomics, safety, teaching, etc. Thus, a training policy may describe
which training it is responsible for and also indicate other areas of training.
As noted, technology training can
cover a wide gamut. It may be broad (Introduction to the Internet) or specific
(Converting Handouts to the Web). In my situation, we teach some basic
application courses using available textbooks (e.g., Windows, PowerPoint)
but "farm out" more specializedcourses (Linking Spreadsheets) to local
trainers. Most courses we develop in-house (Searching for Current Events,
Troubleshooting Your PC, etc.). Other development courses may likewise
be general (Supervision), a little more specific (Managing Team Meetings),
or work-integrated (Discussing Expectations in the Libraries Performance
Management System) and are lumped together under our staff development
and training umbrella.
Now, Use It or Lose It!
Why should your library have a training
policy? First and foremost, a policy is critical to articulate and share
the vision and direction of professional development. It is essential in
a time and environment when gossip can fly as fast as an e-mail virus to
set things down in writing (though not necessarily in concrete, as things
may change). The policy is a way to tell staff, patrons, supervisors, administration,
the board of trustees, etc., that you value and are committed to keeping
up with change.
A policy is useful when you're first
carving out responsibilities for training. If training already exists,
but without a policy, it would be worthwhile to capture what is going on.
Also, when responsibilities grow or shift, it is very helpful to articulate
goals, boundaries, and expectations. For instance, if one person who has
been leading the training effort leaves, it may be time to reconsider how
training will get done. Will responsibilities remain in the same unit,
with one person? Who should do itsomeone new or someone already within
the library? Should the work be sharedamong people, among units?
Making a commitment to using the
policy means that you believe strongly in the mission of continuing education,
instruction, and teaching. To do a good job means putting the energy, people,
and resources behind needs analysis, design, thorough development, quality
implementation, and serious evaluation. The willingness to put an emphasis
on training also means promoting it and creating a way to maintain and
track it (e.g., a thorough system of prerequisite filtering, registration,
and follow-up to ensure its effectiveness).
If training hasn't already achieved
formal recognition or program status, simply writing a training policy
is not going to achieve it. There must be some kind of buy-in from administration
on the one hand, and staff or patrons on the other. Can you show your administration
measurable outcomes of success that directly support the mission of the
library? For instance, more informed staff could help patrons to a greater
degree, and patrons' greater satisfaction could then be demonstrated via
surveys. Perhaps staff would see payoff in positive change in their responsibilities
or promotions. Or, well-trained patrons would use the libraries' resources
more, and success would be demonstrated by increased usage.
As I said before, almost anyone can
drive a car. But only someone who has studied driving will be well-prepared.
A training policy doesn't set up the rules of the roadthose would be
the training proceduresbut it does map out the lay of the land. Developing
a training policy requires people to think critically about moving forward,
and prevents them from simply reacting to the landscape in front of them.
of Training Policies
it seems a bit flowery, I kind of like the attitude these people have:
"As a good employer, we recognize that training and development is an investment
and not a pure cost and we are, therefore, committed to the career development
of all our employees and the fullest possible use of their talents and
interests as an effective use of our most important resource."
perhaps, but tells it like it is: "The training program shall consist
of specialized courses of study that shall be designed to prepare public
supervisors and managers to function effectively in today's ever-changing
get much more explicit than this: "Provide timely planning, development
and delivery of training services, and promote and deliver cost-effective
training that is critical to the mission."
really like this one, as I am a strong advocate of not only posting prerequisite
skills needed for a class, but actually identifying them in the first place:
"Once a request is received, employees will be enrolled in the class if
they meet the stated course prerequisites."
think I know what this means, but found it amusing how one university emphasizes
previous learning: "Teaching, learning and research skills and knowledge
must be considered when staff are at or near the beginning of their working