Determining and Meeting Personnel
By Anita Jennings
The role of the library has changed significantly during the past 2
decades. Twenty years ago, it could have been considered the norm for a small
to mid-sized library to have one or two computers for patron use. Staff was
fortunate to have a computer connected to a printer—a tractor-feed ink
jet printer—with a basic word processing application and perhaps a spreadsheet
application. This was before the time of personal e-mail accounts, surfing
the Web, online job applications, and electronic identity theft. Today it is
the norm for libraries to have full-service computer labs available for patron
use. These computers have suites of software, Internet access, CD-ROM drives,
and even DVD drives. Do you remember the first time a patron asked you how
to use a flash drive or a portable digital audio player? If this has not happened,
it soon will.
Welcome to the World of Technology
Here at the Newport News (Va.) Public Library Center (NNPLC), we entered into
this new level of technology when we received a United States Department of
Education grant in April 2000. This grant provided funding so that we could
build our first computer lab. Money was also available for computer hardware,
software, furniture, and a full-time community technology center coordinator
(CTCC). Since the construction of our first computer lab, we’ve built
additional labs at each of our four branches. We provide instruction to our
patrons at these locations. An additional full-time position has been created
to assist in lab management and instruction delivery to both staff and patrons.
With the increased computer access that we were able to provide, our patrons’ expectations
for technology-related assistance increased. In order to provide this new level
of service, computer training had to be developed and offered to staff members
on a regular basis. As the new CTCC, it was my job to develop the computer
training modules for guests and staff. I was also charged with developing assessment
tools that could be used to measure the effectiveness of the training we provided.
People who worked in the computer lab had to stay abreast of changes in software
applications, online services, and basic computer troubleshooting. It was also
helpful for us to follow changes in entertainment and business equipment trends.
Even a general understanding of what a PDA or iPod was used for was beneficial.
The ability to explain Wi-Fi on-the-fly has also been helpful for me.
NNPLC managers recently developed a new pay plan for our employees. As of
December 2004, one of the requirements for promotion is demonstrating proficiency
with computer applications. This new system met with a great deal of staff
resistance. We eased into it by giving staff members the training they needed
to progress in the field.
Reviewing the Situation
There were many elements to consider when designing the training modules.
I’ll describe our process here.
Analyzing Our Jobs
By using job description analysis and supervisory input, we were able to determine
the processes that staff members used to accomplish their duties. This also
gave us a picture of what the individual responsibilities of the particular
job classifications were. In some instances, employee observation and interviews
were used to determine an individual’s duties. A comprehensive an alysis
allowed us to specify the level of technology training needed for each classification.
Supervisors provided input on their employees’ knowledge, skills, and
abilities. We also evaluated the types of technology-related questions that
employees could expect from patrons.
Assessing Our Needs
Many of our staff members entered the world of libraries from different occupations,
so their mastery of computer skills was different from classification to classification.
Even within the same branch, individuals’ computer abilities varied widely.
After we determined the knowledge, skills, and abilities that were needed for
each job classification, we were able to begin developing the training curriculum.
We also used this information to develop our pretest and post-test assessments.
After successfully completing our needs assessment, we were able to answer
the following questions:
• Who needed to be trained? In addition to training
our current staff, we needed to teach new staff members as they were hired.
We were able to do this by offering computer instruction on a continuous basis.
Employees who felt that they were proficient in a particular application were
given an opportunity to take the post-test after a general course overview
was given. If they passed this test, they were exempt from attending training
for that particular course.
• What should staff know? When determining the level
of proficiency staff should have, we reviewed our employment structure. Our
categories for support staff included library technician I, library technician
II, and senior library technician. Training was available to all staff members.
In order for a staff member to progress from one job classification to the
next, he or she had to prove certain levels of ability.
For example, anyone qualifying as a library technician I needed to demonstrate
a thorough understanding of the following applications: beginning Word, beginning
Publisher, beginning PowerPoint, beginning Excel, and resume writing using
the Word Wizard. An employee classified as library technician II needed to
be proficient in beginning Access, intermediate Excel, and intermediate Word.
Those who were classified as senior library technicians needed to demonstrate
their knowledge of all of the software applications that were offered to the
other two groups of employees. For someone to be deemed “proficient,” she
had to complete training and achieve a passing score of at least 70 percent
on our post-test assessment. (Staff also received training in the areas of
customer services, employee relations, and on-the-job training.)
Collecting the Data
Data collection was a very important part of our organizational development
process. Much of the data that we needed for the analysis and needs assessment
was readily available. Supervisory staff provided a great deal of input in
this process, and I am continually gathering data from patron and employee
suggestions, interviews, and questionnaires.
In developing the course objectives, which are outlined on each curriculum,
we defined the particular skills that trainees needed to master for each individual
course that they completed. The training objectives were also used to create
the pretest and post-test assessments. This allowed us to measure our effectiveness
in meeting the objectives that we defined. It also allowed for consistency
of training, which was a concern because it was provided at different branches
by different instructors.
By administering pretest and post-test assessments, we were able to evaluate
the percentage of change in each individual’s performance. Our assessments
were in the form of hands-on exercises: We gave employees relevant tasks to
perform using the particular software application they were learning.
Evaluation and Records Maintenance
As our employees progress through training, we maintain records in a Microsoft
Access database. We track employee name, title, and number; course title and
number; training date; and test scores. We keep this information for reporting
The Program Is a Success
We have worked for the past several months in developing our training modules
and assessment measures. Although training had been provided to staff in the
past, it was not offered as frequently as it is now, nor was it tied to promotions.
The employees see the education that the library system offers now as a benefit.
Teaching computer skills allows us to have a more well-rounded staff that
is better able to use the applications and to provide technology-related services
to patrons. Although this is a work in progress, it has been successful.
Bernfeld, Betsy A. Developing a Team Management Structure in a Public Library:
Rothwell, William J. and Kazanas, H. C. Mastering the Instructional Design
Process: A Systematic Approach. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons,
Anita Jennings is the community technology center coordinator for the Newport
News Public Library Center in Newport News, Va. She holds an M.L.S. from Texas
Woman’s University and an M.S. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology
from the University of Central Texas. Jennings has worked in the field of training
and development for the past 10 years; the last 5 have been with this library
system. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.