Technology Training Questions for Public Librarians

Goodness! I love emails like this one:

Hi–I’m the Technology Training and Website Supervisor at ______ Public Library. This is a new position for the library and for me, and I’m looking for contacts and gathering info. My questions include (but are not limited to–)

So I asked the person who wrote me if I could answer via my blog because maybe some other folks might find this stuff helpful. Here goes:

1. How many machines in your computer lab? How do you staff it? What software is available?

We have a lab of 15 computers that is only open to the public for classes. We do not open it for public hours. The public uses the 40+ Macs and PCs scattered around our building.

When classes are given, there are always two staff present to oversee the room and teach.

We also have two portable labs consisting of 8 wifi compatible Macs or ten wifi compatible PCs that can travel anywhere in our library system.

We have a standard software list on each: browsers, Microsoft suite, Filemaker, IM software, etc. The training room is filled with Macs — so all the hot Mac OS X software is on them.

2. What classes do you offer the public, and who teaches them? Anything that’s wildly popular?

Currently we offer a super-popular ?Senior Seminar? over five weeks for seniors who want to learn all about computer basics and Web stuff. We have searching classes, some special topics like ?Online Auctions? and ?Digital Camera? that I teach and that usually bring out a lot of folks. We just started Basic Computers and Internet in Spanish and a Word processing class.

When the fall class schedule goes up it will be here.

3. Are you responsible for training the staff on new software releases, circ system, phone system, etc., or do you mainly coordinate outside trainers?

We are pretty darn lucky here at SJCPL, our administration recognized the need for in house technology training back in 1997 and my department, Networked Resources Development and Training, has been doing all of the technology training since then, including all of the things you mention. Robert Lewandowski came to us from Purdue Unversity with a Masters in Instructional Technology. I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to have someone with his background working at SJCPL.

We also have a part time circulation function trainer, Adam Tarwacki (his band is here), who works with NRDT 20 hours and on the circ desk for another 20 each week. Having someone training circ staff who works in circ as well is a good thing!

4. How many people are directly responsible for your website (which is outstanding, by the way)?

Thanks! Our excellent graphics/web page developer Dale Kerkman takes all the stuff we throw at him and makes into what you see at I oversee the scope and mission of the Web site and we pull content in from all over the system. Our Marketing manager writes content for the Web and edits it with me.

5. Are there any conferences related to public library technology that you’d recommend?

What a cool question! Do your best to get to Computers in Libraries or Internet Librarian each year. (If you can swing more: LITA, PLA and ALA annual.) These conferences are perfect for the library tech person. And if you go, be prepared to bring back ideas and new stuff and work hard to turn your librarians and administrators on to the stuff. Too many times, folks traipse off to a library conference and take tons of notes (hopefully into their laptops or devices) that never see the light of day when they get back to work. I would hope libraries that spend money on folks to go to stuff make sure they are getting a good ROI on those trips.

And finally, I?ll do a shameless plug for Internet Librarian 2004 ? I?ll be co-hosting a community of Interest session Sunday November 14th for technology trainers with my SJCPL colleague and trainer Bob Lewandowski, Librarian, Blogger and Trainer Aaron Schmidt and Trainer/Blogger Michael Porter. We will be discussing questions just like these with whoever attends this informal gathering.