Office Hours: Learning to Learn

I totally forgot to link to my July column:

How might staff development days evolve? I was impressed with the activities at Highland Park Public Library, IL, when I spoke at the library’s staff day a couple of years ago. Staff participated in a live, hands-on “passport to technology” program. Stations around the building offered staff members the chance to try out new devices and new web services offered by the library. The Best Buy Geek Squad was in attendance as well, offering encounters with popular and best-selling consumer tech. At each station, employees received a stamp in a passport. Filling all the blanks entered each person into a number of drawing for ereaders. It was Learning 2.0 with a hands-on twist. (For more about “on your feet” learning, see my report from the illuminating R-Squared conference)

I’d argue for continuing staff development days, but I’d also urge administrators to promote a culture of learning all year long. At a workshop recently in Alberta, Canada, an administrator asked me how to incorporate all the new ideas and services we were talking about into practice. “How do we balance it all out?” she asked.

I suggested two strategies, one for management and one for staff. For administrators: mandate weekly time for each staff member to explore something new related to their jobs. It might be a social tool, a web service, or simply distraction-free time to read a few articles or a book. Reports on learning progress should figure into performance evaluations and monthly meetings.