I have to admit I was a little hesitant to walk into the training room. The library administration is friendly to me, but I know that, especially in the world of libraries, old grudges get carried for quite some time, and I knew that if there were negative judgements towards me the training would not be as effective. To my great delight, I was welcomed with open arms.
As I've been going around to other libraries trying to raise the bar on library services and employee skills, it seems there are always the same categories of employees. There are the ones that are extremely tech savvy. There are the ones that use what they absolutely have to but never wander into new aspects of technology. These are the ones that learn best when they are "playing." Then there are the ones who, frankly, will never get it. They try their hardest, but it is clear that their thinking process does not include the skills necessary for advanced technology. I wish I could relate more to this, and I really try, but I just don't get it. However, I have seen this type of person rise to the occasion and pass their competency exams so I know it is possible. Ultimately, there was not one person in that room that can't gain the skills and knowledge they need to provide excellent services to their patrons.
When I run workshops, I never have notes or index cards. Sometimes if I'm feeling especially ambitious, I'll put together a Powerpoint, which I don't follow and often causes more confusion than it's worth. No matter what the topic, I want attendees to realize weeks later that they learned things that were unsaid, that they are more comfortable with technology and that it was worth their time. There is nothing more disappointing than spending a whole day at a training and feeling like you didn't learn anything you can use. Unfortunately, this happens more than it should in the library world. Librarians LOVE going to trainings, workshops, conferences and any other place where they can gather with the colleagues. The problem, however, is that much of the information presented is never used. I'm not blaming anyone for it - the job of running a library often leaves great ideas in a folder somewhere due to budget, time constraints and a lack of board buy-in. I'm actually considering creating a workshop on just that topic.
With all of the above being said, I'm thinking of a way to get the most out of all these training opportunities that can be useful in the real world of the typical librarian. So...here are my training tips!
The Guerrilla Librarian's Guide to Getting the Most Out of Training...
1. Know who you're talking to. As soon as you sign up for a workshop, whether it is an hour long webinar or a 4-day conference, learn everything you can about the presenter(s). Google them. Read their blogs. Look at their websites. Understanding the background and motivation of your presenters will help you figure out where they're coming from. Sometimes, because of time constraints, presenters assume you've read their study or know the background of their projects and if you don't, you won't get the most out of it.
2. Make a training toolkit. Everybody learns differently - that's not brand new information. Some people take their iPads and click away the whole time. Others write down every word. (In my opinion as a trainer, this is the most annoying thing in the whole world.) A good toolkit for those going to training includes your iDevice, your laptop, a WHITE legal tablet, Post-It notes, highlighters (at least 4 colors), good pens, plenty of business cards and a plan. That may sound like overkill, but I urge you to try it. Have one sheet of paper with the header "Real Life Ideas" and keep a running list during the workshop that you can implement immediately.
3. Clear your schedule for at least 4 hours the day after the workshop. The absolute best time to take those real life ideas and put them into action is within 24 hours of the end of the workshop.
4. Facebook can wait. There is nothing more rude or annoying as a trainer than having people checking their Facebook pages and texting their friends while I'm up there trying to teach you something.
5. Prepare to network. Workshops are a great place to make new partnerships. I always try to leave a workshop with contact information for at least 1 person with whom I want to partner. Think about it: if you are a grant agency and you get an application from a library in Pennsylvania and a library in California who are going to do the same project with shared resources, this is a dream. You get more bang for your buck and you have a wide-reaching impact. As librarians, we do not do this enough.
6. Follow up. In that time that you've set aside the next day, take a couple of minutes and send an email to the presenter. Let them know what you thought of their presentation. Give them suggestions. Ask them follow-up questions. Create a new professional relationship. Connect with them on LinkedIn. Some of the best opportunities I have ever had were ones that were precipitated by contacting people I admire whose workshops I've attended. From the presenter's point of view, I really appreciate feedback - both negative and positive - because I'm always trying to be better and give the best information I can.
Next time you attend a workshop or training, try to follow these tips. I bet you'll get more out of it than if you just showed up and sat through it.
And back to our West Side Story, I think my organization's willingness to reestablish a good relationship with the other library will be fruitful and make way for new opportunities. Sometimes the best way to move forward is to acknowledge the past and then move on. Organizations change and we have to be willing to give it a chance.
If you are interested in information about my workshops and training programs, visit the page on this website to see what I'm currently offering. I'd love to come out to your library and help you all become Guerrilla Librarians!!