Getting Started-Public Libraries

What does it take to get started?

Since Tech Flex sessions are primarily taught by faculty and staff members, recruitment and organization of the sessions are an important part of a Tech Flex program. When recruiting staff to hold sessions, you should consider the following 5 points:

  1. Ask staff what the want to learn about.
  2. Pay Attention to what tools and skills faculty and staff are using in the library already.
  3. Keep up with the latest technology and trends for libraries.
  4. Organize a variety of session options with varying skill sets.
  5. Provide motivators/incentives for teaching a session.



1. Ask staff what they want to learn about.

Often, your staff will know in which areas they need improvement and which technologies they would like to try learn about in order to better assist library patrons and further their own skills. For example, Staff Member A. might have seen something new presented in in a webinar, or a professional publication and shared this information with Staff Member B. From this mention, the librarian responsible for planning professional development now knows of one staff member who might be able to teach a session on this technology. And, chances are, if one staff member is interested in a specific technology there will be quite a few more. For example: last fall at our high school, a few teachers requested a session on iPhone and iPad Apps; this session ended up being one of the best attended sessions. The librarian might not be able to use all of the suggestions given, but asking what people want is always a great place to start and gets staff thinking about what creative, technology-based tools and tips they would like to use in their libraries.



2. Pay Attention to what tools and skills faculty and staff are using in the library already.


In order to remain relevant in the 21st century, I see it as part of my job to know what is going on in a variety of classrooms.  Because teachers in separate disciplines or departments might not always have the time to communicate with each other, the librarian can and should act as the liaison for teachers from one end of the building to the other regarding technology and best practices.  For public libraries, staff communication is key to sharing best practices and tools that can assist the library patron. As the role of the librarian changes into a media and technology specialist, it is more important than ever that the librarian communicate with staff and learn how and why they are using technology to enhance their work and assist all library patrons.



3. Keep up with the latest technology and trends for libraries.


As a media/technology specialist it is also part of the librarian's job to remain up-to-date with the latest technologies and discussions swirling around these technologies. This might seem like a daunting task with the alarming pace at which technology changes, but there are a few things that librarians can do to keep pace, such as subscribing to listservs, blogs, or email updates focusing on technology, or establish a professional learning network on Twitter.  The librarian cannot expect to know everything, but most of the important and trending technologies will be highlighted in the many listservs and updates.

Patrons should also be a librarian's go-to people to ask about what new technologies they would like to see offered in the library. Often, they view technology and learning in a different light, and social media has enabled them to share their views and opinions with each other at a rate never before seen in history.  They know what they want, and are not afraid to share their opinions. Use their suggestions, and then go back to point 2 and see if a staff member in the library is working on that technology; if not, the librarian can research and design a lesson themselves!

4. Organize a variety of session options with varying skill sets.


Because the Tech Flex program serves many staff members, it is best to have a variety of session options from which to choose. This is usually a simple point to accomplish, as  many different people will offer to teach different classes.  If two staff members offer to teach a similar lesson, it is also good to suggest that they team-teach a session, since two minds are always better than one and more will come out of the session in the end.  In some cases, you will have too many lessons offered!  This is an excellent situation to be in, as it shows that staff members are actively engaging in the program as well as using a variety of new tools that they want to share.

You also need sessions that vary in technology level and ability as well, since your staff will not all be on the same level.


5. Provide motivators/incentives for teaching a session.

In order to have already busy staff take on another duty, administration will need to provide incentives that build trust among the administration and teachers while offering teachers back the time they spent in creating the Tech Flex. At Peters Township, teachers are given what are called "Early Out" slips. These slips allow teachers to leave 20 minutes earlier than the contract end time. Many teachers appreciate this extra time to attend to family and personal needs. It also shows the administration's appreciation of the extra time spent by the teachers in creating professional development sessions for their peers.


More questions? Email Lindsey, or add comments below.
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