Helping Staff Help Themselves: Ereaders and Training
A major point of stress in dealing with ereaders is staff training. In this post I will highlight some approaches to getting staff up to speed.
Tiered troubleshooting: An email interview with Cari Dubiel, Assistant Manager, Adult Public Services, Twinsburg Public Library (TPL)(Twinsburg, Ohio).
The popularity of ereaders in the past year resulted in a lot of “technology anxiety” among TPL staff. Their concerns will be familiar to many of us who work with these devices on a daily basis. In particular, they were worried about how they could help support the wide range of devices on the market. They had questions about the level of service that they should provide, and how much they realistically needed to know about any particular device.
TPL owns some devices that are used to train staff. Cari has also had Overdrive conduct on-site training (which is admittedly not an option for libraries outside a reasonable driving distance from Overdrive, which is in Cleveland, OH). The Adult Public Services department provides training two times a year to make sure that staff’s skills remain current. Ereader training items are included in the department’s strategic plan. Staff members also have the ability to attend webinars or conferences as part of their development.
Cari says TPL has offered classes on ereaders, but because patrons own a wide range of devices, the classes tend to be basic. Reference staff work with patrons in one-on-one appointments, which are more successful because they target specific device issues. Such appointments require a high level of device-specific knowledge.
She has led the development of the Adult Public Services “sample emedia troubleshooting plan,” which is comprised of two tiers of service. The core competencies for each level indicate specific training/knowledge items:
Level 1 – provided by Reference and Youth Services Staff
• Know what devices are available and compatible with eMedia.
• Know the difference between tablets and e-readers. Know what an “app” is and how to download one on the tablet vs. the computer.
• Know basic FAQs: why there are waiting lists, how to explain publisher licensing.
• Know how to check out an item, return an item early, download software associated with eMedia, and how to transfer a file.
• Know the difference between file types and formats.
Level 2 – APS Assistant Manager, Computer Lab Staff
• Know how to uninstall software and reset devices.
• Have a basic understanding of device error messages and know how to find out what an error message means.
• Know how to purchase books online on each device and how the process compares to the checkout process for OverDrive.
• Be familiar with eMedia collection development.
• Know how to recommend a device to a patron based on their individual needs. Know the difference between Wi-Fi and 3G.
The plan also includes creating a list of support resources for staff that can be accessed on an intranet, a wiki, bulletin boards, etc. That list identifies:
• Level 1 support personnel
• Level 2 support personnel
• Outside support resources like
o Device-specific support resources
TPL also makes some support information available to patrons here.
Although the troubleshooting plan is new—in “beta” in her department and has not been approved by the director for library-wide implementation, yet—Cari says that she sees greater confidence among reference staff and an improvement in their preparedness.
DCL Director Jamie LaRue points out that ebook/ereader training “tends to be expensive and slippery. It costs a lot – in equipment, presenter time, or staff time – to give a solid introduction to all the issues, and unless a staff member USES that particular device, it all fades away fast.” In a Facebook chat I had with Rochelle Hartman, Manager, Information and Reference Services at LCPL, wrote that “shared readers don’t work for training.” Both libraries have launched special programs that reflect the idea that the best way to train staff on ereaders is to facilitate their adoption of the devices.
DCL’s Foundation provided staff members with $50 towards the purchase of one of six preselected ereaders or tablets. As the rebate counted as compensation, employees received the full amount after taxes. 104 employees took part. As a result, staff are getting direct, hands-on experience.
LCPL recently launched a program in which the library provides ereaders (Nooks or Kindles) on an extended loan. The devices remain the property of the library, but for the duration of their employment, staff members can use the device for personal use (with the expectation that they will use Overdrive). In return for this loan, they are expected to share the skills that they have attained with the device in some capacity with the library, and do book talks. Along with the loan of the device, they get an annual stipend of $50 to spend on ebooks.
The LCPL program keeps the devices tied to the library and expressly works to capture the knowledge of staff for the benefit of patrons. The Douglas County Libraries program, is less structured. Two libraries, two approaches: what works for one library might not work for another. Both programs effectively put devices into staff members’ hands. Creativity will go a long way to finding new solutions and getting the most out of money spent on training.