Annual Staff “Training Day”

Today,  Sacramento Public Library shuttered all branches to hold its annual staff in-service “Training Day.”  Although some staff still complains that work is piling up, for the last couple of years the organizers have made a point of including sessions of interest to IT staff, custodians and General Services staff, and that has mitigated much of the negative feedback. I look forward to it every year, because it’s one of the very few opoportunities I have of chatting with co-workers in other branches without the pressure of patrons or the constraints of lunch hours.

Staff had a chance to select their workshops in advance. Our staff trainer posted the list of sessions and the sign-up form on our intranet. Sessions on dealing with difficult customers, carpet cleaning, public PC reservation software, public service models, effective phone and e-mail techniques, walk-throughs of Mitchell’s OnDemand5 and Ancestry Library Edition competed with booths staffed by PERS, Kaiser, Drexel U, San Jose State, Social Security, ICMA and others.  And a massage treatment and very dramatic test for sun-damage to our skin.

This year, Joe Janes opened the day with a humorous look at library services over time, beginning with an article in the very first issue of Library Journal, published in 1876, and the day ended with a raffle of prizes contributed by the library and by the vendors. (Staff earns raffle tickets by submitting evaluations of the sessions and of Training Day overall.)

This year, I hosted a double session that had Rich Wellings, a 27-year veteran with Mitchell’s, doing a walk-through of their OnDemand5 product, and BD, a reference librarian and genealogy coordinator for the Central Library, highlighting the features of Ancestry Library Edition.  Those two databases are the only two we get that cannot be accessed remotely, and MUST be used in the library.  Patrons sometimes need help with them, and staff has called me on occasion with questions and problems to troubleshoot.  Eighty-five staff members attended this session! It had the largest registration of all the sessions.  If the evaluations are positive, I would like to reprise the idea with different databases next year.  One good thing about the choice of databases this year (intentionally planned)  was that Mitchell’s appealed to both the men and women – and several non-reference guys engaged Rich in conversation after his portion of the program.  Now, staff that might never have thought about using it will be giving it a try soon.

I attended two sessions in the afternoon: Library Service Models with Cheryl Gould of InfoPeople, and Telephone and E-mail Techniques with Jeannie Hagen-Greene of HG Training Group.

Gould emphasized that today’s library patrons want information fast, at the point of need, and in a way that will save them time.  They may or may not favor a particular format (print, audio, online).  To do that, libraries need to provide services that empower patrons to serve themselves, and provide more efficient point-of-need signage, which will free professional staff from mindlessly performing repetitive routines and free their time for helping those that need professional help.  Librarians can then use some of that saved time (if any) to develop programs, work on materials selection, and spend more time teaching users to use library services more efficiently – saving patrons’ time.

Hagen-Greene basically worked through a checklist of attributes of successful and courteous business/office phone call techniques, and then another checklist of ways to manage your e-mail inbox.  I think her presentation would have been more relevant for us if she had been briefed in advance about the unique way SPL handles calls from the public: only one phone number is published, and it is answered by Central Library staff, both reference and circ.

At the end of the afternoon, Training Day organizers pulled names and awarded the raffle prizes.

Tomorrow I plan to review my notes to set in memory what I learned today, and perhaps blog the day – or parts of it – on grandCENTRAL.

ps: CF’s tweets showed up in my twitter feed! When did he have time!??


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