Category Archives: programs

Excel Required to Excel

Who knew! We’ve offered this class before and got a reasonable response. But the current MS Excel class, with room for 14 people, has more than 50 additional people on the waiting list! And the calls keep coming! We are adding two extra sessions to handle those on the waiting list.

A recent informal poll on our Facebook page shows that upgrading job skills is really important in our community. That probably explains the interest.

We now have an opportunity to offer instruction in Excel and other Microsoft programs through Oasis. Microsoft provides the instructors’ and students’ manuals, for both long (12 hour) and short (2 hour) classes. Therefore the amount of staff time needed to prepare for the classes is dramatically reduced. We are just beginning to receive and become familiar with these materials.  Stay tuned.

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My Favorite Target Audience

This afternoon, a colleague and I presented a program entitled “Use Your Library @ Home” to members of the Mission Oaks Computer Club.  I love surprising people and watching their faces light up as we talk about services they had no clue we offer!  We were invited because a member happened upon our website and thought it pointed to useful services and materials.  (Guess that shows we need to do some more aggressive marketing.)

I have done similar presentations for the Orangevale-Folsom PC Users Group and the Sacramento PC Users Group I like talking to computer clubs in particular, because they’re already convinced of the value of being online, and know how to navigate web sites.  All that is needed is to show them the databases, e-books, catalog and account management services, and they’re on their way! I put the presentation in Dropbox and gave them a link to our Delicious bookmarks listing all the web sites we talked about today plus a few more.  That’s one of the things that delight me about computer clubs: they don’t mind going online!

We’ve Got a Program for That

Over the past year, Central Library librarians have been programming like crazy! Never in the history of the branch has there been so  much activity for adults, and, judging by the attendance figures, the programs seem to be meeting a community need.

We started by offering basic computer literacy classes several years ago, and with the addition of technology staff, these were expanded to include classes in finding online information about subjects like business resources, genealogy, paranormal, gardening, eBay, travel, and more.  We augmented these classes by providing insruction in Excel, Twitter, and selected library database subscriptions (ReferenceUSA, Morningstar, Ancestry Library Edition.)

Then we received a bequest that provided funds for art & craft programming.  We mounted a very successful series that included calligraphy, mosaics, knitting and crocheting.  In fact, it was so successful, we are repeating it this year with a broader array of crafts. 

 We’ve expanded a successful annual genealogy series beyond the basics to include instruction in use of the Ancestry Library Edition and New England Ancestors databases, Sanborn Fire Maps, and other specialized resources. And we’ve been working with the Deparment of Consumer Affairs to host a year-long series of consumer education programs. These programs are not entertainment, but seem to fill a need in our community for both learning new skills and updating their education.

The point of this catalog of adult programming is to highlight the library as an avenue for continuing-ed in the community.  I think these programs would be popular even if we were not in an economic crunch right now.  Other branches doing adult programming are seeing similar results.  It’s so easy to think of the library as a place for kids – storytime, homework, summer reading.  It’s obvious that now is the right time to advertise that it’s also a place for adults.

Some librarians feel they were hired for their skills as researchers, for their knowledge of how to find information in print and online, for their ability to extract the “real” question from patrons and find just the right answer.  In today’s information environment, as others have so often said, “reference” is declining as people get more comfortable with using Internet to find answers.  Some articles discuss  “good enough” vs “best available” answers. 

This raises the hairs on the backs of our necks – after all, we’ve been trained to keep looking until we’re satisfied there is no better answer available.  We’ve been trained in selection of materials that will answer every conceivable question that could be asked.  Instead, as funds dry up and selection takes up less of our time, as more publishers provide online-only or downloadable editions of their materials, we’ve become more like coaches and teachers.  We no longer find and hand over information; because of logins and passwords, we need to teach our public how to use all the new electronic resources themselves, including the social networks: Twitter, Facebook, text reference.  I feel like I’ve been thrust into a new career that none of my pre-Dialog education has prepared me for.  

So – those adult programs are a forum where we have the opportunity to highlight our current offerings: e-resources, remote access, new ways to interact with librarians.

Internet Classes at the Library

My class on air travel more or less worked.  It had been untried here in Sacramento since I developed it three years ago.  Now that I’ve actually run through it with members of the public, I’ve got some notes I’ll apply to future instances of this class and to other future classes.

1. The lesson plan is a good thing.  It outlines the minimum competencies of the audience, objectives of the class, preparations needed (I would add particulars for us, like publicity deadlines and entering the class into the online event calendar,) a reminder to include requesting PR for upcoming classes, and a list on one page of every link mentioned anywhere in the lesson.  This makes link-checking before class and selecting links to open in advance in browser tabs much easier.

2. I should have made sure the order of exercises in the audience handout matched the order in the lesson plan.  That little discrepancy caused me to flounder a bit and wish I could have presented information in a more logical order.

3. One of the quirks of our computer booking software causes it to shut down and reboot all the PCs at the top of every hour.  I wasn’t expecting that. I need to build in a break after the first 45 minutes to allow for it and for the time needed to re-log them all in again.

In spite of the flaws in my presentation, the evaluations were all positive! I’m hooked.  I volunteered to teach another class in April.  I’m going to teach them all “How to Search the Internet Like an Expert.”

But Will it Fly?

I’m conducting my first public computer class soon on the subject of “Air Travel”. I created the lesson plan in 2006 as an assignment for an InfoPeople course called “Computer Classes to Go” taught by a librarian from the Hibbing Public Library. I’ve been link-checking and correcting the parts that refer to features of our catalog that don’t exist any more. Basically, I think it’s still a sound lesson.

Hibbing Public Library posts its computer class lesson plans on its web site under a Creative Commons license. This makes it easy to adapt a proven lesson in far less time than it would take to create one from scratch.  (I see tonight that they have suspended their classes due to staff vacanies – too bad!)

If this works, I’ve got some great ideas for future class topics!

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!??

Vlogging – Library Potential

By chance came across TAR’s ASL Vlog and immediately thought the format would lend itself remarkably well to some library applications. The ones that come immediately to mind include self-service tutorials, ASL self-service tutorials, a video version of our Dial-a-Story, and program announcements/infomercials. All we need is a little webcam with a built-in microphone … and staff could take turns …