Manage the Device Deluge | Professional Development

Librarians have always taught patrons how to use the tools that serve their information needs. We had to explain card catalogs, vertical files, microfilm/fiche, photocopiers, and OPACs. The fundamental difference about the tech needs of the 21st century is the ever-changing variety of personal devices that patrons use to access our services.

Some libraries are lucky enough to have dedicated staff with special training to serve these patrons directly, but most of the time it’s a library generalist fielding question after question about something new every day. How do frontline staffers with self-taught or very basic knowledge of technology stay savvy about the latest and hottest gadgets? How do we train nontechnical staff to troubleshoot effectively and train our patrons to use their own gadgets?
In the past, libraries only thought about training when they acquired a new ILS or operating system. Some staff might have been trained on assistive devices or specialized readers such as microfilm or dedicated database computers. These trainings were large-scale, included relevant staff, and were formally presented by library trainers or vendors. Libraries could train everyone at the same time, then instruct new staff as needed until the next major update.
For today’s deluge of devices, this approach is inefficient and unsustainable, because there’s always new stuff to learn. “I think back to how people were freaking out about learning different versions of Windows to support and now looking at all the operating systems and device types, that freak-out makes me shake my head,” says Sarah Houghton, director of the San Rafael Public Library, CA, and a 2009 LJ Mover & Shaker.