The University of Connecticut Libraries began a Strategic Planning process in Fall 1994. The goal of this process was to determine strategic initiatives that would best position us for the future. Strategic Initiatives, the Libraries’ Strategic Planning document, outlines the areas of primary focus and details action items to advance the accomplishment of these initiatives. The success of these initiatives is dependent, in part, on the effectiveness of individuals and the degree to which they have been trained. The initiatives focusing on academic partnerships, user services, staff, and regional campus libraries are particularly dependent on staff ability. Hence, the need for training on a regular, systematic basic is imbedded in the accomplishment of these new enterprises. It is essential that staff be efficient and effective in the implementation, application, and evaluation of these new activities.
This paper will discuss the current plan of training activities for staff at the Regional Campus Libraries. A discussion of the University Libraries organizational structure, organizational changes, and new initiatives is included in order to provide a clear, current description of the University Libraries as a whole and to enhance the conceptual understanding behind this training initiative.
The University Of Connecticut Libraries
The University of Connecticut Libraries reviewed the organizational structure of the Libraries and proposed revising the hierarchy model to a structure that has users as its center. The new structure, reflecting a team based environment, is comprised of seven functional areas: Access Services; Collections Services; Dodd Research Center (Archives and Special Collections); Information Technology Services; Regional Campus Libraries; Research and Information Services; and Director’s Office and Administrative Services. Each area is responsible for specific functions and related responsibilities for the University Libraries system-wide. Each functional area is led by an area head who is responsible for overseeing the area’s responsibilities and who represents the area and its responsibilities, as well as the management of the Libraries by membership on the Leadership Council, the principal decision-making body for the University Libraries.
Each functional area is responsible for the organization, management, delivery, policies, and procedures for specific library functions. Inherent within each functional area is also the concept that we are now one library system rather than six discrete campuses. Consequently, services and activities such as Interlibrary Loan/Document Delivery, Circulation, Collection Development, Reserves, User Education, Reference, and Library Liaisons (to Academic Schools and Departments) ought to be as consistent as possible among the six campuses. In order to accomplish this, procedures have been established to make the provision of these services, from a functional viewpoint, uniform system-wide. Technology, in support of these services and activities and critical to the success of virtually every library activity at some level, is both designated as a separate functional area and also as the area responsible for supporting technology related activities of each functional area.
Each area is responsible for all decisions and activities necessary to ensure the effective organization and operation of the area. These responsibilities are accomplished by the work of many functional and cross-functional teams. Functional teams, whose members are from within an area, review and respond to issues and concerns regarding area roles and responsibilities. Cross-functional teams, whose members have diverse skills that are culled system-wide from several functional areas, have been formed to assume responsibility for specific functions or initiatives. These may include user surveys, library liaisons, the University Libraries’ WWW page, networked resources, and document delivery.
Organizational changes have been generated by a variety of institutional and economic issues. An era of shrinking budgets and increasing demands on staff, collections, services, and resources, have encouraged us to review how we perform our responsibilities and allocate our resources, and to determine what is needed so that the provision of high quality collections and services is continued. These issues have suggested we look at the variables in the human and fiscal resources equation and reevaluate how we allocate our time, talent, and financial assets. Next to revising the structure of the Libraries, the most significant accomplishment in the organization change effort has been the establishment of the one library concept: that is a single system with distributed service points. It is this principle that assures equal access to collections and services regardless of the campus on which faculty, students, and staff work or study. It is this principle that unites faculty, students, and staff system-wide.
The establishment of a team-based structure has encouraged greater responsibility by staff in the review, analysis, and revision of issues and concerns through participation in area wide meetings, functional and cross-functional teams. Through functional and cross- functional team work, issues can be discussed and revisions and solutions can be achieved. Shared discussion and decision making have generated greater understanding of and commitment to changes, new processes and procedures, and new initiatives. These results have also heightened our awareness of the need for training.
Lastly, these changes have generated a slow but growing change in the organizational culture of the Libraries. In the new model, there is a shift from an emphasis on individual achievement, initiatives, and decision-making to shared vision, mutual respect, collaborative learning, cooperative initiatives, and group decision-making. This type of change takes time. We have made strides, however, towards realizing this culture change and each day brings us closer to our goal.
The University Libraries have established the follow initiatives as strategically important.
The Regional Campuses allow the University to provide Connecticut’s citizens educational programs in five different locations throughout the state. All five Regional campuses, Avery Point, Hartford, Stamford, Torrington, and Waterbury offer access to baccalaureate study on a local basis with programs that may be completed at the main campus in Storrs. Workshops, seminars, and other continuing education opportunities
are also offered at these campuses for students and local community residents. Demographically, the Regional Campuses represent approximately 20% of the University’s faculty and students.
Regional Campus Libraries can be found at each of the five campus locations throughout the state of Connecticut: Avery Point, Hartford, Stamford, Torrington, and Waterbury. (See map at conclusion of paper)
Major Programmatic Areas
The Regional Campuses support 2 year and 4 year undergraduate programs and graduate programs in Business Administration, Educational Leadership, Marine Science, and Social Work. Specialized programs are offered by the Cooperative Extension Service, the Marine Sciences and Technology Center, Office of Continuing Education, Institute for Public Service International, and the Small Business Development Center.
Collections And Services
The Regional Campus Libraries support the academic programs of the campuses they serve by providing core collections for the first two years of undergraduate study, strong business collections, and research collections in marine science and social work. They are full functioning libraries that serve as Gateway Libraries to the shared resources, collections, and services provided by the University of Connecticut Libraries A full range of user services are offered including: reference service, user education, interlibrary loan/document delivery, and library liaisons.
The current Regional Campus Libraries staff consists of the Area Head for Regional Campus Libraries, 10 university librarians and 8 university library assistants.
Staff Training Concerns
Regional Campus Library staff expressed concerns similar to those of their Storrs colleagues. The advent of new library initiatives, networked resources, staffing concerns, and technology issues generated interest in training opportunities to meet new job responsibilities and to enhance skills to better meet user needs. Additionally, interest in training was fueled by the rapid increase of access to electronic resources and databases, coupled with technological issues, and distance from Storrs and other campuses.
Needs Assessment Questionnaire
A Needs Assessment Questionnaire was completed by Regional Campus staff in January 1997 and provides a snapshot of training needs at that time. The purpose of this questionnaire was to gather input from staff in order to assess levels of knowledge, skills, abilities, and experience. The information gathered was used to plan training sessions to augments library staff’s ability to accomplish strategic initiatives given programmatic, staffing, and geographical issues of concern to the Regional Campus Libraries.
What Was Measured
This questionnaire asked staff to indicate basic demographic information, shifts in job responsibilities, level of experience with specific job responsibilities, level of training for specific job responsibilities, level of confidence in using electronic resources, and interest in training for specific job related tasks.
The questionnaire results indicated that, in general, the typical regional campus staff member has been at UConn ranging from six years up through twenty-five years. Library ranks are spread over all categories with the largest per cent of library assistants at the ULA II rank (17%) and the largest per cent of librarians at UL II rank (28%) followed closely by UL III rank (22%). (The University of Connecticut Library ranks are: University Library Assistant I - V for non - MLS staff and University Librarian I - III, University Assistant Librarian, and University Associate Librarian for librarians). Job responsibilities were spread over each library functional area. However, 83% indicated that their present responsibilities represented a change from those that they were hired to perform with an increase in public services (37%). In general, when asked to indicate how familiar they were with basic library services such as circulation, reserves, interlibrary loan, and reference service, most items were ranked "very familiar" with the exceptions being ILL (38% somewhat familiar), cataloging (28% does not apply), personnel (29% does not apply), library policies (25% familiar), and serials claims (28% not familiar).
For each job responsibility listed such as circulation, reserves, collection development, reference service and user instruction, most staff indicated need for some training, especially for user instruction (50% moderate training). Generally, in assessing levels of confidence using electronic resources such as the Libraries’ online catalog, PsycInfo, ERIC, Lexis/Nexis, and the Internet, staff indicated a rank of "some confidence" for most items and "very confident" for items like HOMER (53%), the Libraries’ online catalog, JREF (50%), a Wilson database of journal references, and email (50%). When asked to indicate tasks within broad job functions where additional training was desired, the items receiving the most responses were: circulation (26%); reserves (24%); electronic resources (30%); budgeting (31%); and computer troubleshooting (35%).
Based on data generated by the questionnaire results, training sessions
were arranged for several library functional tasks in circulation and acquisitions,
as well as public services responsibilities. This discussion will focus
on training conducted for public service responsibilities. All training
sessions were open to all staff regardless of rank, experience, or specific
job responsibilities. Since library staff within each campus library may
be asked to assist patrons, it was determined that providing staff with
at least a basic understanding of reference and information services tasks
would enhance basic public services, especially in the occasional absence
of a librarian.
The purpose of the training program was and is to provide staff who are assuming either expanding job responsibilities or new tasks with the educational experiences needed to fulfill these roles. On site individual and small group training was conducted on an "as needed" or "as appropriate" basis to address situations at hand. However, library wide initiatives and networked resources generated the need for a training plan to address these issues on a more formal, systematic basis. Therefore, opportunities to participate in continual learning situations, which exist at the main campus, have been established for and extended to regional campus library staff. It is hoped that these experiences will strengthen public service staff knowledge, skills, and abilities and enhance their effectiveness in the fulfillment of public service responsibilities.
The training program intends to augment each staff member’s ability to provide excellent service by broadening his/her experiences and enhancing the knowledge, skills, and abilities essential to effective reference and information services for all users system wide. Essentially, training seeks:
The selection of trainers is based on the nature of the training session, and the knowledge, skills, and experience of the trainer. Any staff member may be requested to participate as a trainer or may volunteer to conduct a training session. Additionally, when appropriate, experts from beyond the library staff may be retained to conduct specialized training. The training agenda, evaluation, and follow-up are determined by the trainers in conjunction with appropriate staff. It is hoped that training sessions will beget new and additional trainers who will bring to these sessions diverse experiences, skills, and perspectives that will benefit staff and users system-wide.
Formal training began in February 1997. Since that time training sessions have occurred on an individual and group basis. Instruction in Circulation, Interlibrary Loan/ Document Delivery, and related access issues has been held at each regional campus library. Training for the new acquisitions plans for books, periodicals, and serials has been conducted for each staff involved in these activities.
An ambitious timetable for public services training began in February
1997 with a session on the Reference Interview. Activities for 1997 - 1998
included individual database discussions and formal sessions for Library
Liaison Roles and Responsibilities, and Collection Development Activities.
Additional activities are suggested for research assistance within academic
disciplines (humanities, social sciences, sciences, and business), user
education, outreach, and technology and access issues.
The Reference Interview
This session discussed strategies for conducting effective reference interviews. Issues such as open and closed questions, interpersonal skills, and strategies and techniques for clarifying and refining the reference question were discussed. (Conducted February 1997)
Liaison Roles And Responsibilities
This session discussed the overall purpose of the Library Liaison program, the roles and responsibilities of Library Liaisons, Mentoring, Training, and Collection Development activities. (Conducted February 1998)
Collection Development Activities
This session discussed the overall principles and practices of collection development activities for liaisons. Topics included approval plan mechanics, collection development beyond approval plan parameters, budget strategy, networked services, consortium initiatives, and communicating with users about collecting goals. (Conducted March 1998)
Subject Specific Resources
Sessions for 1998 - 1999 will include discussions on print materials,
electronic databases and resources for research and user education in the
Humanities, Social Sciences, Sciences and Business.
What We Have Learned
About The Process
We have learned that:
Staff have made great strides towards building our skills portfolios
in a short time and under difficult conditions. Training is both a horizontal
and vertical process. In one sense, we are building similar skills across
a wide variety of resources, and in another sense we are building on basic
skills and gaining expertise. The staff have also become more proactive
in the learning process and more savvy consumers of training. Concerns
regarding training content, duplication of topics, opportunity for hands-on
experience, follow-up, facilitators, training site, and staffing issues
are now raised regularly. These types of concerns indicate that staff are
now more alert to their learning needs and are more willing to suggest
methods to pursue learning. Training is viewed as critical in an organization
committed to continual improvement and excellent user services. Consequently,
the need for training is viewed positively.
How We Will Proceed
The Regional Campus Libraries have established teams responsible for specific issues and initiatives. In particular, the teams for Access Services, Collections, Networked Services/Web Pages, and Library Instruction Reference are in the process of discussing staffing, networked and print resources, user services, and training issues specific to these areas. These discussions have generated suggestions for training session topics, trainers, training sites, training times and frequency. These teams will work with appropriate University Libraries staff to develop and conduct training. We are now in the process of discussing training sessions for Summer ‘98, Fall ‘98, and Spring ‘99. To date, there are tentative plans to offer additional subject specific seminars, a second session on the Reference Interview, Lexis/Nexis legal searching, and an update on technology and access issues.
How Training Will Continue
The Area Head for Regional Campus Libraries has appointed a coordinator
for Regional Campus Libraries Training. This staff member is responsible
to cull information from teams and to help coordinate training sessions.
Additionally, the Coordinator will develop and maintain a Regional Campus
Libraries training calendar, establish mechanisms for assessment and evaluation
of training sessions within the Regional Campuses, collect requests for
individual training, suggest contacts for follow-up activities, and assist
in facilitating system-wide training within the present physical and geographical
structure. Future training opportunities will include workshops and seminars
on electronic resources and databases and occasions for staff to participate
in new technology for teaching and learning. Lastly, efforts are being
made to investigate mechanisms to conduct training via distance learning
techniques to accommodate geographical and staffing issues system-wide
and to provide online tutorials for self-training and reinforcement.
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