Outstanding Webinar

I’ve mentioned before that I love a good webinar, and I attended a fantastic one last week.  It was hosted by WebJunction, and was titled “Self-Directed Achievement: if you give library staff an hour”. The presenters were from Tooele City Library, a public library in Utah. They discussed a program they developed and implemented in their library to address the need for ongoing professional development in their staff. This is an issue we struggle with in my library. Our staff wants to learn but they don’t feel like they have the time or resources to do so. Large group trainings are rare and infrequent, and they don’t address the day to day skills that could be improved.

The presentation started with a discussion of the belief cycle, a theme I’m coming across in a lot of the instruction resources I’ve been reading/watching/exploring lately. Basically, people have a set of beliefs about their world (schemas). We all have them, and without them we’d never get anything done because they help us quickly assimilate information from our surroundings. The problem with these beliefs is that they are incredibly difficult to change, and we tend to set ourselves up to validate our beliefs and/or ignore evidence that would refute them. One example the presenters gave was that a librarian has the belief that they aren’t good with technology (so they don’t really try to improve, first of all), then they are unsuccessful helping a patron with a new technology which validates their original belief in their own abilities. This comes up a lot in my library. Many of our support staff are older and seem to struggle with technology, even when it’s something as simple as using a web form over a paper form to keep track of an issue.

It takes conscious effort to overcome our beliefs, change them, and move forward. In terms of instruction, my main goal in everything I do is to work on the underlying beliefs students (or faculty or staff) have about something (research, trustworthy information, technological abilities, etc.). It makes sense that if a student believes Google provides accurate, trustworthy information they will not take the time to consider using library sources when doing research. If we don’t start with beliefs we won’t get the behavior (ex. Using a specific database) that we desire.

The program discussed in the webinar is based loosely on the 23 Things, a blogging challenge that I mentioned in my last post. It is flexible, engages staff in reflection, and is easy to implement. I’m hesitant to describe it in detail because I think anyone interested at this point should spend the hour to view the recording. The presenters were excellent, their slides were well-designed and informative, they gave plenty of examples, and provided evidence of the value of the program. I’ve shared the webinar with my Dean and would love to implement something similar here. Even if that doesn’t happen, I have an idea of how I can make better use of my time in cultivating my own professional development.

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