I went to my first American Library Association Annual Conference this month. I had two questions for every library staff member I talked to at the conference: Who organizes your staff development day and how do they decide what kind of training to provide?   

It was a fascinating mini-survey. Most libraries told me their staff are responsible for organizing, planning, and executing their staff development days, on top of all their other duties. At other libraries, senior leadership or human resources is responsible for programming the day. 

No matter who is in charge, it’s a ton of work. Here are four tips to help make sure your next staff development day, whether it’s in-person or virtual, provides quality and relevant training for your staff. 

Align training to your library’s overall goals. Most libraries have a strategic plan in place to guide their work. In some cases, the goals for the next year or several years are set by senior leadership. If your job is to put together staff training, your first step will be to align training with those goals. For example, if your library is working toward increasing your cardholder saturation (the percentage of residents who have a library card), you’ll want to focus your training on outreach to non-cardholders, including marketing strategies. If your goal is to increase the use of your readers’ advisory service, you’ll want to make sure all staff are trained in how to provide and promote your library’s reading recommendations. 

Survey your staff. When I became a manager at my library, I was nervous. I’d never had direct reports. I wanted to be a good leader and I wanted my new team to succeed, feel confident, and take pride in their work. So, I asked for training... and my library provided It!  

Library staff are asked to handle all kinds of tasks. They’re not always prepared or trained in those duties. That lack of confidence can lead to ineffective work and lower staff morale. So, ask your staff what they need to learn to do their jobs more effectively and confidently. Your staff will appreciate your thoughtfulness but more importantly, will be more invested in the training you provide. 

Find experts to train your staff. There are a lot of benefits to bringing in outside help to handle your staff training. Professional trainers use effective and engaging teaching techniques. An outside trainer will also save you time and allow your staff development day organizers to focus on their day-to-day tasks. Finally, an outside trainer also brings a fresh perspective to your library.  

Look for a trainer who has experience with libraries and includes interactive activities to make your day fun and to really drive home the lessons they provide. A Learn with NoveList expert is a great choice. These trainers have extensive library and training experience. They have worked through the same struggles your staff is facing! Sessions include learning objectives, tasks, and activities that ensure every learner can reflect on what they are learning and build confidence in their application of new skills and resources at their library. And Learn with NoveList provides training in-person or virtually to match your needs. 

Get staff buy-in for training. The way your library “sells” required training to staff is important. You don’t want it to feel like a chore. Make sure workers know that your library values their expertise and wants them to be confident in their jobs. When you do that, you’ll have less staff turnover, and you’ll save your library money and institutional knowledge. Remember that staff are your library’s most valuable resource

Learn with NoveList

Build staff confidence and skills. 

Angela Hursh is a Senior Engagement Consultant for NoveList. She is currently reading The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin and listening to The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu by Tom Lin.