eContent, Tipping Points and Nimble Staff

For Trustee Training this year, we are talking about the impact of eContent on Libraries.  Jim will talk about the significance of this change and the importance of planning for an eBook-friendly library.  He found a statistic that says the market share of eBooks has hit 20%…

I’m charged with discussing the impact of eContent on library staff.  My working argument is that:

  • Excellent customer service requires nimble, agile, adaptive staff who are comfortable and competent with technology
  • Because library customers believe that library staff are technologically savvy, we should do what we can to support that belief with training in technology competencies.

Abbreviated Presentation Notes (.pdf)

According to Simon Sinek’s inspiring TED Talk on the Law of Diffusion of Innovation:

  • 2.5% of the population are Innovators
  • The next 13.5% are Early Adopters
  • The next 34% are Early Majority
  • The next 34% are Late Majority
  • The last 16% are Laggards or as Simon says, “The only reason these people buy touch-tone phones is because you can’t buy rotary any more.”

If you want mass market acceptance of an idea, you can’t have it until you achieve a tipping point at 15-18% “market penetration.”   According to the statistics Jim quoted, eContent, specifically eBooks, have reached that tipping point.  eBooks aren’t an emerging technology, they are an accepted and EXPECTED reality.  Is your library ready for this?

eBooks are simply the next stop in the never-ending journey in providing responsive, innovative and excellent service to our communities.  Change is the only constant – we know this and embrace this – we change our library’s vision and mission and strategic plan, our collections (eBooks), our buildings (laptop work stations), our technologies (wireless), but how do we also ensure that our library’s most significant investment – OUR PEOPLE – are ready to adapt to and support not just a new technology like eBooks, but technology in general?

What is the reality in libraries?

  • Patrons are coming to the library with their new gadgets (eReaders, tablets, smartphones), expecting help.  Sometimes still in the box.  They also want purchase recommendations.
  • In general, those who feel comfortable with eBooks, have an eReader or a tablet they use themselves.
  • The process to find, checkout, download and read/listen to an electronic LIBRARY book is complicated.  It involves multiple pieces of software, knowledge of file management (side-loading), and in our case multiple online accounts.  The process requires several intermediate to advanced skills and competencies.
  • Technology is at the heart of many core library service…not just the online catalog, but mobile smartphone apps, PCs, wireless, PC management, email, hardware/software updates, Office software and the INTERNET — eReaders and Kansas EZ Library are just new library services with a technological heart

So, change is the norm, eBooks are here to stay, and we have patrons asking for assistance.  How do libraries ensure Excellent Customer Service in this environment? Here are 3 ideas.

  • Empower and Support the Director in developing an agile, nimble and resilient staff with Continuing Education.
    • Focus on Meredith Farkas’ “Skills for the 21st Century Librarian” (aka Core Competencies)
      • Ability to embrace change
        “We should fear not providing the best services to our patrons much  more than we should fear change.”
      • Comfort in the online medium
        Able to use the tools and TEACH others to use the tools – internet, search engines, eBook software and eReaders
      • Ability to troubleshoot new technologies
        Skills and knowledge to figure out what’s wrong and fix it – ‘out of order’ = bad customer service
      • Ability to easily learn new technologies
        Learn how to learn, play, and explore.  Experience the technology from the patron’s point of view.
      • Ability to keep up with new ideas in technology and librarianship (enthusiasm for learning)
        “We need to be able to keep up with what’s new in technology and what libraries are (or could be) doing with it.”
    • Encourage and support a Community of Learning or a Learning Organization – notion based on The Fifth Discipline:  The art and practice of the learning organizationby Peter Senge.
      • Possible models: “The C’s of Our Sea Change” in Computers in Libraries by Helene Blowers and Lori Reed – The FIRST 23 Things program – self-paced, yet cooperative tech learning program.
      • Make it a priority – is lifelong learning part of the Library’s mission or vision?
      • Model the behavior – Ask for updates and briefings from the Director – take an active interest, stay informed and be supportive
  • Approve the purchase of an eReader or Tablet for staff to use.
    • Staff can use the hardware internally to explore, learn, and play.
    • Staff can use it with Patrons to troubleshoot issues and demonstrate or teach about this new library service.
    • Create programming around it – great opportunity to be responsive to the Community.
  • Consider the impact of eContent on your library’s Customer Service goals.
    • How would the best possible customer/staff interaction in the library or in the community go?
    • Is everyone – Board, Director and Staff – ready to answer questions about the impact of eContent on the library?
    • What does you library need to do to address this new role of ‘community helpdesk’?

Embracing eBooks is an extension of our mission – we should build on the TRUST the Public already has in the library to be knowledgeable, helpful and patient guides.

  • What? – Support the Director in developing a tech-savvy staff, provide the necessary tools and resources, and make embracing eBooks a strategic priority
  • Why? – It’s expected, it’s Good Customer Service, and it support the Mission/vision of the library
  • How? – Make Continuing education a priority, Support the purchase of eReaders and/or Tablets for the library staff, and Discuss the impact of eBooks and technological change on customer service (and plan accordingly)
  • When? – Now! Change is the only constant and our ability to thrive now and in the future depends on being nimble, agile and resilient – both as a Board and an organization
30 Second speech: “What is the library doing to help me find eContent?” – If this is the question asked by a patron, can every Board and staff member answer it?
Discussion questions:
  1. How do we encourage and support a culture of learning, support the culture of constant change, and embrace new roles for the library in the community?   What is the Board’s role in supporting continuing education?
  2. What can we do to make sure library personnel thrive in a constantly changing (and improving) environment?
  3.  What can the Board do to help foster an open, curious, forward-thinking and ‘yes’ culture in the library?

Resources for Directors:

  • WebJunction’s Competency Index for the Library Field – Tech section covers E-mail, hardware, Internet, Operating systems, Software applications and Web tools
  • 23 Things Kansas – self-directed learning for online tools for community, sharing and productivity (blogging, Flickr, FaceBook, etc.)
  • ALA’s Library Support Staff Certification Technology competencies – For example, support staff will know “basic computer operations needed to access library applications, software, and productivity tools” AND support staff will be able to “adapt to changes in technology
  • PLAY, PLAY, PLAY – learn by doing, ‘put it through its paces’, attend a work day or petting zoo
  • Constant change requires constant learning, be that in a classroom, online, small-group, one-on-one, by networking, buddying up with a fellow newbie, or just sharing what you know with others.
    • WebJunction classes
    • LearningExpress
    • NEKLS Training events
    • Provide time for staff to improve their skills, explore their interests, and play with technology in the library, brought to the library and used by library patrons
    • Make it FUN – my idea is to have merit badges for the various competencies (easy, intermediate, hard) – sort of like girl scouts, but without the cookies.  What could people learn if given 15 minutes a day?
  • How the brain learns – retention after 24 hours is 5% from lecture, but 75% from practice by doing and 90% from teaching others – so create situations that encourage doing and teaching each other
  • Petting Zoo’s
  • Facilitate eReader networking – Nook/Kindle/iPad Play Dates at the Library
  • Just do it – if you schedule it, they will come – 35 at Leavenworth, 35 at Osawatomie, 20 at Richmond (one of our smallest libraries)
  • Reach out to the early adopters in your Community and invite them to help teach and share their skills and enthusiasm –
    • Basehor has a Digital Readers Focus Group who reviewed popular eReaders and posted their findings on the library’s Web site,
    • Osawatomie has had 2 programs, one with the Toy Box and one where she wanted to facilitate informal learning among eReader owners,
    • Richmond’s director got an iPad for Christmas and with it jumped on the 3M bandwagon
  • Make it a Priority
    • Provide training on ‘coping with change’
    • Asses and Re-assess – what skills are ‘good to go,’ hidden, and missing?
    • Support internal tech days – time for staff to use the technology – Task-oriented – For example, download an audiobook to the computer
    • Involve the community with technology-centered programming (Take-Apart-Thursdays to disassemble old hardware and appliances)

Technology Competencies and Training for Librarians by Sarah Houghton

Public Libraries – the E-Books issue (vol. 51, no. 1)

I revised this on Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012 with much help from Kelly Fann and Mickey Coalwell.

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