Technology Instruction Materials for Libraries

From 2011-2012 I worked at the Colorado State Library as part of a team to help 50 libraries across the state to develop new and improved technology training programs. 

This team was funded by the Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP), led by Sharon Morris, and included Kieran Hixon, Nancy Trimm, Jamie Hollier, Susan Burkholder, and myself. As a part of this grant program, we sought to increase the capacity of libraries by offering training and support to library staff. We soon recognized that professional development was not the only element that staff technology trainers needed.

Photo: the Colorado State Library BTOP team: Crystal, Nancy, Jamie, Susan, and Kieran

One of the great challenges faced by library workers was that they did not have the time to plan and prepare for classes. Even experienced instructors struggled to find time to develop and implement new technology classes and respond to the increasing demand from their communities.

We envisioned a better way to plan and prepare to teach technology classes, and worked towards creating a solution that could be accessed by any library. We wanted library staff to benefit from having greater access to existing instructional materials. Existing instructional materials for technology classes can be used as a foundation for technology classes, to save time and effort and build off the work of other technology trainers. It would still be important for staff to have adequate time for planning and preparation, but it would take far less time for them to prepare if they did not have to create the class from scratch.

Adaptable Instructional Outlines

Through our conversations with library staff we learned that many preferred to have a loose outline to follow, as opposed to a detailed script. They wanted to bring their own personal examples, analogies, stories, and practice exercises to the training. They didn’t have time to review a lengthy document that explained technology concepts in great detail, but a flexible outline to direct them through the most essential topics that would still allow the flexibility that is needed in a classroom of adult learners.

Our team discussed the complexities of instructional design with some of the  other staff at the Colorado State Library (Mary Beth Faccioli and Shelly Drumm). We devised a simple outlining process that encouraged trainers to focus on a few key objectives each class. We also developed a tip sheet that outlined the process for easily adapting instructional materials that had already been created. Then we began developing some basic computer instruction outlines and made them available on a website for anyone to use.

Each set of class materials includes a basic class outline, resources for additional information on the topic, ideas for activities and practice, and handouts. In addition to the materials we created, we also asked some Colorado libraries to share their materials, including Denver Public Library and Anythink Libraries. These materials can be used to guide single classes or can be strung together in a series. They are also easy to break apart and “mix and match” to create customized classes to meet specific programming needs.

A Website for the Future

We created a website to feature all of the professional development and public training materials created under the Colorado State Library BTOP grant. This website, Library Creation and Learning Centers,  has now expanded to encompass other areas of library programming, including resources for maker spaces and digital creation, and is example of how resources can be shared outwardly to the greater library community can benefit.

This website has been built in the spirit of sharing the work of libraries so that we may all learn from each other’s experience. Other sites have been built in the same spirit, including DigitalLearn.org and WebJunction’s section on Teaching Patrons.

The Library Edge Initiative Benchmark 6 states: Libraries support continuous improvement in public access technology services by sharing expertise & best practices with other digital inclusion organizations.

Do you have a website of shared technology instruction materials? If so, please share it in the comments!

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