or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk


Knowing What We Should Know

   February 17th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Computer with Question MarkJessamyn's observation on this USB keylogger thing got me thinking - without the context of that article, if I saw one of those in my library, I wouldn't have known what it was.

I would have known it shouldn't have been there, and maybe being plugged into the keyboard would have given me a clue, but I don't know.

This reminded me of a Technology Skills Library Staff Should Have list Sarah posted at ALA Learning (via). I wouldn't expect any staff to recognize a keylogger, but staff do need to be familiar enough with library equipment to recognize when something gets out of whack - printer not working right, copier making funny noises, website down, a monitor cable unplugged, or a foreign device plugged into a computer.

I like her list a lot, and am going to spend some time merging it with the idea from the Wilmington (MA) Library to break tech knowledge up into different levels to form a tech skills matrix.

Tech competencies is a topic I keep revisiting, because it is something that continually evolves - identifying keyloggers are just the latest addition.



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Staff Technology Competencies

   May 27th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Thumbs UpIn addition to Email Scam Competency Testing, here's another tool for evaluating staff technology competencies.

Developed by Alicia Verno, Head of Technical Services at the Wilmington (MA) Memorial Library (who generously agreed to share with everyone), this is a nice staff technology competencies matrix [pdf], breaking down tech skills by subject/software and assigning different skill levels based on position.

The skill levels are:

  • Level 1: Basic (Circulation Staff, Tech Services Asst.)
  • Level 2: Intermediate (Department Heads, Information Desk staff, Administration)
  • Level 3: Advanced (Technology Committee members)

and the required skills are broken out into these categories:

  • Workstation Basics
  • Operating System
  • System Security
  • Printing
  • Internet
  • Email
  • CASSIE [time management software]
  • Horizon [ILS]
  • Horizon (Tech Services staff only)
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft Word

I really like this fine-tuned approach. Assigning library positions to different skill levels is an easy way of being able to find help if a question is over someone's head.

I also like breaking out each skill area. It plainly lays out which skills are important for staff to know, but also shows them skills above their level, perhaps enticing them to be curious and figure things out.

We're going to modify Alicia's matrix [pdf] for use at my library, and I'd like to add:

  • Printers/Copiers: changing toner, adding paper, cleaning jams, checking print queues, deleting print jobs, overriding payment system, shutting down/starting up print server
  • Museum Passes: booking a pass, deleting a reservation, checking out a pass
  • ILL Requests: requesting through local catalog/state-wide catalog/OCLC requests, checking on a request

I'm sure it could be an endless list, and I know the point isn't to be exhaustive - nor is it to point out peoples' shortcomings or reasons why someone shouldn't be in the position they're in. Really, competencies lists should identify the areas in which staff feel uncomfortable, so supervisors can make sure they get the training they need.

Thanks again Alicia!



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Email Scam Competency Testing

   May 6th, 2010 Brian Herzog

SPAM wallHere's something neat - and vital for library staff, both for those who directly provide computer help to patrons and for anyone else who uses a computer in their daily life:

A recent Slashdot post linked to a test to see how well people can identify spam, scam and phishing email messages (which can happen to anybody).

The test is provided by SonicWall, and would be a great for:

  • taking as a group during a staff meeting or training day
  • testing new employees to help protect your network and increase their tech competency
  • showing to students and computer literacy classes to teach them to evaluate websites and email messages

After you're finished, be sure to click the "why" links on the test results to see exactly what looks suspicious and what are the red flags - that is the most helpful part of the test.



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NELA-ITS Spring 2008 Workshop

   June 12th, 2008 Brian Herzog

Library-Wide Proficiencies PresentationLibrary-Wide IT Proficiency Workshop
New England Library Association, Information Technology Section
June 12, 2008 - Bryant University, RI
Gary McCone & Grace Sines

I'm writing today from the NELA-ITS Spring 2008 workshop. The handouts are available below, so I'll just be annotating with a few points throughout the day, and also trying to add pictures to flickr.

Here are the handouts, that were provided to all attendees on a flash drive:

Part I
Overview of the National Agriculture Library, and the services they offer. Being a national library, they are a resource for everyone, so check them out.

Library-Wide IT Proficiencies

  • Why are IT proficiencies important? It's important to get IT support right the first time with the end-user, so front-line staff need to feel comfortable in both doing the support and managing expectations (we cannot "fix the internet").
  • Keys to success Enable non-IT staff, excellent communications, understand end-users (needs, vocabulary and skills), know where knowledge or information lies within the organization, don't get stressed - we're all working towards the same goal
  • Get to know your users Know their generation, but get past stereotypes - teach based on how different generations learn
  • Expect things to change Technology will change, staff and users needs and skills will change - must expect change and be flexible to accommodate it
  • Listen to end-users Meet with end-users in a non-threatening way to learn directly from them what they need (although it might be delicate, focus on what is wrong, because no one is happy with IT), and work to get ongoing feedback

Part II
Roadmap to creating an IT-Savvy Library Staff

  • Technology Core Competencies Abilities, knowledge and skill required to do the job - can be itemized based on areas or tasks, such as "printer & copier," "operating system," "email," etc.
  • Types Can be task-based (skill: refill printer paper) or descriptive (knowledge: know how to surf the internet)
  • Get involvement from everyone Everyone should be involved in defining them and what is needed to achieve them (management, professional staff, front-line staff, etc)
  • Plan implementation Everyone knows what's happening and what to expect, and how competencies can be met
  • Resources
  • Why have them? Promote customer service, increase motivation, address fear/threats of technology or people with limited skills (and don't be afraid of providing incentives and praise)
  • IT Liaison Program Designate one person from each department to be the lead liaison with the IT department - hopefully someone interested in IT, to be the first point of contact
  • Ideas for training Experts in the library leading sessions, creating fact sheets (your own knowledge base), online training/webinars (free and fee), weekly tips. mentoring programs, regional trainers, keep track of what library staff don't know (FAQs)
  • Topics for training Evolving technologies, real-world issues (spam, phishing, flash drives, etc), tour the library website, Google labs, digital rights management, RSS, media formats (flash, audio, interactivity, etc), hardware petting zoo (new gadgets, gizmos and games)


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