Md. libraries using online training

About 100 librarians across Maryland's public library systems are using interactive online management training tools, which proponents say save time and are less expensive than traditional classroom training.

Started as an experiment three years ago in Carroll County, the project spread to 16 of the state's 27 public library systems last fall with the help of the Maryland Library Partnership (www.maplaonline.org/partnership), a nonprofit cooperative of the library systems.

Developed by San Francisco-based Ninth House Inc., the courses — which aren't library specific — include such topics as situational leadership, high-impact hiring, handling interpersonal situations and change management, said Gail Griffith, deputy director at Carroll County Public Library (www.library.carr.org). Some courses take an hour or two to complete and others are longer, she added.

She said it's more convenient for librarians, who previously had to take perhaps as much as a whole day to attend training session. She also said that many times, post-training measurements weren't conducted to evaluate what librarians learned.

"The online [program] does give the administrator the opportunity to see who's completed the course, how much time was spent, and pre- and post-tests are built in to see if people actually got the content," said Griffith, who added that face-to-face discussions are conducted afterwards to reflect on what they learn. "And then we do an additional debriefing to talk about real-world applications."

Cost is about $250 per year per learner, she said, adding that the library systems negotiate their own deal and the price is cost-effective compared with attending a training session.

The Carroll County system has been using the product for three years now, ever since Griffith saw a demonstration by Ninth House at a technology learning conference. With federal money funneled through the state, 10 of the system's top managers tried it out. She said they were so excited about it they volunteered to use their discretionary money to buy additional seats.

Personally, she said she has seen a positive effect in her library system from usage of the online programs. Maryland's public libraries, which serve about 2.5 million residents, are also exploring a partnership with a vendor to develop library-specific training modules, she said.

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