E-learning aimed at librarians

The Maryland Library Partnership, a coalition of public libraries, is developing

an e-learning course that it hopes will help libraries across the country

provide better service.

The course is intended to teach librarians how to answer questions from

patrons more effectively and how to improve their customer relations in

general. It's an extension of a three-day course that has been in use for

20 years that required librarians to attend classroom and face-to-face training

sessions and that has been the basis for similar training courses nationwide.

"We've been training librarians for those 20 years on the skills needed

in customer interviews so they can better get to what the customer's question

really is about," said Gail Griffith, deputy director of the Carroll County

Public Library and a principal representative for the Maryland Library Partnership.

"Until recently, the options really have only been for the face-to-face

training, and while three-days generally is ample time for this, it's hard

for libraries to release staff for those three days."

That's particularly true of smaller libraries and those in rural districts

where the time away might amount to more than three days, given the distances

librarians would have to travel to get to a central training site.

The new course also will include classroom training, but it will give

librarians a chance to learn the course content online at their leisure

and to practice what they've learned in online simulations before going

to the live classroom training.

The online course also will be available as a stand-alone program for

people to use periodically to refresh their skills.

"Studies show that librarians don't answer difficult to moderately difficult

questions well enough," said Kraig Robson, president of IsoDynamic, a Silver

Spring, Md., provider of Web-based training and e-business applications

that is developing the course with the Maryland Library Partnership.

"The online course is a low-risk way for librarians to try out these

skills, particularly since they tend to be mostly introverted types and

not people who are typically suited to customer relations," Robson said.

A test of the new course is planned for January and should be available

to libraries in Maryland in spring 2003. It will then be offered for sale

to libraries in the rest of the country later next year.

IsoDynamic officials also believe that the course will be valuable to

any organization that has to interact with the public.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be

reached at hullite@mindspring.com

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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