The Learning Challenges for Librarians and Library Managers: a Knowledge Cafe was the last session on the last day before the closing ceremonies of IFLA’s World Library and Information Congress in Lyon. The knowledge cafe, organized by three sections (Knowledge Management, Continuing Professional Development & Workplace Learning, Library and Research Services for Parliaments), attracted 150+ attendees who actively participated in discussing team building and team leadership, peer training, learning strategies for staff, developing and keeping up skills sets for the digital future, staff competencies, mentoring and coaching, and more. The three groups I talked with had a number of common threads:
1. Time — staff have to have permission and time to read/learn/play. In Germany staff had 2 hours/week to read and learn, somehow that went away, and they want it back! Several libraries in Sweden have recently given some staff 20% Google time — the equivalent of one day/week of complete freedom in hopes they will find something of interest for the library. They know that sometimes this happens but sometimes does not — not all good ideas or projects are successful, but the learning is still there. In several countries, Uganda and groups of special libraries had business partnerships allowing their staff to have one day exchanges for learning and renewal. They bring back their learnings and excitement and share with other staff. Some librarians in academic institutions are allowed to take freshman courses so they know what’s happening in their institutions!
2. Personal Continuous Learning & Development. Since many organizations have limited budgets they are often not providing financial supportr library staff to take courses or go to conferences. So each of us responsible for our own life long learning and continuing eduction — in keep up our skills and developing new ones. The Australian Library and Information Association, I believe, has taken the lead in this area and provides a fantastic model for other associations. They have a certification program for library skills and recognize that it is the individuals responsibility to keep up their learning and competencies or they will not have a job. They provide many resources for library staff members investing in themselves. They started this initiative in 2000 so have honed it into a very successful program. The Knowledge Cafe discussion groups also discussed the 23 Things initiative as well as the more recent Mobile 23 Things program — again self-paced programs which libraries and organizations use to help staff development. They often borrow from each other. The program developed in the Netherlands has been shared across Europe, Russia and Australia. The groups also talked about conferences that have presentations and papers that can be consulted online even if you haven’t attended the event — like IFLA and Computers in Libraries. The San Jose State University iSchool global online conference, Library 2.014 (Oct 8-9, 2014) was also mentioned as free professional development opportunity with session in your own time zone and many different languages.
3. Champions/Mentors/Coaches. We all seem to learn better with others and several libraries shared their strategies with the group. The Canadian parliamentary library introduced ipads for members and some staff, but all staff needed to know how to work with them. Those with ipads provided a hands on play session for other staff to help develop skills. The Regina Public Library has a “champion” in each branch who acts like a mentor and coach one on one or in groups — and some of the champions are pages!