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Book a Trainer (BAT)

St. Louis County Library, MO

Innovation Summary

St. Louis County Library formalized its Book a Trainer programming in 2012. Since that time, more than 1,000 customers have benefited. From job seekers to home-schoolers and Kindle owners to those wanting to excel at Excel, our trainers have faced challenges of educating our customers in the latest technology.

Innovation Leader: Matthew Lakin, Training Coordinator, mlakin@slcl.org

Problem Statement

With the changing nature of technology faced by our customers, our training staff can barely keep up with revisions, let alone innovations and new breakthroughs. The variations among devices, software, and hardware make it impractical to develop and maintain formal classes to coincide with our existing computer classes and meet the majority of our customers’ diverse needs. For example, there are at least 11 different variations of Kindle, nearly as many for the Nook, and five variations of Microsoft Windows in use by our patrons. In addition, we field requests for assistance with: Apple/Mac, opensource, net-based software, video, audio, design, and photography. Finally, the St. Louis County Library has been responding to countless requests for assistance by customers seeking employment. Job seekers represent a significant number of our daily library users and often they represent those most in need of technical training and guidance in technology/information literacy. Nearly every employment opportunity requires the Internet, not to mention online application processes of varying degrees of complexity and length. Whether a customer needs information about a specific software or office application, general assistance with an online job application, or specialized instruction geared toward some other technology, frequently one-on-one instruction offers the most practical use of resources and most successful outcome.

Innovation

St. Louis County Library’s Book a Trainer program is unique as it pairs customers with individual and specialized technology needs with experienced training professionals employed by the library for short 20-60 minute sessions. This allows us to accomplish several things:  Most customers’ needs are met in a single session, with consideration of the customers’ scheduling requirements. Day, evening, and weekend appointments are made available to accommodate nearly all requests. We offer Book a Trainer at all 20 branches (our Trainers do the traveling) so customers do not have to stray far from their preferred branch. This element also allows customers relying on public transportation to maintain their schedule and budget.  The Book a Trainer program allows us the opportunity to stay up-to-date with customers’ technology needs across a wide socio-economic and culturally diverse clientele. Through both statistical review and anecdotal evidence, we are able to spot trends in customer use of various technologies, as well as project methods to increase our own efficiency.  This program helps us recognize our gaps in knowledge as trainers; and adjust, as needed, for the future. Trainers, upon discovering a new technological issue, rapidly share that information with the other trainers. This allows for brainstorming, experience sharing, mutual aid, and inter-trainer training.  In a one-on-one session, trainers have the flexibility to tailor their instruction to a specific person. This allows us to answer questions as they arise, in real time, regardless of the technology in question.  A final element is that customers experience direct and personal value for their tax dollars.

Progress

The most profound outcome achieved by this program is an overall increase in technology and information literacy. This outcome is measurable, articulable, and replicable. We have been able to offer more personalized service to our customers. Using an online form, customers can set an appointment with a trainer at the branch of their choice. For customers unable or unwilling to complete the online form, library staff have been instructed in how to complete the form for (or along with) the customer. Book a Trainer sessions allow library employees to promote nearly every other service and program we offer. We can easily demonstrate the use of subscription databases, navigate our website, discuss upcoming author events, and share other library services with a customer that is keenly aware that they are your sole focus at the moment. Library Trainers have an increased sense of value within the system and the community. Many of our Book a Trainer students stop by to let us know they “got the job,” or “got the promotion.” Some have told us they feel more confident with other technology because we showed them “they can do it.”