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Librarians as Information Guides

Sno-Isle Libraries
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Innovation Summary

Sno-Isle Libraries is taking lifelong learning directly into communities to benefit adults, age 50+ through its “Librarians as Information Guides” teaching program. Highly-trained librarians serve as information experts and offer 2-3 hour classes to show adult learners how to meet their needs through library information resources.

Innovation Leader: Terry Beck, Adult/Teen Services Manager, tbeck@sno-isle.org

Problem Statement

Sno-Isle Libraries is determined to ensure it effectively meets the information needs of the growing 50 years+ demographic within the library district. Library statistics showed information resources for adults were under-utilized. Market research showed most library customers and non-users within this demographic were unaware these resources were available. The Library took steps to increase publicity to raise the level of awareness. In addition, as part of its Strategic Plan, the Library’s focus on targeting communities with relevant customized services included providing classes to instruct adult participants on how to find and use these resources. However, this posed a challenge. Traditional librarian training and experience builds skills in one-on-one customer interactions, developing and leading library programs and classes. But few librarians consider themselves skilled teachers for adult learning. Sno-Isle Libraries chose to raise the bar by building librarian expertise in adult education. The Library formed a team of specially-trained librarians. Their purpose would be to develop and provide adult classes to raise awareness and help adult customers better understand how to use these information resources.

Innovation

Sno-Isle Libraries was able to elevate a core group of librarians to a new level of expertise and service. Funding for the development and support of “information guide instructors,” came through the assistance of grants from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation. Sno-Isle Libraries worked with a nationally-known adult education trainer to train and develop ten selected librarians. The librarians learned to address the needs of different types of adult learners, how to develop curriculum and deliver engaging instruction. In addition, they learned to develop and implement evaluation tools to quantify use of targeted library resources by adults. The training helped the librarians clarify and understand the differences between typical library programs and the type of educational classes they were being asked to provide. Information Guide instructors selected the following topics: 1. Be An Informed Consumer 2. Downloading eBooks at Your Library 3. Family History Research with HeritageQuest 4. Healthy & Happy for Life 5. Mythbusting Science Information 6. Navigating the Online Health Information Maze 7. Smart Investing Resources 8. Sno-Isle Travel and Language Databases 9. Tracing Your Family's Roots with Ancestry Library Edition Information Guides prepared for field instruction by undergoing two evaluation rounds with focus groups. Evaluations and critiques were essential in helping instructors tweak their presentation styles and content. Once classes commenced, the Information Guides used digital communication to report and share experiences for improving instructor presentation and attendee experience. The team of instructors meets regularly to share experiences and lessons learned. In addition, they are working together in local communities to offer their classes as part of a series to build upon the learning experiences of the participants.

Progress

The “Librarians as Information Guides” program focused on four target outcomes: 1. Successfully train and field 10 librarians as instructors. 2. Monitor adult use of library resources after each class with the goal of increasing the use of the resources by 20%. 3. Increase attendance at adult classes by 50% annually. 4. Increase “satisfaction” ratings on class evaluations by 50% by the end of the first year of the program. Early results from the first months of class instruction are positive. • 9 of the 10 librarians completed the training and have become information instructors. • Most classes held outside the library have had strong attendance. Some classes held within the library have had lower attendance. Evaluation is underway to determine whether this result is based upon topic, publicity or location. • Class participants have generally rated classes highly and provided very positive feedback. 100% of participants in one class (online health information) rated the class at the highest level. 94% of participants in another class rated it as excellent or very good. • The Library experienced a 152% increase in use of related library resources following the “Consumer Health Complete database” class. The Library also saw a 15% increase in OverDrive downloads, over the previous month, following the “Media OverDrive database” class. There have been a number of unanticipated benefits of this project, including: 1. An increase in the community and in-library prestige staff received in becoming a recognized “Information Guide.” 2. An enhanced relationship between the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation and Sno-Isle Libraries. 3. Enhanced staff actions, connections and engagement with adult learners in communities throughout the Sno-Isle Libraries district.