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Technology Core Competencies

The Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County
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Innovation Summary

The Technology Core Competencies training program addresses the growing need of our customers to increase their technical competence allowing for greater participate in civic life, and utilization of library resources and services. The program ensures all staff is technically equipped to effectively perform this essential formal and informal training function.

Innovation Leader: Paula Brehm-Heeger, Service Operations Manager, paula.brehm-heeger@cincinnatilibrary.org

Problem Statement

As technology permeates social, political, economic and cultural life, entire populations of library users can become unable to fully participate in all aspects of modern life. Customers without basic technical knowledge are unable to seek jobs, apply for e-government services, or access digital-only resources. Technology opens doors only to those who can use it. Likewise, technology permeates all levels of the library's operations and services. All staff positions require some level of comfort with computers. High levels of comfort are necessary for staff serving the public. As our library increases availability of computers and downloadable content to meet a rising demand, customers look to our staff for thorough technical assistance. Staff must be able to help customers use the resources we make available, and our growing digital collections. Developing and implementing a core competencies program ensures that all staff members have the core knowledge and skills needed to provide high quality customer service in response to technology-related questions and issues. Our library values free, open, unrestricted access to its collections and services. That promise comes with the obligation to open new doors for our customers.

Innovation

Technology Core Competencies are a system of checklists, training, and assessments. The program is introduced to staff in sets of tasks. Each set of tasks represent a level of overall technical competency. Assessments are conducted for management staff, and then managers assess their staff. Staff training is offered through in-house classes, webinars, self-paced online courses, study guides, a blog, and job aids. Once staff is trained there is an expectation that knowledge is used in informal customer interactions and that formal training sessions are scheduled at library locations. There are three levels of competency and a fourth in development. The first level of competency identifies knowledge of hardware, our operating system and Intranet, email and software. The second level identified intermediate hardware, software, web resources and databases fundamental to library services. Constant evaluation of the checklists is required to ensure they remain relevant. Design flexibility is another essential piece of this training program. For example, a third competency specific to downloadable materials (TCC 2.5) was added in direct response to staff to address the immediate and growing need for staff training and customer education in this high-demand area. The program has also sparked technical advancement within our own organization. We overcame a challenge to assess staff on our ILS by providing remote access to a training database, and by creating code to pull testing materials from our ILS to be accessed through our Intranet. The Technology Core Competencies program represents a core promise to customers that the Library is a place to receive thorough, friendly and consistently excellent assistance on technologies of all kinds.

Progress

Technology Core Competencies have a direct impact on customer service. The focus is not on technology, but ultimately on anticipating and meeting the changing technology needs of customers. Since the start of the TCC program in 2010, 623 staff members have completed the first phase and 463 have completed the second phase of this training program. Setting expectations for demonstrating basic levels of familiarity and knowledge for all levels of staff ensures that staff members are able to successfully incorporate and utilize technology in their jobs and to provide high-quality assistance and instruction to customers in using Library resources. Staff members are able to present training programs to classes of customers and to provide one-on-one assistance, which has become a growing demand. Since May 2011, more than 2000 “computers and technology” programs have been offered to customers across our Library system. As a result of the Technology Core Competencies program, staff members are better able to troubleshoot equipment and their awareness of digital and online resources is strengthened.