Getting your friends and colleagues to share what they know

One of the things I love about working in an academic library is the steady opportunity to learn about new things.  I learn things when I help students, work with faculty and talk with my colleagues. Over the last couple of years I have worked to organize an informal series of workshops to help librarians and faculty share the things they know with each other.

It started a couple of summers ago, when the newly formed Instructional Design team at my library organized a series of technology workshops.  We each took turns sharing new websites, apps and other tech tools that we liked and used in our work.  I thought this was great, and I loved hearing about all the things my colleagues knew about.

Classroom chairs
CC-BY image courtesy of Flickr user James Sarmiento

Last summer, I wondered if they were going to do the same thing.  At the same time, the Scholarly Communication team in my library was hoping to do some workshops for library staff about things like open access and the Elsevier boycott.

At this point I took over getting things organized, and twisted the arms of my colleagues to put together workshops about things they were knowledgable about.

It was a rather selfish move on my part – I wanted to learn about the things my colleagues knew.

With help from colleagues, we brainstormed things that we wanted to learn about and recruited folks to present on those topics. I wanted the workshops to have an informal feel: I sought out hands-on workshops and discussions more than formal presentations.  I also asked the simple question: why don’t we invite folks across campus to these workshops?  There was no good reason not to, so we sent campus wide emails advertising the workshops that would be over interest to folks beyond the library.

The first summer I organized the workshops, all of the speakers were library staff members.  This year, I asked for workshop topics from our CIT office on campus and a couple of faculty who are doing some interesting things. I’m excited about the workshops they will be presenting.

Now, we are a small institution with a small number of faculty.  I needed to be realistic in terms of my expectations of attendance: we weren’t going to be filling lecture halls.  Attendance at the 2012 workshops varied widely, from a low of 4 to a high of 16 folks from the library and across campus. For our small campus, I was quite happy with these numbers.

At the end of the summer, I sent an evaluation survey to campus faculty and staff and got some great feedback regarding workshops to hold again, ways to improve communication about the workshops and suggestions for future workshops.  One of the less tangible benefits of the summer workshops was the way in which the existence of the workshops (and the emails announcing them) added to the library’s reputation as a group of folks to talk to about scholarly communication issues or some instructional technology issues.

Here are some of the workshops we have lined up for this summer, relevant to staff across campus:

  • What’s In a Name? The Many Facets of the Word ‘Editor’
  • Mendeley
  • Zotero
  • Time Management for Busy Geeks
  • Gmail community roundtable: labels, searches, filters, labs and more
  • Copyright and Creative Commons
  • Trends in peer review: third party peer review services
  • In praise of paper: an open discussion about our favorite paper based tools
  • Introduction to R: Free and open source program for statistics and data analysis
  • Reading your Copyright Transfer Agreement
  • Video hosting and sharing with Ensemble
  • Managing your online professional identity
  • Open Educational Resources
  • Instant Response System

I’ll be leading a couple (Mendeley, Trends in Peer Review) and attending almost all of them.  I’m excited to learn about some interesting things from my smart and talented colleagues.

Does your library have a professional development program?  How do you facilitate the exchange of knowledge between library staff?


2 thoughts on “Getting your friends and colleagues to share what they know

  1. For the past two summers we have been doing something we call the Technology Sandboxes within the Library at Western Washington University. Like you, our attendance has varied greatly. However, we have always kept the presentations pretty informal. The “presenter” doesn’t really even have to be an expert on the technology we are looking at. A big part of what we are trying to do is to see how the technology works and whether we might want to do something with it in the Libraries. If we did them outside of the summer we might get more external interest in them, however, it has been a challenge to get people to take on the role of organizing these.

    1. Thanks for sharing what you’ve been doing, Gabe. I think we’ve also struggled with the “during the academic year” or “during the summer” debate. During the academic year, profs can’t come because they’re teaching. During the summer, profs can’t come because they aren’t on campus. We went with the time of year when librarians had more time to spend on professional development.

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