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Insider Article [March 2013] [03/05/13] (Staff Development from Within)
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Staff Development from Within

SJPL staff development meeting
San José Public Library staff enjoy an in-service staff development program. Photo credit: Angie Miraflor

In a 2012 study by the Society for Human Resource Management, over 80% of those surveyed said their organization’s commitment to professional development was important. And yet many organizations, not just libraries, cut staff development funding in dire budget situations, or have simply never set aside resources for staff development. In contrast, San José Public Library (SJPL) is dedicated to providing staff development in a variety of ways for staff at all levels: The library has a committee that meets monthly, represents most classifications, and is responsible for planning and implementing most staff development and training activities. Listed below are the activities that make up the core components of SJPL’s staff development program.

Online learning
Inspired by Helene Blowers’ learning 2.0 project, The 23 Things, SJPL created its first self-paced, online learning module in 2007. This program allowed all staff to participate and learn about the most popular tools being used online. There were weekly lessons and incentives for completing each week’s exercise. Departments also competed against each other for highest completion percentage. This was a great opportunity for all staff to learn something they could help customers with, and something that would help their own personal and professional growth. Since SJPL’s first online program, we have created several other curricula that focused on electronic databases, eBooks, and an updated version of The 23 Things, and we are currently working on another program for this spring.

In 2012, SJPL ran its first mentoring program. Interested mentees were asked to fill out a questionnaire to determine what they wanted to learn, mentors were asked what they felt they could help out with, and mentor/mentee pairs were created based on this information. The program included tips on how to create goals, advice on being a good mentor or mentee, and a “speed-mentoring” workshop where mentees got to talk to a variety of other mentors in a round robin process. One of the main goals of this program was to give staff an opportunity to improve any aspect of their personal and professional lives, not just their role at the library.

Staff In-Service
SJPL holds staff in-service programs four times a year. Two programs bring all staff members together in one location, and the other two are smaller programs that are held on-site. At the all-staff gatherings, we include topics that aren’t librarian-centric in order to engage staff at all levels, for example: working with difficult customers, the future of libraries, and stress management. The on-site in-service programs usually cover topics such as customer service review, building safety, and staff appreciation.

In addition to these programs, SJPL also provides other programs for its staff. These include resume and interview workshops, individual training plans, and classes taught by staff members, such as blogging, MS Word and Powerpoint, and photography classes.

What you can do now!
Here are a few things you can do in the near future to get your staff development program started:

  • Find those staff members who are interested in participating in a staff development program and allow them the time to plan.
  • Conduct a staff survey to find out what people’s learning needs are. Online survey services are reasonably priced or use Google Forms to create your questionnaire.
  • Use Infopeople! They have many archived webinars and various other resources online that you can use.

We all have limited time and money but putting some energy into establishing a staff development program at your library will help with staff morale and confidence which, in the end, will provide your community with excellent customer service.

Get more staff development advice and information from Angie during CLA’s webinar, Staff Development from Within, on April 18 at 10:00am.

Angie Miraflor
Centralized Programming Department and King Library Children’s Room Manager, San Jose Public Library
Co-lead for San José Public Library’s Staff Development and Training Committee