CLR Case Studies–Cedar Falls Public Library

Training

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How did this small library, which is positioning itself as the “technology expert” in the community, develop its staff expertise? With grant funds, the library contracted with Steve Wells, a young, self-taught Internet/computer consultant, to implement the MCI Library Link program. He also acts as network consultant for the library and has been primarily responsible for the innovative work on the library’s Web site, particularly suggesting and designing graphics for the site. Carol Johnson, the library director, started out not knowing exactly what to do with the Web site, but by talking with others and by experimenting with ideas she has gradually fleshed out a distinctive philosophy of providing electronic services. The new technical services librarian, Barbara Dunn, who will be responsible for the library’s Web sites (and for providing technological support to the city’s various home pages) when the grant period is over, is a recent library school graduate who has both library and technical training. Newer library school graduates get useful technical training, but the library, even with its small staff, finds that it now needs a network person. The next time the library hires, it may hire a computer technician, not a librarian.

The librarians find that many of the people who use the library’s workstation for access to the Internet require guidance from the reference staff. The library provides what help it can, but cannot spare a great amount of time to do so. There is a manual and a tutorial, and library staff find that in general patrons are very willing to experiment and accept some delays. Besides instructing users, staff time is also used to evaluate the electronic resources, in addition to more traditional reference, collection development, and technical services functions. The public services librarian says they manage to “squeeze it all in.” What suffers, she says, is professional reading.