Charlotte-Mecklenberg’s Learning 2.0 and Learning 2.1 programs are being copied in libraries from California to Australia. As staff development budgets compete with other library priorities, will self-directed learning (SDL) take center stage as a low-cost, effective strategy for keeping library staff current with emerging technologies? If so, how can “learning experts,” i.e., those responsible for continuing education, training and staff development, help make SDL successful? 

Based on my experiences as staff development manager and designer of self-paced training, I think that learning experts can:

  • Be knowledgeable about different types of self-directed learning. SDL can include online efforts like Learning 2.0, training kits that can be checked out for new employees to learn the library’s ILS, intranet tutorials for just-in-time training, and library literature “clipping services” for trends and current awareness. (Look at Daniel Tobin’s chart of the categories of self-directed and independent learning in his book, All Learning Is Self-Directed.)
  • Consider using established competencies as the basis for learning activities.
  • Review existing staff development policies and procedures. Are time, space and equipment for SDL provided at work? Is completion of SDL activities tracked in your training database or summarized in your training reports?
  • Develop the coaching capacity of your library’s supervisors. Winning MP3 players is nice, but the real rewards should be supervisor recognition and reinforcement. Do your supervisors routinely write learning plans with their employees? (Yale University Library has an excellent guide to writing a learning plan.)
  • Become a consultant and “outsourcing expert” for individual employees. Help them to assess their learning styles and preferences and to identify learning opportunities, both inside and outside the library.
  • Create a Learning Guide that maps specific competencies to training and learning programs.
  • Sell your library’s managers on the importance of a positive learning environment, where individual and team learning is linked to organizational success. Library managers can be role models, sharing their own strategies for self-directed learning.
  • Teach your subject matter experts (SMEs) to share their knowledge and skills as broadly as possible.

As CE, training and staff development coordinators, we must shift our focus from training to learning facilitation. Successful SDL builds even more self-confidence for individual learners. Our most important role as learning experts is to develop staff who are experts on their own learning.