May 2008


Looks as if we have a little revolution on our hands, and it’s centered on the issue of access—or the lack thereof—to training opportunities for potential library leaders.


It started late last week when Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County Training Specialist Lori Reed posted an article on her personal Library Trainer blog to explain why she would not renew her ALA membership next year: to protest the exclusion of library Support Staff from the American Library Association’s Emerging Leaders program.


Lori writes of the excitement she felt when she first read that the program is “designed to enable more than 100 new librarians to get on the fast track to ALA and professional leadership,” then felt the wind being taken out of her sails when she realized that she, as someone without an MLS degree, could not apply to participate in this wonderful opportunity being offered by an organization which she supports through membership fees.


“So ALA will happily take the money from library support staff…for membership but does not allow those same members to apply for leadership opportunities within ALA as this one…No thank you.”


A few responses—including mine, meant to encourage her to work within ALA to change the situation rather than leave and give up hope for opening the doors to more opportunity for non-librarians within ALA—trickled in over the weekend. And then the number of responses doubled and included thoughtful pieces in support of Lori’s dissatisfaction from two treasured associates whom I have known since we first met through Infopeople: Pat Wagner and Sarah Houghton-Jan.


Pat suggests that “a goodly number of libraries in small communities are run by people without masters’ degrees” and says she has been involved in “a number of library leadership programs that were open to everyone, and the quality of participants remained very high.”


Sarah takes this a step further with a posting on her Librarian In Black site today in addition to what she wrote in her “Library Trainer” posting, assures her readers that “I agree with Lori wholeheartedly,” and calls for ALA to “pay them (members of library Support Staff) the respect they deserve.”


Lori, encouraged by the responses, produced a follow-up post this evening as I was editing this article. Perhaps the rest of us who so passionately support training opportunities for the widest possible audience can support her and our colleagues by trying to gain the attention of those who are already involved in the program and might be willing to expand the definition of—and playing field for—prospective library leaders today.


Thank you to Pete for tagging me on this Passion Quilt meme…
(Post a picture from a source like FlickrCC or Flickr Creative Commons or make/take your own that captures what YOU are most passionate about for kids (for me: Library School Students) to learn about…and give your picture a short title.)

original image, Hexagram Three from the I Ching, located:

From the Wilhelm-Baynes translation of “the I Ching or the Book of Changes”:
(text from

“The name of the hexagram, Chun, really connotes a blade of grass pushing against an obstacle as it sprouts out of the earth – hence the meaning, “difficulty at the beginning.” The hexagram indicates the way in which heaven and earth bring forth individual beings. It is their first meeting, which is beset with difficulties. The lower trigram Chen is the Arousing; its motion is upward and its image is thunder. the upper trigram K’an stands for the Abysmal , the dangerous. its motion is downward and its image is rain. The situation points to teeming, chaotic profusion; thunder and rain fill the air. but the chaos clears up. While the Abysmal sinks, the upward movement clears up. While the Abysmal sinks, the upward movement eventually passes beyond the danger. A thunderstorm brings release from tension, and all things breathe freely again.”

Chaos is a scary thing, beginning something new is a scary thing. Challenging ourselves with new opportunities, new technologies, new knowledge is scary but rewarding, often leading us to new ways of thinking, new approaches to problems, and new strength.

To me this hexagram from the I Ching means lots of things and holds lots of good lessons for those heading out into the Library world:

Perseverance – Don’t be discouraged. Success doesn’t always come quickly, in this rapidly paced world we have to remember that time and fortitude can work in our favor.

Frustration and failure are teaching tools – Not all things can or will work out, but we can take knowledge from everything.

Input/Advising – Too often we can be tempted to work/be alone, especially when our work puts us alone in front of a keyboard. Seeking wisdom and guidance can turn a chaotic path into a clear one.

YOU pick the path – Seek advice and guidance from others but remember it’s your responsibility to chart your path.

Seek Chaos – Consistency and comfort for the sake of consistency and comfort will yield little gain.

So as not to be the cause of chaos (or add chaos and confusion for myself)…I’m going to break the rules and not tag anyone. If however, you feel “inspired” please feel free to self tag.

p.s. I also picked this image as it’s my one and only tatoo :-)

Another piece in the learner-focused revolution that Paul describes is a renewed attention to outcomes of learning. ‘Outcomes-based planning and evaluation’ (OBPE) is a systematic way to plan user-centered programs and to measure whether they have achieved their goals. In a new course titled Shaping Outcomes, developed by Rachel Applegate, there is a quotation from the United Way of America that defines an outcome as:

“not how many worms the bird feeds its young, but how well the fledgling flies”

Want to find out more about the principles of OBPE?

Rachel will be presenting her ideas at a WebJunction Learning Webinar:
Thursday, May 29 at 11 AM PDT / 2 PM EDT

Registration for this webinar is optional. To register and receive an email reminder, visit the WebJunction Calendar of Events at

Otherwise you may follow these instructions to attend:

Questions? Email with any questions.



If we are to believe David Maister, the sky is once again falling, everything you know is wrong, and we’ve all been wasting our time by doing what we do as trainers.


Having modified an earlier series of blog postings into Why (Most) Training Is Useless in the May 2008 issue of T+D, ASTD’s monthly review of what is new, exciting, and challenging in the world  of training, Maister offers a thought-provoking confession and a suggested remedy.


Among his assertions are the proposition that “the majority of business training—by me and by everyone else—is a waste of time because only a microscopic fraction of training is ever put into practice with the hope for benefits obtained” (p. 53).  He also, in a section subtitled “The Right Approach,” suggests that a “full-change program” should be created; people should be trained with their coworkers so the lessons are carried back to and implemented in their workplace; and that staff rather than outsiders should be used to provide effective training experiences: “Outsiders should be used only to help train-the-trainers programs” (p. 58).


There’s much to admire in Maister’s article, and he is not alone in questioning whether current training procedures are effective. More pre- and post-workshop activities undoubtedly lead to better learning opportunities. Training employees in their “regular operating groups” does help create the possibility that the learners will have their lessons reinforced.  There is, however, also much to question.


Those of us who have managed training programs featuring a combination of in-house trainers and those hired from outside our organizations hear from our colleagues that they appreciate the training opportunities they would not have received if we had to rely solely on in-house resources. We also hear and see that what we offer is far from useless when our colleagues consistently tell us how helpful it is for them to have the variety of options we provide: one-hour, half-day, and full-day offerings on a variety of topics; occasional series which extend over two- or three-day periods; series which may continue once a month for several months; and other combinations such as asynchronous online learning opportunities or lesson plans which can be printed out and used on a schedule established by employees rather than supervisors or trainers.


Useless? I think not. Common? Not as common as it should be, but we all have to start somewhere.


The current “learning revolution,” which concentrates on learners as much as on instructors and which encourages abundant pre- and post-workshop activities to assure greater results from training sessions, is something to be admired and supported. It does not, however, mean that one-time workshops need to be eliminated.


A one-time harassment prevention session led by attorneys and involving an actor and an actress who did short, improvised vignettes on the topic led to unplanned workplace and lunch-time conversations among employees for several weeks after the sessions ended. Those informal discussions drew in employees who were not even present for the original presentations and helped create more awareness of the topic throughout the organization.


Workshops including discussions and tips about how to more effectively work with transgender colleagues and library users led to similar viral learning and the unsolicited assertion from at least one participant that the effectiveness of the instructor’s presentation had caused a major shift in the way that the participant worked after attending the session.


In the same way, we don’t need expensive surveys to know that employees who choose to attend one-hour, half-day, or full-day workshops on how to use the latest versions of Word, Excel, or PowerPoint are returning to their workplace and using what they learned to their benefit and to the advantage of those who use the services of the organizations for which they work.


I have no argument with Maister and others who suggest that more training time and more cohesive planning of long-term training goals can produce fantastic results. I’m also a strong supporter of having comprehensive in-house peer-based training programs along the lines of what the Contra Costa County Library offers. Where I do part ways with them is when they act as if they’ve suddenly seen the light, discovered that everything they’ve done was useless, and try to lead us to the one, true way to reach our goals—until they discover that this new way is also far from perfect and needs to be replaced by yet another “right” way to do things. As if everything we know were wrong.