Earlier this year I listened to a podcast from The Engaging Brand about a new book called “The Social Organisation: How to Use Social Media to Tap the Collective Genius of Your Customers and Employees“. One memorable aspect of this podcast was the reference to a practice that the authors referred to as “provide and pray”.
“…provide the technology and pray that something good happens with it. And we found…[this approach] failed 90% of the time.” (Show 368 – The Social Organisation podcast, The Engaging Brand, 14 January 2012, 7:07)
I’ve experienced this in libraries too. When I was working at Manukau Libraries (a long time ago!) we provided access to EPIC databases and prayed that our staff and our communities would use them. A year later the statistics showed database usage was abysmal and that our prayers were not answered to the degree we had hoped. So the next year we worked on changing that by providing easy, fun, quick and repeated training to library staff on the delights of EPIC and how it can be used in everyday library interactions. And when we analysed the usage statistics the next year we saw that these efforts had paid off. We also noticed staff enthusiastically participating in training year after year.
In the last couple of weeks I’ve been providing ereader training to staff from a number of public libraries on behalf of APLM and I’ve noticed that many libraries have been providing ereaders to staff and praying that they’ll take them home and become familiar with them. Unfortunately training shows that this hasn’t happened to the extent, or with the degree of success, that many library managers may have hoped.
And just last week LIANZA expressed surprise that there had been a low uptake in their upcoming advocacy workshops especially as advocacy has been a hot topic of discussion across library sectors both in New Zealand and internationally. I too was disappointed but not really surprised because once again it’s the ‘provide and pray’ practice at work again.
We make assumptions that by providing access to technology or professional development that library staff will somehow become confident and capable, or jump at the chance to learn something that they know is important. Evidence shows that these assumptions are not often true. We need to stop making assumptions and start proactively promoting, guiding and providing training in a way that is meaningful enough to motivate library staff to participate.
A version of this article appeared in Library Life: Te Rau Ora, 27 March 2012.
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