Moving online: training librarians in 2018

As we move into 2019 it is a good time to look back at another year spent training the library community, both in Cambridge and more widely. Over the last 12 months, the Office of Scholarly Communication has held nearly 50 training sessions for Cambridge staff on topics ranging from navigating copyright issues to the mechanics of the publishing process.  

Face to face

We have continued to deliver high-quality face-to-face training sessions on many topics. Sometimes sessions just work better when participants are all together in a room, especially if there are a lot of activities. For example, our sessions looking at Research Data Management and Data Management Plans are designed to be interactive and so wouldn’t really work in any other format. Feedback from sessions tells us that participants really value the chance to meet other librarians and hear their perspectives on things.

Cambridge has more than 100 libraries including faculties, departments, colleges and connecting institutions. Many staff do not get to meet each other unless working on a specific project and even working in the same university it can be hard to avoid becoming too focused on local issues. Attending workshops and other training sessions allows conversations to happen and several people have told us that they really value the chance to connect with their colleagues. 

Webinars to the rescue

Of course, librarians are very busy people so sometimes it’s just not possible for them to attend sessions in-person. Working in small teams often means that staff are unable to leave the library to go to training, especially when travel time and family commitments are factored into the equation.

To help with this we introduced webinars as a delivery method in 2017. This means that staff can either attend training sessions remotely or catch up with a recording.  Because of the success of this project we have continued to deliver sessions via webinar in 2018 and feedback from attendees tells us we are doing something right! Several people have commented that they have attended sessions online which they would otherwise not have been able to make but others have had some suggestions for improvement.

It can be hard to carve time out a busy schedule to attend even an hour-long webinar so there needs to be some incentive like an activity so people get the benefit of attending live. We have taken this on board and tried to build in interactive elements where appropriate. The main lesson we have learnt about webinars is that they are particularly useful for information delivery sessions which would usually involve someone standing at the front of the class delivering a talk. People can easily listen to this at their desk and/or ask questions through the webinar chat box without having to leave work.

Most of these webinars are shared with a Cambridge audience only but a few have been released more widely such as our talk on How to Spot a Predatory Publisher. As discussed in our previous post on advertising videos we have discovered that naming our content something that people are likely to Google is a great way to increase hits! 

Increasing discoverability

As we offer more and more webinars we are starting to think about the best way to collate and share these. Although they can be useful resources, people need to know where to find them without having to hunt around. One of our priorities for 2019 is to gather both our webinars and online resources together to create a mini-hub where library staff can go to find more information.

These resources include webinar recordings but also the results of two other training projects from 2018: our Research in 3 Minutes videos and our Scholarly Communication Information Booklets. Research in 3 Minutes in a series of short videos which outline basic concepts in scholarly communication. Most of these areas can be quite complicated and terminology laden and these videos aim to provide an accessible introduction. They can also be uploaded for display on screens around the library or on other webpages to engage users. We started to create Information Booklets when we realised that all librarians love a handout (at least in our experience!).

These four-page booklets can be viewed online or printed out and offer a more in-depth look at areas we are often asked about, for example what exactly is a Creative Commons license? There are six booklets in the series so far, covering everything from the publication lifecycle to academic social networking and we aim to add more in 2019. 

Online learning

One of our biggest forays into online learning took place with the Research Support Ambassador programme. This is an annual programme aimed at educating library staff on the core elements of research support and in previous years it has been run both face-to-face and via webinar.

This year we decided to do something different and used Moodle to create a completely online course. Participants were able to work though modules including video content, quizzes and discussions to test their understanding of the concepts. Each module was assessed by an activity which allowed learners to put their new knowledge into practice by undertaking a research support task. Examples of this included assessing a data management plan and attempting to spot a predatory publisher.

Overall the course was completed by 20 participants who gave us a lot of positive feedback on the format as well as suggestions for improvements. In the next few years this is something we would like to expand on, perhaps to those outside Cambridge… 

Beyond the University

That doesn’t mean we have neglected non-Cambridge librarians this year. In March our Research Support Skills Coordinator delivered two well-attended sessions on Moving Into Research Support with CILIP. The original session was so popular that we had to add a second and attendees came from around the UK to hear how they could get involved in this exciting new area. There was also a return visit to CILIP HQ in London for their 2018 Careers Day where attendees were introduced to the wonders of working in research support (including dealing with penguin poop and breaking the internet).

We also contributed to a range of other events such as LILAC 2018 and Dawson Day held in the summer – both of which gave us a chance to talk about the need for training in scholarly communication literacy for library staff. 

All in all 2018 has been a very busy year for training but we will not be slowing down in 2019. We have plans to expand our online training offer and deliver even more face-to-face sessions for our community. Who knows what this blog will contain this time next year? Readers had better stay tuned to find out! 

Published 8 January 2019
Written by Claire Sewell
Creative Commons License 

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