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5.7 Training and developing staff

The training function in libraries



Training is defined in the Concise Oxford Dictionary as bringing a person to a desired state of efficiency by instruction and practice. All libraries aim to have efficient staff in order to provide a good library service to the public they hope to serve, whether that readership is using a public, university, school or private library. Training, therefore, is of the utmost importance in the library field, although each library organization must decide for itself what it means by a desired state of efficiency, as requirements will alter from library to library and country to country. However, the training should be designed to ensure efficient performance to the dual benefit of the library system and the users. Training of staff is crucial both in developed and developing countries. It is appropriate in an extremely sophisticated library system using the most up-to-date computer methods and equally appropriate in a library system that may only recently have been established. Both kinds of library need to get value for monies expended on staff salaries and it is clearly more advantageous to employ well-instructed and trained staff regardless of the location of the library. An effective and informed staff will mean an efficient service to the public and will also promote a good library image. When considering training in libraries there are two factors to take into consideration. The first is the need of the organization to provide a good service and the second the needs of the individual member of staff.

Taking the first point, it must be recognized that libraries are labour-intensive and that staff are an expensive commodity, usually taking up to 60% of the budget in the form of salaries, which represents a sizeable amount of public or private expenditure. The motivation of staff and the efficient organization of a library system are two of the primary functions of a good library manager and should involve the proper use of training. It Is also an economic necessity to have staff fully operational as soon as possible. Staff training should therefore be orientated towards the libraries' needs and services but should not ignore the requirements of the individual member of staff, either for the present or the future.

A trained staff able to exploit the book stock means a more satisfied readership at all levels. The readers must be able to feel confidence in the member of staff who may be dealing with them. This confidence means that readers will return again to borrow books and to ask for information from the library staff. Here the knowledge of the individual staff member plays an important part, for the staff, even if they have only a basic education, must be knowledgeable about the tasks they perform on a daily basis and must have a sound understanding of the organization in which they are working. Training will enable them to participate more intelligently in the work of the library. They must know why they are asked to operate certain procedures and what will happen if they make mistakes.

Libraries must continually strive to- improve usage and readership levels and this will not happen when staff themselves appear disinterested or uninformed. Library surveys carried out over a period of years have illustrated that after the book stock one of the most critical factors that can affect library usage is the attitude of the library staff. In effect the staff, by their attitudes, can be a critical feature in either encouraging or discouraging library users. Those responsible for training library staff should be aware of the low percentage of the public using libraries and be constantly on their guard in case readers are discouraged by unthinking and badly trained members of staff. Staff need to be trained not only in library techniques but also in public relations. The reception and handling of the individual member of the public is of the utmost importance and library staff should not forget that they are there to serve the public readership.

Good, well-trained staff, at whatever level, will only serve to enhance the reputation of the library service. Training, therefore, must be an integral part of the library management's plans. It is no good whatsoever to have a marvellously stocked library that remains underexploited because of poorly trained staff.


Training is equally important for all library staff from senior management to the newest junior. It is essential to remember that in a good library system, training of one kind or another will never stop. It should be a continual process if it is to keep staff up to date and aware of innovations and changes in the library world. Library systems do not remain static, new ideas and policy changes are mooted and adopted. Training, therefore, should be aimed at keeping all staff aware of whatever is happening in the library.

Manual staff may well need some kind of basic instruction about the library that they work for, the geography of buildings and locations of offices. This is often a group of employees that tends to be overlooked as they are not professionals or potential professionals. This can be a mistake, for their contribution to the library service is of enormous importance and as a group of people they should not be ignored or forgotten. It is almost impossible to think about running a library system without the invaluable assistance of the library porters, attendants or pages. One would obviously be at a great disadvantage without them, and a basic introductory course to the system will help assimilate them that much more quickly than otherwise.

All new staff will need some kind of induction training, its length and content being dependent on the level of new staff recruited, Staff involved in on-the-job training of new recruits may well need training in how to explain routine tasks to their staff. It is a well-known fact that although someone may be excellent at their job it does not necessarily mean that they will be able to communicate the basic details of it to another person, let alone give clear instructions. These people will need help in imparting their knowledge. However, training for long-standing members of staff should not be aimed at making them feel inadequate and needs tactful handling.

Newly qualified staff will need to be trained in the house style of the library for which they work. They may well have learnt all the new library techniques at library school but in most cases will have had very little experience or opportunity to put theory into practice. Many young people are now entering librarianship without much idea of what the job is like on the shop floor and no amount of book learning can replace the real thing. In these circumstances education and training become complementary as new librarians are trained to maximize their library education on a daily basis.

They will certainly need management training to enable them to adapt as quickly as possible to their new role of being in charge of other staff and of being a manager themselves. The earlier this kind of training starts, the better it is, both for the library and the member of staff. In-service training is part of the management function and it is important to get these new librarians participating in in-service training courses for more junior staff, as this not only helps them to assume the role of manager but also involves them as part of the management team from the start.

Training is not just the prerogative of the professional librarian. Library assistants will also need to be drawn into the training net, whether or not they hope to eventually qualify. These are the people who are in close contact with the public and whose daily dealings can make or break the reputation of the service.

Training is also needed for pre-library school trainees who may be sponsored by the library during their time at library school. It is clearly more advantageous to give them a good basic grounding in the practicalities of librarianship prior to going to library school, as this will enable them to perform better as students, and to derive more benefit from their course of study.

Training should also be made available to professional librarians who may need refresher courses; these can be of enormous value in brushing away some of the cobwebs that might have accumulated over the years. Finally, the training officer will need to go on training courses too, In order to keep up to date with new moves in the profession and to learn about training methods and personnel work.


Training should be a continual process and even a chief librarian will wish to be trained in new ideas and practices throughout his career. Generally speaking though, training is taken to mean fitting a person into a new job and making sure he understands the work he has to do or the role he has to play.

In large library systems training should be used to assimilate as quickly and effectively as possible the large number of candidates that are employed at certain times of the year, for example, Autumn and New Year. Authorities which employ staff on a short-term basis will also have to consider training and although here the training will not need to be so complex or lengthy as for the staff that are employed on a permanent basis, It Is in the interests of the library user, as well as to the employer's benefit, that some kind of training should be organized. In the interest of efficiency, assimilating one new member of staff can be as important and crucial to a small system as assimilating twenty will be to a large system. In both cases it is Important to get those staff into the libraries and fully functional as quickly as possible. Therefore, staff need to be inducted and given basic training as soon as they join the library system on their first day. The amount of induction will vary from library to library. There is certainly no ideal Induction course as each library must determine for itself what information it wishes to impart during induction. Certain basic guidelines are given later in this book, but they are only guidelines and each library will want to change and modify them according to its own requirements and the requirements of the readers.

Training is not only necessary for the new member of staff but also for longstanding members of staff moving from one section to another, who will need instruction in the new tasks they may be asked to perform. It is never sale to assume that because people have been on the staff for years they will automatically know everything about the other sections. They won't and will need just as much instruction on these occasions as a new person. The difficulty with longstanding members of staff is that they themselves may assume they know all there is to know and might resent being told. In the interests of getting it right they will need careful and sympathetic handling. I am sure we have all encountered the member of staff who knows everything and cannot be told anything.

Staff must be trained to a consistent standard. This is not the responsibility of the training officer alone; it is also the responsibility of all senior staff, who must be encouraged to regard training with a positive attitude. After all, training attitudes start at the top and work their way down.


The reputation of each library service will be made or broken by the reception of the individual reader by the individual member of staff. In these days of highly complex and diverse services it becomes more essential than ever to ensure that staff are well trained to provide a more than competent service to the public. Encouraging the staff to feel involved in the running of the library, to feel responsible for their job and to feel part of the organization, however small that part may be, is the job of a good manager and trainer. The advantages are various: to the employer there is improved efficiency, accurate but difficult-to-measure output, and a skilled workforce. To the employee there is job satisfaction, greater opportunity and also personal development, all of which result in an improved service to the public. Well-motivated and interested staff are less likely to become disenchanted with their jobs, less likely to make mistakes and more likely to take pride in what they are undertaking. The staff will be less dissatisfied if they feel part and parcel of the organization and the tendency towards absenteeism will be reduced. The person who takes the odd day off here and there without really being ill is a person who is basically dissatisfied with his Job. I am not suggesting that training will always provide a solution, but proper training carried out to integrate the staff and involve them in the work of the library, will in the long run help to alleviate these problems. A high staff turnover at any library costs that library a lot of money in recruitment and interviewing time. This is a large investment in library terms and a good employer should not only aim to realize the full potential of his staff but should also aim at making this investment in staff a successful enterprise.

In libraries where staff turnover is high it may well be worth while looking at the staff training programmes to see if they can be used to help reduce the number of resignations. Of course there are always factors affecting the number of resignations which are quite beyond the scope of any training course to resolve: factors ranging from difficulties in finding accommodation to the high cost of fares to and from work. Conversely, one should never aim at having a completely static staff as this could result in a stagnation of ideas and enthusiasm, but the reader will certainly feel more confidence in the library if there is at least a steady core of familiar faces behind the counter.


Any good library manager should endeavour to ensure that his staff derive some satisfaction from the job they are asked to do. It stands to reason that if staff are enthusiastic and responsive about their Job then they will perform better and therefore give an improved service to the readership. How can one make sure that one's staff receive some job satisfaction? There are many things that will affect staff morale, such as salaries and conditions of service, that may be well beyond the direct responsibilities of the immediate library supervisor. As far as these factors are concerned, training can play no remedial role other than that of explanation. But there is a more positive approach to staff motivation, and that is to use training to ensure that every member of staff, at each service point, becomes involved in the activities of the library and becomes part of the library team.

Being shown how to do a particular task, being told why it Is necessary and being told or 'rewarded' when a job is well done, all contribute towards a member of staff taking pride in his job and working conscientiously. His work and efforts should be recognized by the supervisor and he should be told when his work has helped and been appreciated. In other words, a member of staff should never be taken for granted.

The supervising librarian will need instruction in managing personnel as well as the ability to impart on-the-job training clearly and succinctly. Knowing how to manage people and staff and how to encourage them to give a good performance by being appreciative and thanking them for a job well done, is a talent that does not come naturally to all supervisors. All this may sound like common sense or common courtesy but it is quite amazing how often these points can be forgotten or overlooked in a day to day work situation.

If a member of staff knows why he has been asked to do a certain job, and has been shown how to do it efficiently, he is more likely to do the job willingly and effectively than a person who has had a task badly explained and doesn't understand why it is necessary anyway. Making sure that a member of staff understands the job he is doing is therefore very important for job satisfaction. Systematic training of staff will help to ensure this, and at the same time will benefit the readers using the library, who will be served by a knowledgeable and helpful staff.

In the long term job satisfaction may help reduce staff turnover and therefore help reduce staff advertising costs and the amount of senior time taken up with interviewing and staff selection.


Having training courses in any library ensures that the staff who are participating in the courses, teaching or talking about their jobs, have actually to think positively about the job they are doing and what their aims and objectives are or should be. The training officer who organizes these training courses can not do all the training or give all the instruction himself. He must use specialist librarians to instruct in their own subjects. The specialist librarian cannot give instruction about his job unless he has sat down and written a job specification with written procedures, written routines, and clear, easily understandable statements of policy. Having done this and crystallized his own ideas, it becomes easier to teach the subject or to train someone else in that speciality.

Training should not be undertaken solely for training's sake. It should meet a specific need, either of a member of staff or of the library system. Training courses must have aims and objectives. Increasing staff involvement is only one side of the coin, and it is important to remember that the ultimate objective must be to maintain a library service of a reasonably high standard and constantly to try to improve that standard. This small but vital point should not be forgotten, The library exists to make information and materials available to the public; it does not exist simply for the pleasure or otherwise of the librarian. Bearing this in mind, training courses must be run to teach staff not only how to exploit the stock but also how to deal with the great variety of people who will be using the library.


It is important to develop a training mentality in the library system. Any training officer appointed to a new post may have an uphill Job, for initially he must prove the value of his training courses to the rest of the senior staff, some of whom will be extremely sceptical about the value of training and may, for example, try to prevent their staff attending training courses or refuse to attend themselves. A training attitude or mentality must be nurtured and developed until training is acknowledged as being beneficial to the library and the staff. However, most good library systems now recognize the need for internal as well as external courses, and certainly most recognize their responsibility to accept students on fieldwork attachments.

Libraries in the developed world have this responsibility to receive students on fieldwork attachments for practical work, either from their own country or from abroad. These attachments can be of the utmost value to students in giving them some practical experience of library and information work and by giving them an opportunity to discuss library problems with a wide variety of practising librarians. The benefits of these attachments are not entirely one-way. There is bound to be some interchange of ideas between the librarian and the visitor which can only be a good thing, but in addition the host librarian must have made some effort to present the visitor with a short synopsis of his job. He may even have worked out some kind of brief training programme for the student to follow, rather like programmed learning, and to have done this that member of staff must have sat down and thought clearly about his own job before attempting to describe it to a third party.

Training of staff must be accepted as part and parcel of the library routine. It should never be regarded as an optional extra which is vulnerable to be cut back in times of economic stringencies or when the work load is particularly heavy. Training is a service-enhancing necessity. Its benefits must be made obvious and training must be valued by the organization. Therefore training courses themselves must be viable, important and relevant to the organization.

In times of economic stress it becomes more desirable and essential to have well-trained staff as more pressures may be put upon them. In developing countries, with limited library resources, it is even more important to have well-trained staff. In both situations few staff may be available, vacancies may be difficult to fill or left unfilled, and a greater interchange of staff between departments or general mobility may be required. At times like this, unless there is a real commitment to train, it becomes very tempting to refrain from organizing training courses altogether, since this tends to take the staff temporarily away from work or service points. In fact this is a time when training becomes more crucial than ever, as the staff must be able to continue to give a good service to the readers. Training officers, or those librarians with training responsibilities, must be very wary of this situation developing and insist on people being spared from service points to attend relevant training sessions.

Many well-organized library systems have a responsibility to prepare young people before they attend library school. This can either be through some formal trainee scheme or informally, by encouraging staff to qualify. In this context no library can afford to ignore its training responsibilities and must accept that it has a duty to help these young people prior to their attendance at library school. This help can take various forms depending on the facilities available. Visits can be arranged to other libraries, specialist librarians can talk to them about their jobs or, more simply, a well-stocked staff library can be made available to them.


Identifying training requirements need not be a difficult task and there are two simple ways of looking at the problem. These are the needs of the organization and the related needs of the individual. The requirements of both can sometimes be met by the one training course and need not be diametrically opposed. For example, all new staff should undergo an induction course to introduce them to their new job. They will need certain basic instruction ranging from knowing the opening hours of the library to knowing when pay day is. The library needs to get these new recruits operational as soon as possible, as effective members of staff, so this type of course can serve both types of need.

The librarian or training officer should know the standard of work required by the organization and a training need is immediately apparent if not everyone is of the required proficiency level. Training can be of all types and the training officer should look at all staff levels to ascertain training needs. There are, as mentioned above, induction courses for all staff regardless of the level at which they enter the library service. Then there is operational training, or on-the-job training to teach and improve job performance. One can look further ahead and consider development training, which means not training staff to do a particular job but preparing them for possible future promotion. Whilst not wishing to encourage people to have aspirations above their abilities, it is good managerial planning to have a pool of people who are capable and trained to take on a job at a higher level.

The introduction of a new technique or a new service will highlight the need for training to ensure that all staff know about the new event, and it must be obvious that staff will need training and instruction in the use of new techniques. The need for both induction and this sort of training is fairly simple to identify.

New legislation or a new policy decision by the governing authority, will necessitate further training for library personnel. Again, in cases like these staff will need to be trained to meet new statutory requirements, whilst new policy decisions may often create a change in the system, underlining the need for retraining. Here it will not be adequate to explain a change, but one must explain the scheme, indicate how it will work, and how it will affect the service, in a clear and concise way, allowing plenty of time for questions.

If a library has a high staff turnover, the training officer may well consider it worthwhile to institute a system of exit interviews to find out if there is a problem and if training could help resolve it and so reduce the turnover. Resignations may be coming in for a variety of external reasons, but if staff are leaving because of low staff morale, or disenchantment with the job, these may well be problems that reveal a training need. Staff may, for example, be resigning from one particular branch library and the cause could well be the individual in charge of that library, who may not be managing it effectively, or who does not have the ability to motivate his staff. This highlights a very pertinent training need for that senior member of staff. Other training needs will be brought to light by complaints from readers. If one has a well-trained staff these should not be all that common, but a genuine complaint should be investigated and efforts made, through training if necessary, to rectify the situation and to make sure it will not happen again.

Much of the training will not be undertaken by the training officer, who may simply be responsible for the more formal organization of the courses. On-the-job training is undertaken by the senior staff at each library, who may therefore encounter more day to day problems and training needs than the training officer. Communication must be regular between supervisors and the training officer, who ideally must maintain close contact with these supervisory staff. Training needs may also become apparent on talking to the senior and junior members of staff. This may be in the form of feedback on courses already held or just by a chance comment in a conversation. The training officer needs to be sensitive to the moods of the staff and their implications, in case they reveal a hidden training need. Training cannot be static. It must be capable of change and alteration to meet new situations and therefore training itself becomes a continuing process.

Some libraries operate a Career Progression Scheme, which automatically means that each member of staff is assessed annually by his supervisor and also given an assessment interview by a more senior member of staff. These interviews will prove invaluable for assessing individuals' work performance abilities and will also highlight any personal training need, as well as becoming a forum for discussing training needs of individual members of staff.

Identifying training needs is a fairly straightforward process. But one must take into account the various human differences of age, ability, experience, educational background and so on. There are different levels of training to suit different abilities and the training officer has a responsibility to assess the level of training required by each individual or group of individuals. On the practical side, the training officer should never go cold into a training session. He should allow himself time to become susceptible to atmosphere, modify his training course around the needs of the moment and adapt himself to the needs of his trainees.

There is, then, training for those within the library system, those new to the system and library workers at all levels. There is also the organization of training courses for visitors from overseas, for students, and for the training of library users, plus organization of possible training modules for committee members, governing bodies or visitors from other library authorities.


The obvious and immediate advantage of internal training courses is that they can be directly related to the libraries' needs. Other advantages are that library experts and lecturers are already on site and courses can be run reasonably cheaply, as accommodation and equipment, heating, lighting and stationery do not have to be paid for directly. The cost of these items will be absorbed in the general library budget. There are other hidden costs, such as the amount of staff time taken up by the training course, but items like these will be difficult to charge to the training budget. So on the face of it internal training costs are relatively low.

In-service training is most beneficial as the trainers know the library and the organization and know exactly what is expected from the course. An outside lecturer will not automatically have this knowledge and may spend precious time trying to assess the requirements. If he has not been properly briefed the course could misfire completely. Internal training courses must never be allowed to become stereotyped and dull as they will lose their impact and fail in their objectives. Here external lecturers provide that extra bit of stimulus to an internally organized couse and, with some careful planning, it need not be expensive to arrange for an outside speaker. For example, one's own authority, school, college, university or organization must have some experts who could be asked to lecture, perhaps on management, finance or computers. The choice can be wide. It is especially beneficial to use an outside expert to address more senior members of the staff as they are more likely to listen with an unbiased ear to whatever he is lecturing about. He may well be saying exactly the same thing as the training officer or another member of the staff would have said, but he will perhaps hold their interest just that little bit more and give more impetus to the programme for the very reason that he is the 'outside expert'.

Internal training courses held in situ in the working environment are liable to all kinds of interruptions, from either the telephone or the general public. For this reason it is essential for all internal training modules to be held in a separate room away from the hustle and bustle of the library, which can be distracting. This will help the staff to have a chance to think objectively about the job rather than subjectively.

Externally organized courses score here as they are held well away from the work place and the staff are not subjected to endless interruptions. Sometimes, because of the subject content, an external course may be the only answer if there is no one on the staff who can help. External courses can indeed be very stimulating, not only because of the course contents, but also because they enable the staff to mix socially with other professionals working in similar libraries and to discuss joint problems informally. Therefore, these professional external courses have a hidden value in encouraging professional communication, After all, we are in the business of communication.

The main problem is that external courses must be paid for in hard cash, and this factor can limit the number of staff that can be trained in this way. In addition to the cost of the course itself, there will be further expenditure on travel, accommodation, and subsistence, which can make the whole thing prohibitively expensive. In certain cases it might be cheaper to hire the outside expert to come in to the library, especially if there are many staff who need to attend the course. In this way one will have the advantages of an on-site training course, plus external expertise and will still only be paying one person's travelling expenses, hotel and subsistence, as lecturing accommodation, lighting etc., will be provided by the library. If even the cost of this looks prohibitive, the training officer should look around at neighbouring libraries, as they might well have the same training needs and might be willing to share the cost of an on-site course.

Whether an internal or external course is finally decided upon, the trainee should be properly briefed as to why he has been selected, what is expected of him and whether he will be required to write a short report.

Suggested further reading

ANDERSON, Ursula. Management Training for Librarians: a report. London: Library Association, 1977.

COMMONWEALTH LIBRARY ASSOCIATION. Training Modules. (Published by the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation in 1981.)

CONROY, Barbara. Library Staff Development and Continuing Education. Littleton, Colorado: Libraries Unlimited, Inc., 1978.

COVENTRY City Council, Libraries, Arts and Museum Department. Training and Development Programmes (some accompanied by tape cassette). Coventry: CCC, 1977.

DAVIES, Ivor, (ed) The Organization of Training. New York: McGraw Hill, 1973.

DEAN, John. Planning Library Education Programmes. London: André Deutsch, 1972.

DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AND SCIENCE, Library and Information Series, No. 7. The Staffing of Public Libraries. Vol. 1. London: HMSO, 1976.

EDWARDS, Ronald J. In-Service Training in British Libraries. London: Library Association, 1977.

FINN, David, ASHBY, Margaret and Dimity, Susan. A Teaching Manual for Tutor Librarians. London: Library Association, 1978.

JONES, Noragh. Continuing Education for Librarians. Leeds: Leeds Polytechnic School of Librarianship, 1977,

LEICESTERSHIRE LIBRARIES AND INFORMATION SERVICE. Training Packages. Basic enquiry work.- a training package for library assistants; Work programming.- a training package for Senior Library Group Assistants; The effective use of team time: a training package compiled for Principal Librarians. Leicester: LLIS, 1977.

LIBRARY ASSOCIATION Subcommittee on Training. Guidelines for Training in Libraries, London: Library Association, 1980.

LIBRARY, ASSOCIATION. Training in Libraries - Report of the Library Association Working Party on Training 1977. London: Library Association, 1978.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT TRAINING BOARD. Training Recommendations 4 Administrative and Clerical Staff. 8 The Arndale Centre, Luton, Beds. 1970.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT TRAINING BOARD. Training Topics 3 - Induction Training by Peter Riley. Luton: Local Government Training Board, 1971.

MACK, Elizabeth. In-Training in Information and Special Library Units. London: ASLIB, 1974.

SHELDON, Brooke E. (ed) The Continuing Library Education Network and Exchange (CLENE) Concept Paper No 3. Planning and Evaluating Library Training Programmes. Washington DC: CLENE, 1973.

SLATER, Margaret. Short Course Assessment and Evaluation in the Library/Information Field, Aslib Occasional Publication No 15. London: ASLIB, 1974.

STOWE, Elizabeth W. (ed) New Directions in Staff Development: papers of a one-day conference held in Detroit, Michigan, 28 June 1970. Chicago: American Library Association: Library Administration Division, 1971.

TOTTERDELL, Barry and BIRD, Jean. The Effective Library: Report of the Hillingdon Project on Public Library Effectiveness.- edited by Margaret Redfern. London: Library Association, 1978.

UNITED NATIONS EDUCATIONAL, SCIENTIFIC AND CULTURAL ORGANIZATION (UNISIST). Guidelines for the organization of training courses, workshops and seminars in scientific and technical information and documentation. Paris: UNISIST, 1975.

VIRGO, Julie A, MCCONACHEY DUNKEL, Patricia and ANGIONE, Pauline V. The Continuing Library Education Network and Exchange, Concept Paper No. 5. Continuing Library Education, Needs, Assessments and Model Programmes. Washington DC: CLENE, nd.

WARNCKE, Ruth. Planning Library Workshops and Institutes (Public library reporter No 17). Chicago: American Library Association, 1976.

WASHTIEN Joe. The Continuing Library Education Network and Exchange, Concept Paper. A Guide FOR Planning and Teaching Continuing Education Courses. Washington DC: CLENE, 1975.


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