Knowledge Is Power: Awesome Websites for Learning Library Skills

by Ashley Mancill, Head Editor, INALJ Alabama
previously published 9/19/13

Knowledge Is Power: Awesome Websites for Learning Library Skills

ashleymancillI became interested in library work shortly after leaving the fast-paced and closely related field of publishing. Although I was confident that my work experience was relevant and that I had quite a few transferable skills, I did feel that I lacked enough knowledge to get a support job, especially in such a tight job market. In order to get a better grasp of what librarians and other information professionals actually do, I started volunteering at my local branch and began reading what books my system had on librarianship. When I wasn’t busy writing cover letters or customizing résumés for other jobs, I would research online and look for professional learning resources that were open to those who were not already employed in the field.

I discovered a number of great resources that allowed me to learn a lot at my own pace. Below is a list of ones that I feel provide the best introduction to library work for students and career changers like myself and are great for staff workers who want to improve their skills and knowledge. These are not meant to be substitutions for graduate work and training, but are useful for anyone interested in developing a deeper understanding of librarianship and what library work generally entails. 

ABLE (Alternative Basic Library Education)

The Idaho Commission for Libraries’ ABLE program is a series of guided slide-show tutorials that gives non-MLS library employees a way to acquire and develop their knowledge of the fundamental principles of library work. The program is divided into three main sequences—collection development, technical services, and public services. Each sequence consists of four courses featuring quizzes, downloadable attachments, and a final course assessment. Contact hours for courses are listed on the program’s main page, and those who live in states that recognize the program can receive continuing education credit for successfully completing each course. 

This site is my personal favorite. Each course is very detailed and features additional resources to enhance learning. The three-tab sidebar lets users see the course outline, follow along with the notes, or search for a specific section in the course. There is also a drop-down menu at the top of the page with course-specific attachments, which can be printed out and used for quick reference. The program may be a little overwhelming for someone who hasn’t been previously exposed to library work, but for those who are serious about working in the field, it’s worth exploring. 

Ohio Library Council’s Online Learning Tools

As part of its mission to provide continuing education resources to library staff, the Ohio Library Council developed three module learning courses: an orientation course on public libraries, reference service training, and a course on marketing.

The first of these is Ohio Reference Excellence (ORE) on the Web, which is based on the ORE Manual, the state’s training guide on information services. This six-module course covers the reference process, specifically how to conduct a reference interview, identify a patron’s informational need, and how to find the best resources to fulfill that need. Both in-house training and virtual reference training are covered. Those using ORE can keep track of their progress using the left sidebar and can jump to a different module using the numbered navigation bar at the top of the web page. Each module includes a set of quizzes and activities to complete.

The other two courses share the same basic layout and navigational features as ORE. The Orientation course offers a basic introduction to library work, explains the role public libraries play in the community, and gives an overview of library organization. Those who take this course can acquire basic library skills and get a general understanding of the types of services libraries provide. There is also a section on the rights of users and confidentiality—two very important aspects of librarianship that all newcomers to the profession should be aware of.

The Marketing course is useful for anyone working in a small library or interested in working in the public relations department of a larger library system. Those who take this course will learn about the steps in the marketing process, branding, promotion, auditing goods (library materials, in this case) and services, and the importance of building relationships with the press and other organizations in the community. In addition to quizzes and activities, each module includes a set of links to external resources, such as trends in library marketing, marketing research materials, and media kits.

Collection Development Training for Arizona Public Libraries

Although more narrow in scope than ABLE and the OLC courses, Arizona’s Collection Development Training (CDT) website, sponsored by the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records, provides library employees with comprehensive training in collection development. Key topics include general collection polices, guidelines to assessing a collection, ethical practices in acquiring materials, and advice for evaluating vendors.

CDT consists of eleven sections, each with a short self-assessment quiz. The site also discusses the relationship between collection development and intellectual freedom issues and how collection development affects all library services, including technical services and programming.

This is a very in-depth continuing education resource that is useful for those who are interested in working in collection management or who are looking to strengthen their collection development knowledge. Although CDT is designed specifically for staff members who work in small libraries, the concepts may be applied to other information fields and may give those looking to work in larger libraries a general idea of the process.

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