Home Contents
Chapter One: Access to knowledge, imagination and learning Chapter Two: Listening to the people Chapter Three: Skills for the new librarian Chapter Four: Network infrastructure Chapter Five: Investment and income Chapter Six: Copyright and licensing issues Chapter Seven: Performance and evaluation Chapter Eight: Implementation - creating the momentum Chapter Nine: A summary of recommendations and costs Appendices

3 Skills for the
new librarian


A comprehensive training initiative in information and communication technology (ICT) for the public library sector will be seen as an important component of the government's plan to foster a learning society. There will be a considerable impact as a result of reskilling a large group of people who come into contact with over half the population, including all ages and social classes. By building on the skills and commitment of public library staff, the government has the chance to develop a high-quality training initiative that will enable the public to understand and exploit the potential of ICT in daily life.

Public library services across the UK have a strong tradition of accessibility, combined with helpful and proactive service delivery. The 60 per cent growth in the number and complexity of enquiries made to the public library over the last ten years (CIPFA, 1986-) illustrates the public's growing expectation and confidence that library staff are able to help them to access and interpret information from a variety of sources.

Public library staff already have many of the communication and customer- care skills which underpin high-quality public service delivery. These skills, and librarians' status as 'honest brokers', clearly make a strong base from which to build the skills for working with a growing diversity of material - including both print and electronic formats, from both global and local sources - that the information society will bring. The additional skills which staff will need in order to offer services using the UK Public Library Network can be integrated into a sound model of education and public service. This makes a UK-wide training and development initiative for this sector a sound investment.

A UK-wide training initiative must ensure that public library staff are ready to meet the challenges of their new role. In addition to anticipating and meeting the public's demand for access and interpretation of a wider variety of information material, library staff will be expected to add value and create new content that will be relevant in daily living and learning. People - especially new users - will rely on library staff to support them in exploiting the potential of networks for increased community communication and for interactive links with government and public services.

The aspirations surrounding the emerging technologies in other countries are outlined in Appendix 1. There is a widely held view that librarians will play a significant role in helping users adapt to and embrace ICTs in their daily lives. A European perspective on this role is cited in the European Commission report Public Libraries and the Information Society:

The two main aspects in the professional discussion focus on the new roles of libraries and the changes required in order to arrive at a future oriented curriculum. The study has analysed roles such as

The study has identified some new, emerging 'roles ... and professional conditions for improved services taking into account experiences such as information overload leading to the demand for more selection thereby forcing public libraries to work in closer cooperation with users and their needs'. (Thorhauge et al., 1997)

The introduction of the UK Public Library Network will thus have a profound impact on the operation and management of the library service. As with all organisational change programmes, the 'people factor' will be one of the most significant issues in ensuring success, and with such a large-scale project a comprehensive and focused training and development programme will be essential to provide rapid enhancement of services to the public.

The need for investment in training

There are over 27,000 employees in the public library sector, of whom 26 per cent are professionals and 74 per cent support staff (LISU, 1997). Staff at all levels - whether functioning as strategic managers, middle managers or service-delivery staff - will need an understanding of the current and future impact of networked information provision, and the skills to apply this understanding. Research shows that the extent of Internet and other networked information provision is minimal in public libraries at present (estimated at less than 3 per cent of libraries) and very little ICT training is thus actually in place, but most library authorities* do recognise the need for Internet and ICT training for their staff if they are to realise their potential role in the twenty-first century (Stone, 1997).

(*The term 'library authority' is used in this report to refer to the various statutory bodies responsible for public library services in the UK, being local authorities in England, Wales and Scotland, and, in Northern Ireland, the five Education and Library Boards under the Department of Education, Northern Ireland.)

A UK-wide programme of ICT training for all library staff will require a considerable investment over and above current training provision. This need for large-scale investment in skills development in public libraries has been recognised elsewhere. Bill and Melinda Gates have formed the Gates Library Foundation, which is providing $200 million in cash and $200 million in software to public libraries in low-income communities throughout the USA and Canada, to support Internet access and to provide support and training for librarians and library staff (ALA, 1997).

There is much to learn here from other UK public-service sectors that have introduced systemic technological and culture change. Within higher education, the impact of information and communication technologies has led to significant changes in many learning environments, and successful implementation of ICT developments has been shown to depend on clear direction, critical investment appraisal, and skilled, motivated staff. The Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) of the Higher Education Funding Council has encouraged universities to pay particular attention to training and development issues, and ICT training programmes have been set up for all staff - including vice-chancellors, academic staff, librarians and ICT professionals. In the JISC's current five-year strategy, training and development form a major part of the implementation plan, with the need for both local and nationally organised programmes being emphasised (JISC, 1996b).

The JISC set up the Electronic Libraries (eLib) programme to bring about pragmatic technology and communications solutions to improve the range and quality of HE library services in the electronic age. Upgrading the skills of the librarians who implement, manage and support the immense variety of constantly developing services is an essential component of the investment strategy. eLib national training programmes cover culture change, applying ICT to enhance work quality, network skills, networked information resources, and training the trainer (JISC, 1996a).

The NHS has also recognised the need for national training initiatives to support major cultural and organisational change. In the last five years, the NHS not only has introduced a national initiative to improve clinical effectiveness through production and dissemination of systematic reviews of research but has also implemented a national ICT network, NHSnet. Both changes have been supported with investment in national training programmes, some of which lead to new national qualifications such as the Master's degree in Evidence-based Medicine and the professional qualification for NHS information management and technology staff. The role of NHS librarians as active participants in change management - both as drivers towards a knowledge-based and technology-based NHS and as consumers and providers of training in finding and appraising resources on the Internet and the NHSnet - has been recognised and financially supported (Palmer and Streatfield, 1995).

In a project introducing ICT skills training for teaching staff, the Bristol Education Online Network found that, despite previous experience with use of IT in their work, and short-term intensive training, teachers' confidence in their ICT skills remained low, and that further expert guidance was needed for them to understand how to use ICT to meet the needs of students and how best to guide them in the use of the system. The budget estimate for training and learning support activities in this project was £1,600 per member of staff trained.

Other examples of national training initiatives include the training of 35,000 Camelot Lottery operators, which is estimated to have cost £1 million, and the training of 85,000 Post Office staff, which cost £30 million.

It is clear from these examples that significant and long-term investment in ICT training is already evident in other public sectors and will be needed in the public library sector. The exact level of investment will be determined only through a comprehensive survey of current ICT training and a detailed training needs analysis; however, the following sections offer a description of the design and implementation of a UK-wide ICT training initiative for public library staff, with indicative costs.

The elements of a training initiative

The training and development activities required to support a successful programme of managing change on the enormous scale anticipated here must address three key areas:


It will be necessary to:
  1. understand the culture, values and aims of the government, the library authority and the public;

  2. understand the relevance of the UK Public Library Network to advancing these principles;

  3. steer the public library to maximise its potential to understand and meet the requirements of the individual and the community.


It will be necessary to:
  1. implement this strategy to meet the specific requirements of the local authority, particular user groups and individuals;

  2. enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of front- and back-office systems and activities;

  3. improve the quality of the working environment.


In the very broadest sense, it will be necessary to maintain and develop the UK Public Library Network to:
  1. meet changing demands;

  2. anticipate the impact of competing pressures and partnership opportunities;

  3. influence the forces for change in the light of external circumstances.

These key areas affect all staff working in public libraries, whether they are generally regarded as strategic managers, operational managers, technical support or service-delivery staff. For example, the chief librarian, the network manager and the library assistant will all require technical training, but they will also need to understand the strategic implications of the network for the responsibilities within their particular span of control.

The educational outputs that would be expected from a training initiative for all 27,000 public library staff in the UK are as follows:
  1. all staff trained in the concepts of the UK Public Library Network and its likely impact upon each of their specific roles;

  2. all staff understand the magnitude of the change programme upon which they are embarking;

  3. all staff acquire new ICT skills that meet UK Public Library Network competence levels, and can apply these skills to all relevant aspects of their work;

  4. all staff are formally assessed on these skills as part of their learning programme, and have an up-to-date record of learning achievement.

To ground this in reality, the new ICT-based skills that staff will need to deploy in providing services to members of the public are illustrated in the following scenarios drawn from those used in Chapter 1. In these scenarios, the activities shown in green have always been core skills but now have an ICT element, and those shown in red are completely new skills which the networked environment requires.

Susan thinks about a career

While the librarian is already skilled in defining the woman's information needs, she will now have a knowledge of electronic resources to draw on in answering questions. She will show the woman how to use the Internet and issue her with an e-mail address, having first made the necessary security checks. The librarian has designed the Web interface to be particularly useful for local members of the public, and has mounted a news page for students, including useful hypertext links.
Earlier today she installed a new printer and loaded the local software after liaising with the help desk. She also ran her weekly monitor of the performance of the site library server and checked the automated backup routine.
Technical staff are working behind the scenes to implement the local wide area network links, gateway access to the metropolitan area network and the UK Public Library Network and to monitor network performance. Network management tools have been installed, as has remote troubleshooting software for local server diagnosis. The firewall server has been installed, and security reports have been developed in line with national standards.
Staff are installing and maintaining new kit as they build the local network infrastructure, in line with the project plan. The new Web server has been installed. Telecomms links are being run through the local metropolitan area network. Staff have set up a system for smartcard management. The e-mail database is now automatically managed.
Library managers have been marketing the new electronic services, building on contact with the local schools. They have set in place a systems design and development methodology. Overall implementation has depended on project management skills. The electronic resources available have caused managers to review their investment appraisal model and enabled a purchasing consortium to negotiate competitive rates from suppliers. A network security policy has been introduced, together with an agreed authentication policy. Charging mechanisms have been established using smartcard technology. There is a new collection management and digital archive policy. New performance indicators have been developed.

Zahir learns to read

The librarian defines the child's needs and then identifies helpful resources, including electronic books. The design of the children's Web interface works well. However, there is also a useful range of help guides. The librarian demonstrates the use of the Internet and the local help screen that is available in several languages. The purchase of relevant image sources complements the service well. The librarian's knowledge of the word processing and e-mail packages is put to the test.
Technical staff have implemented the local gateway access and the library's new ICT security policy. An Internet screening service is in place to ensure children do not have access to inappropriate material. Special kit has been installed to make the system easy for children. New image bases have been mounted on the network in a way that does not degrade overall network performance. Server space allocations are being reviewed, and automated 'clear out' programs are run. Links with the library management system are now in place.
The new services have caused the chief librarian to review the building services management and investment strategy, the definition of investment priorities, the equal opportunities policy, and the health and safety policy. Financial and technical analysis of the implications of the cost of bandwidth and of storage costs has led to modification of the network. Serious consideration is being given to moving to networked computers. A new policy on video and images archiving has been implemented, as has a programme to audit the library's compliance with copyright and intellectual property law.

The Patels go into computers

The librarian defines the business need and, via an electronic information gateway, evaluates the information resources available, and runs a brief training session in using the Internet and downloading data into a word processing and spreadsheet package. Links with other local business providers are already in place, but smartcard services have helped members of the public access their services directly. Providing training courses on the use of business information and guiding people to FE and HE colleges is welcomed.
The technical staff have set up the network in such a way that dial-in access is possible. Considerable work has been done to ensure national and international standards are followed, making the current project to integrate telecommunications and network support less problematic than might be.
The library manager is pleased that the marketing strategy is successful, and that there are active contacts with the local business community. A new pricing policy has been developed for services. The legal implications of information provision have led to a legal disclaimer being introduced. The negotiations with the telecommunications providers to support dial-in links between the library and home businesses have been successful.

Implementing a training initiative for public libraries

The sketches above give a broad overview of the range of training needs to be addressed in implementing the UK Public Library Network. Clearly, they are not specific to one library but are relevant to the whole public library sector. Some library authorities have introduced programmes which address some of these learning needs, but few have the financial resources, telecommunications equipment or skilled staff to contemplate running by themselves the training programme needed to support the changes to service provision.

The key issues surrounding the development and delivery of a structured ICT training to all 27,000 public library staff are:
  1. how such training is to be accomplished, on a large scale and over a short time-period;

  2. the extent to which existing training courses, resources and packages are useful;

  3. the design and production of new generic materials and courses;

  4. the capacity of local training agencies to tailor generic resources and develop resources of their own.

Where conceptual and structural issues are concerned, training resources will be provided most cost-effectively at a regional or UK-wide level. Trainees will then share the wider range of experiences of a national cohort and will develop a common conceptual understanding that will make for greater cooperation and collaboration - an important element in organisational change of this magnitude. However, local training is also essential in those aspects of networking that affect the routine part of a job, and all training - at whatever level it is managed - must be capable of being delivered in the workplace.

Flexibility in implementation is thus important. A UK-wide training initiative should be delivered in such a way as to ensure consistency yet respect local autonomy, and should enable members of the network to benefit from national and regional approaches and from assessment of learning within recognised qualification structures in partnership with accredited training bodies.

A variety of training approaches must be adopted, ranging from flexible learning using distance-learning packages, through to formal classroom activity. Much learning can be provided through routine coaching, or can be cost-effectively delivered through cascade approaches to training, by which the trainee becomes a trainer, training many others. This will also create a de facto UK-wide network of trainers. Some of the resources required for this training programme may be available from national library and information training providers, but it is likely that much will also have to be developed specifically for the UK Public Library Network and be tailored to meet local needs.

It is essential that a training initiative of this magnitude is well managed, and that the right balance is achieved in local, regional and national delivery. The Public Library Networking Agency must develop an overarching UK-wide training framework to ensure that:
  1. library authorities have the practical support of a formal body tasked with a partnership approach to training and development to deliver much needed resources;

  2. formal structures are developed to report on training outputs, both in terms of direct performance indicators and also as a component of project evaluation and value-for-money analyses;

  3. training activities are devised and implemented in parallel with technological and service changes, and financial plans for technical innovations always include training costs;

  4. training activity is linked to accredited training structures and is accredited to recognised standards - for example, specified as Scottish and National Vocational Qualifications (S/NVQ) competences, or undergraduate and postgraduate degree course learning outcomes;

  5. resources are not duplicated, and delivery is undertaken in a cost-effective manner;

  6. programmes to ensure the continued and continuous development of staff are put in place.

Under the umbrella of this UK-wide framework within which library authorities will exploit shared resources to meet local requirements there will be several components:

At UK level:
  1. Over a five-year period, the Public Library Networking Agency will implement an ICT training programme which will include:

    1. UK-wide coordination and articulation of training needs;

    2. specification of core competences, training targets and standards;

    3. reports on training outputs, in terms of direct performance indicators, project evaluation, and value-for-money analyses.

  2. The agency will commission training initiatives from local/regional/UK training providers who will run training activities, produce learning materials, and manage assessment and accreditation processes to specification. Initially the emphasis will be on using many of the learning resources already available, but eventually new resources will be developed which emphasise learner flexibility and can be readily tailored to local requirements.

  3. UK-wide and regional training will particularly focus on anticipated changes, strategic skills development, project management, areas where standards or complex systems interfaces are important, and specialist ICT networking and telecommunications skills.

  4. A competence S/NVQ type approach will be adopted, to provide a commonly recognised framework for training. It will be sufficiently flexible to ensure local training priorities remain paramount. Non-S/NVQ training may also be accredited through the quality assurance systems managed by higher and further education or by professional providers. At the higher levels, where S/NVQs may not be appropriate, credit rating of undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications may be more appropriate. The role of the British Association of Information and Library Educators and Researchers (BAILER) will be important in this, as will the British Computer Society and the Library Association.

At the local level and regional level:
  1. Local and regional initiatives will cover most of the training output. Tailoring and delivery of core learning materials produced centrally will take place to enable local managers to address particular service and strategic objectives. It is expected that many of the local library and information service providers will also generate their own training resources.

  2. An important element in implementation of the training programme will be cooperative and collaborative initiatives at regional level, such as cascade training consortia. Sharing of expertise and planning joint ventures will be accomplished through a regular series of seminars and videoconferences.

  3. Training programmes will be quality-assured using favoured organisational methods. Examples include integration within organisational Investors in People programmes, and kitemarking of service providers by TECs.

As mentioned earlier in this chapter, it is difficult to specify accurately the costs of implementing this training framework without further needs analysis and mapping exercises, but it is proposed that an average of £2.8 million be spent each year for five years on the development, delivery and accreditation of ICT training resources. In addition, commissioning the development, delivery and accreditation of this training programme and monitoring the relevant contracts which are the responsibility of the Public Library Networking Agency will have associated costs estimated at £200,000 per year for five years for staff and overheads, creating a total cost of £3.0 million per year for five years.

It is estimated that every public library employee will require an average of five days' formal training in each of the first two years of network implementation, with three days of formal training in Year 3 and 1.5 days training per year thereafter. Exact timings will depend upon the project implementation schedule, but it will be important and not impossible to achieve the widest distribution possible of ICT skills early on in the implementation of the network. This totals 135,000 training days for the first two years of network implementation, 81,000 days in the third year, falling to 40,500 training days per annum for the entire sector in subsequent years.

In addition to formal training, staff will be expected to be involved in independent, self-managed study time to further develop their skills in the relevant areas. An annual commitment of five days per employee is required.

It will be very important to ensure that staff are able to have time away from their normal duties for both formal and informal ICT training. The Bristol pilot project involving ICT training for teachers showed that it is critical for confidence and skill-building to have sufficient time to practise the new skills on an appropriate system, with support when required. Obviously, with library-wide training required, services to the public could be totally disrupted if funding is not found to cover some staff-release costs. It is proposed that funding is required to match at least 50 per cent of training release costs; this is estimated at an average of £2 million per year for five years.

It will also be important forat local and regional level to share experiences and to develop collaborative approaches to sustained training and development. An incentive scheme of £300,000 per annum should be established for regional and local cooperative training ventures such as videoconferences, seminars, cascade training schemes, etc.

The total investment over five years for a UK-wide programme to develop, delivery and accredit training to 27,000 public library staff is £15 million - plus £11.5 million to cover regional cooperation and 50 per cent of staff-release costs. Library authorities would be expected to cover the other 50 per cent of training release costs. This is additional to current library authority spending on training, but is a modest and cost-effective investment (less than £1,000 per employee over five years) in comparison to other national training initiatives and in terms of the benefits which will be passed on to the 58 per cent of the population who currently use public libraries.

Investment in the training of librarians creates a human resource with talents that benefit all sections of the community. The skilled new librarian will be confident in providing enlightened support in navigating the information maze, advocating accessible routes to learning for all, and welcoming all citizens into the people's network.


ALA (1997). 'Bill and Melinda Gates establish library foundation to give $400 million to libraries'. ALA News Releases, 2(30), June.

CIPFA (1986-). Public Library Statistics: Actuals. London: CIPFA.

JISC (1996a). Electronic Libraries Programme, 3rd edn. Bristol: JISC.

JISC (1996b). Five Year Strategy 1996-2001. Bristol: JISC.

LISU (1997). Library Information Statistics Tables for the United Kingdom. Loughborough: LISU.

Stone, P. (1997). Project EARL(Electronic Access to Resources in Libraries): Networking for Public Libraries' Information and Resource Sharing Services via the Internet. Final report. London: BLRIC.

Palmer, J., and Streatfield, D. (1995), 'Good diagnosis for the twenty-first century', Library Association Record, 97, pp. 153-4.

Thorhauge, Jens, Larsen, Gitte, Thun, Hans-Peter, and Albrechtsen, Hanne (1997). Public Libraries and the Information Society: Study on behalf of the European Commission DG-XIII/E/4 Prolib/PLIS 10340. Draft final report. Luxembourg: European Commission.

Home Contents
Chapter One: Access to knowledge, imagination and learning Chapter Two: Listening to the people Chapter Three: Skills for the new librarian Chapter Four: Network infrastructure Chapter Five: Investment and income Chapter Six: Copyright and licensing issues Chapter Seven: Performance and evaluation Chapter Eight: Implementation - creating the momentum Chapter Nine: A summary of recommendations and costs Appendices

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