Public Library Clients Prefer Formal Classes for Initial Training on Library’s Online Resources and Informal, On-Demand Assistance for Further Training
Keywords:evidence summary, public librarianship
Objective – To discover public library clients’ needs and preferences for modes of training on the use of the Internet and the libraries’ online resources and to apply these findings to improve training offered by public library staff.
Design – Multiple exploratory case study.
Setting – Two public libraries in New South Wales, Australia: a regional library (Mudgee Branch of the Mid-Western Regional Council Library Service) and a metropolitan library (Marrickville Central Library).
Subjects – A total of 24 public library clients. The participants were split evenly between the two libraries, with 12 from the Mudgee Branch and 12 from the Marrickville Central. The respondents were further subdivided into two groups based on age (35 to 44 years old and 65 or older) and evenly distributed by sex within the groups.
Methods – This study used naturalistic inquiry to frame the multiple exploratory case study of two public libraries. Ruthven used maximum variation sampling to guide the selection of participants. Library staff helped the researcher to identify possible participants at Marrickville, while the researcher advertised for participants at Mudgee Library and at an Internet/database course taught at the Mudgee Business Enterprise Centre. She used snowball sampling to find additional participants at both sites. Ruthven conducted semi-structured interviews with the participants, with questions covering their preferences, recommendations, and needs for online resource training. The data from the interviews and search logs were analyzed using inductive data analysis.
Main Results – Participants preferred small group, face-to-face, formalized instruction for initial training on online resources. For further training, participants preferred individualized assistance and immediate support instead of formal classes. They noted a lack of training opportunities and a lack of help from library staff as sources of frustration when trying to learn to use online resources at the public libraries.
Conclusion – Public library staff should offer formalized classes for those beginning to learn about using online resources, and focus on ad hoc, individualized assistance for more advanced learners. Since offering this type of instructional program is dependent on staff knowledge and staff availability, library staff members need to be trained in the use of online resources and classroom presentation skills.
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