This week WebJunction Illinois features a guest post by Jennifer Walker. Jennifer is the Director of Development Services at the Mississippi Library Commission (http://www.mlc.lib.ms.us/). Mississippi is our newest WebJunction state partner and we thank Jennifer for such a great contribution!
I believe that any public library, no matter how rural or small, can provide outstanding public library service. The key to doing so is the employment of knowledgeable, empathetic individuals. For this reason, I am passionate about investing in Continuing Education for library staff members, whether degreed or not.
The people that deliver services in our libraries are what make the library great (or not so great!) Great collections, beautiful facilities, and cutting edge technology can’t make up for an institution that lacks humanity. The best collection in the world is just a bunch of printed words and series of ones and zeroes in a database if the individual tasked with answering our users’ information needs either doesn’t adequately know how to use the available resources, or doesn’t care about our users.
Continuing Education can easily remedy the former problem; dealing with the latter through CE is much more difficult. Certainly there are individuals that can never be turned into helpful, caring people. But, designing and delivering CE for staff members at every level of the organization and emphasizing that working in a library is meaningful and valuable work provides the opportunity for every member of the organization to own the importance of the work libraries do. Training that combines the technical components with an emphasis on serving our communities provides participants with a mission to perform in their work. Equipping library staff with the confidence, knowledge, humor, and sense of worth is essential to maintaining healthy, vibrant libraries in the 21st Century.
In South Mississippi, (and next door to the west in Louisiana) we use a word called “lagniappe” (pronounced “lan-yap”) to describe the experience of receiving a little something extra. Helping over-worked, under-paid, stressed-out library staff members recognize the importance of their contribution to the community through library service and the value of their service to the organization is the lagniappe of a CE program.