‘Convergence or Collision? When Library and IT Skills Meet’ is the title of a paper given at ALIA’s 2007 Information Online Conference on the importance of I.T. skills for Library staff. Relevant excepts referring to the University of Western Sydney’s triennial Library staff I.T. skills audit are included below, with a link the the full paper at the end.
The University of Western Sydney (UWS) Library designed, administered and assessed its first skills audit in 2003.
A bank of 130 questions was developed, drawing on requirements in position descriptions and supplemented by specific skill set requirements provided by supervisors. The questions covered generic skills such as use of a computer, specific IT skills such as the ability to use different web browsers, traditional library skills relating to client service provision and ‘personal’ skills such as mentoring and communication. A sliding scale of self-assessment ranging from ‘training required’ to ‘proficient’ was used by staff to rate their skill level for each question; an ‘n/a’ option was also provided for staff to use if they felt a skill was not applicable to their position. Results were collated centrally so that overall trends and training requirements could be assessed and library-wide training strategies determined.
Additionally, individual summaries were returned to staff members and their immediate supervisors to be used as part of established performance management processes and the basis for a tailored training program.
Interestingly, while most library-trained staff identified IT areas as essential to their positions few IT staff identified library skills as a requirement. Subsequent review of the outcomes of the audit led to a decision to implement a regular, triennial audit.
Training programmes were developed to cover the areas identified by staff.
These ranged from utilisation of University offered sessions on customer service, through area-specific training such as regular detailed sessions on using the acquisitions modules, to tiered library specific technical sessions (‘basic’ and ‘advanced’ modules) developed and conducted by the UWS
Library systems team staff. The highest take up of the technical sessions was, in 2003, at the ‘basic’ module level.
The second audit was completed in August 2006.
In order to retain consistency of approach, allow some reasonable comparison between
2003/2006 data and show general trends, the majority of questions from the
2003 audit were retained, although they were reviewed and amended to reflect current work practices.
Additional questions were added to the question bank to ensure new competencies were included in the audit.
In response to feedback from staff, supervisors and library managers on the manual process used in 2003, an automated questionnaire was developed in MS Access by Library systems staff. This allowed each position holder to see only the questions deemed relevant by the senior staff responsible for that functional area. The ranking scale was amended from the broader one used in 2003 to a more detailed Lickett scale indicating levels of proficiency.
Once completed by the staff member, the questionnaire was forwarded via email notification to the immediate supervisor for their comparative ranking and comments, then submitted to a database for analysis. Analysis was undertaken at the functional area level, at campus level and at an all of library level. Once again, summary reports were provided to the individual and the supervisor, enabling them to discuss any differences in rankings for skills and determine a tailored training program, drawing on the training options identified as part of the overall analysis. Knowledge of the workings of traditional ILMS operations and client service functions was included in the audits for the library IT staff, providing a starting point for training identification. Technical skills once again rated as high areas for training, though at a more advanced level than in the 2003 audit.
Although a small number of staff requested ‘basic’ level training in technical areas, a much higher number rated themselves as competent at the basic level and requested the advanced modules, particularly in the areas of web browser use and configuration. The advanced sessions in this area cover, for example, understanding how different browsers impact on how pages are viewed, configuring security levels and knowledge of network ports required for different services – all in the context of internal and remote client support.
The skills audit approach has been welcomed by all areas and levels of the library. It offers a relatively non-threatening means by which staff self-assess their skill levels in areas identified as required for them, is a tool for supervisors to use in performance management reviews, and gives library managers an overview of skills, skills gaps and trends in training needs.
While it can never be considered a total solution, skills audits help to address the questions facing the 21st century library on how to identify the skills needed and how we ensure staff members are sufficiently knowledgeable in these areas.