From the Office

charles wilt

Charles Wilt, ALCTS Executive Director

A Look at the ALA 2010 Plan (part 2 of 6)

Draft Goal Area II: Education

Draft Goal Statement: Through its leadership, ALA will ensure the highest quality of graduate education for librarians and continuing education of equally high quality for all library staff.

Draft Strategic Objectives:

  1. Ensure that accreditation standards mirror the needs of the profession.
  2. Increase availability of and access to continuing education for all library staff.
  3. Make ALA continuing education programs and publications affordable and accessible.
  4. Establish standards for educational programs for library support staff.

Looking Back

Education in its various guises appears regularly in ALA planning efforts. At the mega-ALA level, there really is no education program as such. The Office of Accreditation exists for its work. There is however no coordinated education effort in terms of bringing programming and education to ALA members. This task has fallen until recently to the divisions. The divisions brought education to the ALA members through preconferences, programs, workshops, institutes, and now, web courses. Even with this goal, there still is not a good mechanism for “ALA” to “increase availability and access” and to “make ALA CE programs and publications affordable and accessible.” Granted publishing is supported at the ALA level through ALA publishing, including ALA Editions.

So it still falls to the divisions, like ALCTS, mostly to provide the education ALA desires. ALCTS has a long and substantial history in doing just this. Putting aside the continuing efforts to deliver quality conference programming and preconferences, I want to spend more time on the nonconference educational events ALCTS does so well.

Through the nineties, ALCTS had quite a run of successful large “institutes” as they were called then. These multiday affairs reached hundreds of library staff across the country. However as the nineties wore on and expenses started to skyrocket, these larger institutes became more difficult to produce at a reasonable cost to the attendee. With 9/11, the well soon went dry.

Where We Stand

It became readily apparent that new models of providing CE needed to be looked at. It took a while as many of you probably know and is just this year producing significant results. This is not to say we didn’t have successes. The “Fundamentals of Acquisitions (FOA)” Web course, I think, proved to many that with a little commitment from just a couple of people, ALCTS could be a player in this budding CE format. FOA, as it is fondly called, is a raging success story, offered about five times a year to full sessions. FOA was perhaps a bit ahead of its time for ALCTS. It has taken us two years to begin to have other Web courses in development.

As I said, the large institute format is not a very viable way of offering CE any longer. In the recent workshops ALCTS has offered, we have one- and two-day events but with only one or two instructors. It wasn’t long ago that “high-tech” was an overhead projector. Today technology costs are our biggest expense in planning workshops. The “face-to-face” workshop model is not likely to disappear soon since much of the information ALCTS can offer attendees best works in a highly interactive personal environment; and people still like that interpersonal interaction.

There are alternatives now for CE delivery that ALCTS has not explored but needs to very soon. But first and foremost, a format without content is just a format. ALCTS has been starving for content for many years. I know it’s out there. I know you know it’s out there. It’s time to bring it in and create those courses that we can do so well. Producing CE is a member benefit, an outreach to the general library community, an opportunity for involvement, a chance to share knowledge, and, need I say, a revenue generator.

Charging Forward

Karen LeTarte and the Education Committee are ready to help you get started. The Workshop Proposal Form is accessible on the ALCTS Web site. I received an email from Karen recently with a fairly long passage about what she envisions ALCTS CE might or should or will look like. With her permission, I have excerpted pieces of that message for this article. To me, Karen’s remarks quite eloquently articulate what ALCTS CE is about.

  • What are the current available instructional technologies for the intended audience?
  • How do you deliver content that you’ve already developed?
  • How do you market continuing education to state and regional associations?
  • Could the Council of Regional Groups (CRG) help?

I think it is important to get developers focused on CE that is practical—those types of offerings tend to be the best attended. I also think that ALCTS has been in a rut with CE, we do the same format over and over, which tends to be either presentation style—a group of talking heads presenting sequential lectures, or workshop style, which tends to completely overwhelm people with a lot of information in a very short time period and with little opportunity for supported practice. I think instead we need to:

  • get developers to think modularly,
  • choose the appropriate focus for the material and the audience, and
  • have a greater awareness of the needs of adult learners.

Developers need to think about:

  • How can the same content be delivered in different ways—in a face-to-face workshop (practical, hands-on), as a presentation (lecture/theoretical), and as a Web course.
  • What is the appropriate approach for the content for a given audience?
  • What is the goal of the program—skills acquisition, presentation of current trends and issues to raise awareness, etc.?
  • How do we creatively break content into logical, possibly stand-alone modules.

There are a number of different models for creating and delivering a corpus of CE content. One that I believe we have relied on too heavily in the past is the “bubble-up” approach, in which we hope that individual content developers will be seized with the desire to develop CE. The disadvantage to this grassroots approach is that

  • a) it hasn’t worked too well (not enough bubbling has occurred) and
  • b)it hasn’t allowed us to develop a cohesive and comprehensive CE Program.

We have to challenge them to think about how content might fit into some kind of overarching framework, a framework I hope that the ALCTS Education Committee will be instrumental in developing in the future.

We are trying now to transition into a more proactive, directed, top-down model for CE, and it is critical that individuals, affiliates, and section committees begin to understand their roles in this process. I am wondering if an overview of some successful models for developing CE, in an organizational rather than just individual, context, would be appropriate for this program.

For example:

  1. Top-Down: ALCTS Education articulates CE needs and delegates course development and developer recruitment to the appropriate section committees and/or affiliates. Individuals who are interested in developing CE should be aware of this and should contact the appropriate section committee to see if there is an existing need to be filled. This would impact your “needs assessment” component above, as in some cases, the organization may already have identified existing needs.
  2. TestBed Cycle: Another model is to use a testbed approach, where you take a successful program, expand it into a preconference, and then into a Web course. CCS has been using this approach quite successfully. Developers can use the program and preconference to test the effectiveness of content, exercises, handouts, and instructional approaches before designing the Web course. This speaks to the adaptation focus above.
  3. Train the trainer: Sometimes CE has more than one audience. This is an area tailor-made for the affiliates. A developer may have an idea for CE that could be expanded into a training program.