Friday, June 13, 2008

Common sense tech ideas

Yesterday I spent six hours at Bryant University in Smithfield, RI for NELA’s program on IT in the library. It was billed as a training session for IT trainers. Gary McCone and Grace Sines from the National Agricultural Library were the presenters. The session was loaded with information, too much to recap in one blogging session so I’ll stick to my two favorite ideas. First, have a list of core competencies for the entire staff. Second, have a staff IT wiki. Actually their idea is to have a Tech Talk page on their intranet, but my library does not have an intranet, so I thought a wiki would work just as well, maybe even better because of the collaboration possible with wikis.

Having core competencies just makes good sense. Each department could come up with a list of what computer skills are necessary to perform the job well and to be able to troubleshoot minor computer issues. Things like changing the printer and scanner ink cartridges, knowing that re-booting is frequently the answer to a problem, and resetting the wireless modem could be taught to the employees in the departments that have to deal with these issues. Gary and Grace suggested some kind of incentive to get staff to get excited about learning these skills. Rewards for completing the training could include small prizes or a staff party. Obviously some libraries will have a more difficult time than others getting staff to want to learn these skills. I’m lucky to work in a library without much technophobia. For the most part, the staff is, if not proficient, at least willing to learn.

The second idea is very exciting to me and I wonder why it isn’t more widely used. Setting up a staff wiki for tech tips would be easy to do and would be an excellent resource. When a computer issue comes up the problem and solution could be recorded on the wiki. Tech tips could also be periodically posted, or the wiki could even be used as a manual of sorts. Employees could add comments or questions to the wiki. Through the use of tagging, it could be searchable. It seems like it would be a good first resource for computer problems, especially for those times when the IT contact people are unavailable.

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