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The Library as a Learning Company

Barents Library Conference “The Library – the Source of Welfare and Civilization” August 25-27, 2003

The Library as a Learning Company / Irina P. Tikunova // Обучение делом. Северное сотрудничество в области культуры стран Баренц региона : конференция библиотек Баренцева региона в Кеми (Финляндия) : «Библиотека − источник благополучия и цивилизации», [25-27 авг. 2003 г.] : сб. материалов / [сост. Л.В. Давыдова, Л.И. Латкина]; [вступ. ст. О.Р. Мифтаховой]. − Сыктывкар, 2004. − С. 146–149. – The translation is made by T. Klushina, I. Tikunova. [Photo]

The organization is prosperous only if all the staff members have conditions for learning and progress while the organization guarantees them constant self-development. This is the basic principle of «a learning company» , the model of which was developed by American theoreticians in management at the end of the 90-ies of the XXth century.

The history of the Arkhangelsk Regional Library as a learning company began in 1997 when we were working on «The Arkhangelsk Regional Scientific Library named after N.A.Dobrolyubov Development Program, 1998-2002». All the levels of the library managers participated in making this document. Our library administration organized a special training of top managers in strategy planning to make the work on the Program successful. The theme of the training was «Planning as a main element of management». The goals of the training session were not only educational, but also practical: we wanted to expand people's knowledge of managerial technologies, to overcome psychological barriers for implementing the changes, to help promote innovative elements into the Library's activities, to collect material for developing the strategy of the Library and to educate the future participants of the strategy realization.

The training allowed the participants to learn methods of analysis of the library processes, to define the mission of the Library, to work out its strategy, to define the Library goals and tasks. Managers analyzed the work of their departments for the last 5 years according to the established criteria and tried to compare the Library resources and activities with the results of some Russian and foreign libraries. The participants studied all the possible functions of public libraries of today and named the priorities for our Library giving their reasons for their choice.

To make the ideas of the Library Development Program clear for all the staff members we had special meetings, seminars and lectures where we tried to explain them. As a result this document became a starting point for further planning and achievements analyses of the Library as a whole and of its divisions.

Education of the staff was considered one of the main directions of the Program which determined the strategy of the Library development for 1998-2002. It was also the main condition of its realization. The library staff training was aimed at its adapting to the demands of time and new conditions. The goals we had made us to arrange the staff education in accordance with the following principles:

1.      First, priorities were given to the directions which helped the librarians to acquire knowledge and skills necessary for realization of the Library strategies announced in the Program, that is to new informational and administrative technologies. We taught them to use them in their daily activities, to create new electronic resources, to provide an access to Internet, to protect the Library resources, to promote books and reading, to develop international cooperation and corporate networking. We taught them both theory and practice, so that they could use the knowledge acquired immediately in their work.

2.      Second, while forming the groups of learners, choosing the themes and methods of training we differentiated them with respect to the training goals, the professional level of the students and modern requirements to their qualifications and knowledge.

3.      The studies were carried out ahead of schedule which enabled us to introduce full-scale innovative activities which, in their turn, allowed to lessen psychological opposition of the staff.

First and foremost we train the heads of the Library and managers of its divisions who are responsible for the Library activities on the whole, as well as for separate directions, on whose work the success of all the innovations and permanent development of the Library depends. Another group consists of specialists who participate in realization of the priority directions of the Library development. The number and quality of the results achieved depend on their professionalism.

Inspire of the absence of any regular educational institutions in our profession in the area which could meet the requirements of today's educational needs of our Library staff, we managed to provide possibilities to them for getting new knowledge and arranging professional contacts.

As a result of our 5 year work we have a multi-level system of professional training of the staff which includes professional training and continuation of their general educational, advanced professional training and self-education.

Professional training and continuation of their general education are achieved only on the staff's own wish, the administration helps them financially. Today two of our staff are getting a new library profession , more than 10 people continue their studies in higher education institutions.

Advanced professional training has different forms and is held both in the library and outside it. We have realized two big educational projects: from 1998 to the year two thousand it was «The Barents Region Library School» which was financially backed by the Open Society Institute (Soros Foundation); in the year two thousand it was a «Professional Training of Top Managers of the Arkhangelsk Regional Library in main Library Centers of Moscow» supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation.

These projects allowed to upgrade the staff's knowledge and skills, to create a professional team and to teach them train their colleagues.

In 1998-2002 more than half of our library specialists studied at 60 training sessions, seminars, master-classes, practical sessions at the regional, all-Russia and international levels, both in Russia and abroad. In 2002 30 specialists took part in more than 40 professional events. The most important among them were:

-         International conferences «Crimea-2002», «LIBCOM-2002», the Conference of the Russian Library Association, which determine the development strategy of librarianship in our country,

-         Meetings of library directors of the countries-participants of the Barents Euro-Arctic Region which provide for the development of the international library cooperation,

-         Business trips to the USA supported and programmed by the US State Department and European Summer School which allowed us to get acquainted with the library experience abroad,

-         Seminars organized by federal library centers in our country which enable us to get new knowledge and skills in the priority directions of the library activities - library services, new information technologies, electronic products, safety of library resources, Regional Studies.

The Library administration uses the following criteria for choosing the candidates to study outside the Library:

-         They should be orientated to get new knowledge;

-         They should be able to do research on their own on the problems facing them;

-         They should be ready to introduce innovations;

-         They should have a potential for future realization of our Library strategy.

The main condition for all the participants in any educational program or activity is their ability to convey the obtained knowledge to their colleagues through different means such as writing reports on results of their business trips, speaking at meetings, seminars for the Library staff and librarians of the Arkhangelsk Region.

Much attention is paid by the Library administration to in-house training. During the last 3 years more than 20 training sessions and seminars were organized for different levels of the Library staff. For managers we have «Managers’ School», where we try to define and solve the main library problems, and where the necessary managerial skills are obtained. The Library specialists, whose activity is closely connected with new technologies have training courses which were specially worked out for them: «Networking in Informational Services», «New Technologies in Everyday Library Practice».

For our Library staff training we use traditional and non-traditional techniques, such as lectures, seminars, training courses, mock events, which offer them opportunities to get new knowledge and skills and to create our Library know-how.

Very important were seminars held by the specialists from the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, federal libraries of the country and higher educational institutions for advanced professional education. Their cooperation became a huge resource for further educational activities of the Library.

We have arranged not only professional courses. For several years we have been studying professional English. In 2002 we arranged a group of «Beginners' English». For top professionals who need to be skilled in oral speech we had a practical course «Technology of Public Speaking».

Now the Library has a wide range of resources for training, including an easy access to sources of professional information, technical equipment, up-to-date communication means and, of course, professional contacts with Russian and foreign libraries, graduate professional schools, leading methodological centers and other educational institutions.

There are good conditions for staff's self-education in our Library. We have a big collection of latest professional publications (books, periodicals, CD-ROMs), we organize monthly exhibitions of new professional literature. The Culture Information Department of our library informs the staff on the topics chosen for educational purposes. We are also creating a database in librarianship.

The results we have reached are the following:

-          We have created a team of professionals equal in their knowledge and skills, able to take the lead in promoting and realizing new ideas;

-          We have successfully fulfilled «Arkhangelsk Regional Library named after N.A.Dobrolyubov Development Program, 1998-2002» which actually has been a huge progress in introducing new information and management technologies, in users' servicing and their quality, etc.

-          The Library's authority in the professional environment and local community has grown high.


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© Irina P. Tikunova, 2007-2017