Why do we need e-Resource training?

As the significance of our e-Resource collection grows, so to do the number of databases in this collection. The sheer volume of e-Resources we have and the scale of information they provide would be overwhelming to anyone, let alone to a library staff member on a reference desk with customers looming and immediate answers required.

In a November 2009 survey of BPL Information Service staff, a large portion of those questioned suggested they preferred other tools to e-Resources when answering reference questions. The reasons given were two-fold:
  1. Under appreciation by the public—staff feel students, parents, teachers, and the public in general are unclear as to the purpose of e-Resources and how they differ from Google and the ‘Internet’ at large.
  2. Confidence—when using e-Resources, staff feel they haven’t been equipped with the training and strategies to use an e-Resource to answer a reference question quickly. A search engine or print resource can be more familiar.
Both statements are valid concerns. But is it fair to say that correcting the first issue—that of under appreciation—is directly related to successfully addressing the second? If we are well trained and confident with our e-Resource collection, will selling them to the public be easier?

Think of this process like making the switch from VHS to Blue Ray. VHS tapes are easy to use, hard to damage, and relatively straightforward: turn on the VHS player, slide in the tape, and press play. There are options, yes, like fast forward, rewind, and pause. But strictly speaking, VHS is a linear technology from start to finish. And that’s why we like them. They’re easy!

Blue Ray, on the other hand, is a much jazzier product. While both formats will play your favorite movie, Blue Ray has special features like promotional trailers, previews, language preferences, subtitles, outtakes, scene selections—the options are endless! While at first you might think it’s easier and more efficient to watch your favorite flick on VHS—you understand how they work, and there’s little chance of making a mistake—eventually you’ll realize that although very different, Blue Rays are not only higher quality, they are a better looking product and those once unnecessary extras actually make watching and using the movie a better experience overall.

Similarly, once we’re trained in the ‘special features’ of our e-Resource collection, we’ll recognize them for what they are—the Blue Rays of the reference world! With training we’ll develop confidence to recognize those little extras that make using and viewing the information in this collection all the easier. But instead of theatrical previews and scene selections we're talking full-text options, advanced search, subject browsing, publication searches, interface tools, and much more!

Our goal in this training is to turn confidence into enthusiasm, and enthusiasm into customer service. Suddenly, selling e-Resources to the public becomes a piece of cake:
  • You don't want to pay for an article from ‘Consumer Reports’? Let me show you CBCA
  • You need the 2010 edition of Fodor’s Italy but it's checked out? Try Hospitality & Tourism Reference
  • Want a free subscription to your local newspaper? What about Newspaper Direct
  • Need a personal language instructor? Try Mango Languages
We are all hesitant to try something new for fear of moving slowly or making a mistake, especially under the watchful eye of a waiting customer. But the reference desk is the perfect place to offer these important “teachable moments” to our public. Library staff should consider e-Resources the added value they bring to a reference question, beyond that of the Google searching already completed by the majority of users seeking assistance at a reference desk (Devine and Egger-Sider 2009). What the desk does not always offer, however, is much time. So with training we’ll learn to identify the common features in e-Resources that can can make the overwhelming collection less intimidating.

Training on e-Resources is thus the key to our success—to providing us with the confidence we need to try, the enthusiasm to play, and eventually the strategies we need to uncover this collection of hidden gems.

Of course, there will always be those who prefer VHS… *wink*

About the Program: What can you expect from the training? 

Devine, Jane and Francine Egger-Sider. Going Beyond Google: The Invisible Web in Learning and Teaching. New York: Neal-Schuman, 2009.