Staff Technology Skills Training at Sacramento Public Library

When Denise Davis, Deputy Library Director of the Sacramento Public Library, discussed the library’s experiences with the Edge Initiative last month, webinar participants wanted to know more about the staff technology skills training that Denise mentioned. In this post, Amy Calhoun, Sacramento Public Library’s Virtual Branch Coordinator, tells us more.

Training Overview

Sacramento Public Library’s Virtual Branch is tasked with developing staff’s technology skills so that staff are capable and comfortable helping the public with computers, eBooks, and online resources.They offer several delivery methods for training classes, including:

  • Tech Academy – a quarterly technology forum with discussions and intermediate – advanced training sessions from the IT department and the Virtual Branch. At least one liaison from each of the 28 locations attends. See details below.
  • Face-to-face classes at each library branch
  • Short how-to videos on Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer, Windows, and more through Atomic Training. Note: Atomic Training provides online training courses to eligible public libraries throughout the United States with the TechSoup donation program.
  • Live webinars and recorded webinars (most are provided by eBook and database vendors)
  • Monthly quiz on eBooks or a database that encourages hands-on practice
    • They use Google Forms for the quiz, so staff gets emailed immediate feedback on how they did including explanations for any questions they missed.
  • eReader training kit with all of the popular (and some not so popular) eReaders and tablets for more hands-on practice
  • Annual Staff Day, at which all staff come together for a day of presentations and training sessions. Classes on eBooks and eReaders are some of the most well-attended sessions.

Training is provided by Virtual Branch staff and by IT. Virtual Branch staff covers the topics of eBooks, eReaders, and databases. At Tech Academy, IT also covers public computers, the PC reservation system, the ILS/catalog, printers, and tips for using Microsoft Office.

Tech Academy

Sacramento Public Library launched Tech Academy to improve both customer service and public awareness of electronic resource collections and technology services. Tech Academy is a quarterly meeting featuring advanced training sessions and group forums for the library’s most tech savvy staff.

The challenge of ensuring staff is fully conversant with our technology and electronic resource offerings was compounded by two issues: How do we develop our most technically savvy staff when training sessions typically move at the pace of the slowest learner? How do we improve communication between the IT department, Collection Services Department, and front line staff in a large 28 branch system covering both city and county?

Tech Academy brings together the most enthusiastic and capable staff from the entire system, with quarterly meetings for intermediate and advanced computer users. It began in April 2011 with a call for nominations from supervisors for staff with genuine interest and enthusiasm in technology as well as a willingness to assist and teach others. Membership was open to all levels of frontline staff. From these nominations, a core group of approximately 30 staff was selected to pool their knowledge, further develop their skill sets, and serve as tech liaisons for their branch.

For staff who are not supervisors or librarians, there are few opportunities to collaborate with colleagues from other locations. The academy also offers an opportunity for face-to-face interaction between IT and the branches that otherwise would not happen consistently. Every academy features both training sessions and discussion forums. Topics are selected by polling the attendees.

Tech Academy is an effective way to ensure branch liaisons share a common understanding of the technology resources the library offers.

Over the last year, Tech Academy has provided training sessions on the following topics:

  • Advanced Database Searching
  • Kindle Books and Overdrive
  • Loading Library eReaders with new eBooks
  • Outlook Inbox Management
  • Public Computer and Printer Troubleshooting
  • Website Content Management System

This second level of IT training has allowed Tech Academy liaisons to better assist patrons and other staff. In fact, the IT department has reported a decrease in help desk calls since the public computer and printer troubleshooting session. Training on Outlook Inbox Management has improved staff time management and led to more Outlook training classes outside of Tech Academy. The usage of the electronic resource collections has also increased since the implementation of Tech Academy.


Atomic Training (previously Learning Express Library Computer Skills) is used for staff training. It is the same online reource offered to the public for learning. Atomic Training has video tutorials on Windows, Microsoft Office, web browsers, and devices. There are optional quizzes on each tutorial. Administrators can assign or recommend training for a staff person within the Atomic Training platform.

Culture of Learning

Technology skills are included in job descriptions and training is discussed and included in annual reviews; however, because technology is continuously evolving, training is not only addressed on an annual basis. Staff can set goals for the annual reviews to develop technology skills. Branch Supervisors work with the Virtual Branch to recommend and assign training for staff using Atomic Training based on a staff technology skills assessment.

By building knowledge and confidence within, Sacramento Public Library positions itself to better serve its public, which is becoming more tech savvy as mobile reader and computing devices become more prevalent. For those in the community who do not have home access to computers and online resources, staff can now help them fully utilize all of the resources offered by their library.

Thank you to Amy Calhoun for sharing this information!

Edge Benchmark 8 states: Libraries have sufficient staff with technology expertise to help patrons achieve their goals.