Year in Review
Public Librarian Certification Evolves
Since 1998, the Nebraska Library Commission has worked with a task force to review the Public Librarian Certification program. In Fall 1998, the task force began work with Debra Wilcox Johnson of Johnson & Johnson Consulting on an evaluation of the certification program and basic skills courses. Key data sources for the study included Library Commission staff, Regional Library System directors, certified librarians, board presidents, and print documentation from the program. The primary focus of the study was the public library community. The task force developed eight questions to guide the evaluation process and defined desired outcomes for certification, along with measurable or observable indicators of evidence of these outcomes.
The independent consultant designed questionnaires for certified library directors, certified library staff, and board presidents. The return rate was 74% for certified library directors, 71.6% for certified staff, and 75.9% for library board presidents. Library directors reported reasons for being certified as: public library accreditation requirement, job skill development, and professional commitment. One out of two librarians felt that customer service had improved as a result of certification and nine out of ten directors are planning to be recertified.
Certified library staff reported that the certification program helped them improve their library skills and two out of three reported a change in their own attitudes since certification. Nearly three-quarters of the board presidents expected some changes because of the certification of the director. The primary change was a more knowledgeable and up-to-date director. Three out of four boards require the library director to be certified.
The questionnaires were designed to compare findings across all groups. When comparing the reasons for certification, the influence of the Library Commission is very clear, especially among directors and trustees. Increased knowledge and improved skills were the primary expectations from certification in all three groups. Benefits were seen in job performance, duties, opportunities, and attitudes toward library work. The biggest changes were in their own attitudes about work and in job performance.
Six focus groups were held across the state to gather information to supplement the findings from the questionnaires. Personal accomplishment was a perceived effect from certification. There were no reports of being unable to meet the 45 hour requirement for recertification, although participants reported barriers to attending workshops including time away from work, travel, and topics not related to their work. Focus group participants wanted an advanced level of basic skills, better sequencing of courses, Web-based instruction as a supplement or lead-in to a basic skills course, and a "quick-start" class just for new directors. The value of attending workshops was "learning from each other" or the "informal learning." Technology needs were expressed although participants had difficulty defining specifics.
Nearly fifty percent of library directors had no suggestions for changing the certification program or Basic Skills courses. Ideas for improvements to the program included: always use an "onsite" instructor, offer a refresher course, and schedule the courses more frequently. The primary information desired was "more technology." Comments made about the use of videotapes as a course medium tended to be negative. Across all groups, the networking with other library workers is an important outcome of the basic skills courses.
The study concluded with a series of recommendations. The complete report along with the recommendations can be found on the Nebraska Library Commission home page at nlc.nebraska.gov, search on continuing education evaluation.
Meeting Features Resource Sharing
Eighty-five librarians attended the NEBASE Annual Meeting in Lincoln in Fall 1999. OCLC staff member Barbara Fowler and NEBASE team member Devra Dragos presented updates. Kate Nevins, Executive Director of SOLINET, revisited the resource sharing territory she addressed three years ago at a Nebraska Resource Sharing Dialogue Retreat. At that time, the vision of resource sharing included:
Access from home, school, business office, or library
Information available anywhere, anytime, to anyone
Seamless access to the electronic holdings of the state's library system
At the 1999 NEBASE meeting, Nevins celebrated our success and spoke of the future. A brainstorming session was held to identify issues, projects, and dreams.
Newsline Expands To Statewide Access
As of December 20, 1999, visually and physically impaired individuals who live anywhere in Nebraska can read The Omaha World Herald through Newsline, a service that uses phone lines to access newspapers through synthetic speech. Qualifying individuals with touch-tone telephones can call a toll-free number to select various sections of the paper. Other choices include The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and USA Today. Newsline also offers a listing of phone numbers for other Newsline service centers across the United States to benefit subscribers while they are traveling. Three hundred Nebraskans subscribe to this free service. To subscribe, contact the Talking Book and Braille Service at 402-471-4038, 800-742-7691, e-mail: Talking Book and Braille Service or Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired, 402-471-2891, 877-809-2419. Individuals who qualify for the Library Commission's talking book service also qualify for Newsline.