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Teaching Technology in the Library Course

Course Overview

Which technology do people really need, and how can the library help? This course will help you develop or revamp library services designed to connect your community with the technology people need at home, work, school and everywhere in between.

It is not feasible for the library to be a one-stop resource to meet any and all technology needs. Instead, this course will focus on networking partners and information resources to meet a wide range of technology and digital skills needs.

The library can help people choose and access the right technology tools, connect with effective learning resources, and practice the skills necessary to succeed in life. Library services can take the form of technology reference interviews, one-on-one training, device assistance, curated resource packs, infographics, computer labs, makerspace activites, partnerships and more.

Course Modules

This course has been broken down into six modules to guide you through the design and development of a new library service. Click "Go to Module", or choose a section from the menu on the left to access each step of the process.

Who is Learning & Why?

Start with people. Choose a target demographic and build a profile to summarize who they are, what they want in life, and why they do what they do. This will be used to design more effective activities, resources, and marketing that reaches people.

What's the Problem?

Brainstorm the problems people are facing in the community. Don’t worry about what the library can do specifically, find the problems that matter enough to take action. Choose one problem and break it into steps to determine how the library can help.

How Do People Learn?

Consider the different ways people learn in the library, and in the community at large. Do people learn in the same place they will actually use the skills? Choose the best way to connect people with the tools, information and resources they need.

Find Partners & Resources

Which technology tools and resources exist to solve problems that matter? Which organizations are working on these problems? Connect people with the resources that exist, then identify unmet needs. Design a library service to fill the gaps.

Prepare Staff & Materials

Are library staff comfortable with teaching technology in a potentially new way? Do you have the necessary equipment? Make a checklist and build a plan to train staff, find or buy new equipment, and get ready to roll out the new library service.

Marketing & Follow-Up

How do people find out you exist? Learn a variety of ways to do marketing and outreach. Choose what works for people. Then explore different ways to evaluate your library service and make changes so the library fully meets the needs of the community.

Who is Learning & Why?

All good design starts with people. Consider the amount of time that goes into designing a new library service. Each new service must align with the mission of your library and meet the changing needs of the community. As technology grows exponentially faster and digital skills update quickly, libraries need new ways to understand and meet the growing technology needs of the community. Luckily, while tech seems to change overnight, people still hold the same values and care about the same things.

Technology only matters when it supports a person’s values and solves a relevant problem in life. If you value family and financial security, Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets will help you build a budget and spend money on things that make your family healthy and strong. Technology is a tool that helps people accomplish life goals. Start with the problems people care about and work backwards to find the tech tools that can really help.

This first module is all about finding what matters to people. When you understand what makes people do the things they do, it becomes easier to design and market library services that fit into people’s lives. You will also be able to evaluate new technology based on interests, life goals, and the problems people need to solve to make life better.


The Who is Learning & Why module has been broken down into these cumulative phases to help you understand and prioritize what people need most.

User Experience 101

Learn the basics of UX research as it applies to library services in this course.

Learn More
Find What Matters

Choose techniques to discover what people prioritize and care about in life.

Learn More
Guide the Design

Summarize user groups in reference sheets to focus on what matters during design.

Learn More

User Experience 101

User Experience (UX) as a career and field of study is rapidly expanding. In a nutshell, “UX is the process design teams use to create products that provide meaningful and relevant user experiences” (Interaction Design Foundation). This approach helps build a solid understanding of what people want out of life and why they do the things they do. With an understanding of what people need most, it will be easier to choose a delivery format and design a service that fits the flow of everyday life.

UX has been used to design products, physical spaces, educational courses, websites, apps, processes, systems, and more. All these products can be found in libraries. In this course, we will be designing library services to connect people with relevant technology and digital skills. Library services can include anything from a set of resources on the library website, the room layout and agenda for an in-person workshop, or lesson design for one-on-one training.

According to UX Planet, all UX design is generally divided into these iterative phases:

UX Design Process Infographic

Different UX research methods are used during different stages of the process. The “Who is Learning & Why” module of this course will focus on user research techniques to identify new market segments, define user needs and understand behaviors. The results will be summarized in personas and other UX-friendly reference documents to guide the design process.

Later stages of this course will dig deeper into the Research, Sketch, Design, Implement, and Test stages of UX design where we will explore techniques to make sure the library service is meeting user needs. For now, you can get started with the “Find What” section to lay a solid foundation for design.

Resources to Learn More About UX Design

Find What Matters Overview

Aladdin was once granted three wishes from a genie in a bottle. He wished to be a prince and wound up navigating a sea of political espionage. Did Aladdin really think through being a prince? Deep down he really wanted to get out of poverty, but was he aware of other alternatives to attain financial security?

The Genie approach proves that surveys don’t always work. People don’t always have the right information to know what they want when asked directly. What if Genie had made observations and asked better questions to help Aladdin uncover the wishes that match his values and true needs in life? This is a wish that can be granted by libraries.

Surveys are useful for pointing you in the right direction to ask better questions. For example, a survey might indicate that people want to learn about Facebook, but why do people need Facebook? Are people seeking a connection to friends and family, or a better way to market their small business? Do they really need Facebook, or is Zoom better for human connection in their world? It’s important to talk to people to learn more.

This section introduces a variety of UX research techniques to identify relevant life goals, values, and what people care about. Understanding people will lay the groundwork for articulating the right problems and designing the best solution. While this course centers on technology and digital skills, feel free to ignore technology completely at this stage. Focusing on technology first can build tunnel-vision and prevent us from uncovering the people, problems areas, and values that matter most in your community.

Luckily there are a plethora of creative ways to dig deep and put people first. The section below offers a variety of UX research options, ranging from Community Conversation formats to a visually ranking problems to prioritize life goals, values, career options, problem areas, and more.

As you sift through and choose your preferred techniques, consider these open-ended questions that can be used across contexts and research techniques:

  • What keeps you up at night? What worries you?
  • What are your top priorities in life right now?
  • How are you feeling about your current _____ situtation? (Work, relationship, education, transportation, income, health, etc.)
  • What are your goals in life right now? What are you prioritizing?
  • What are your top five values? (Open-ended question or choose from list)
  • What are the obstacles you face in achieving your goals?
  • What are the biggest areas of growth and opportuniity in your life right now?
  • Are there any areas at home/work/life that you would like to improve?
  • How do you measure success at home/work/life?
  • Which problems cause the most stress at home/work/life?

People’s needs and values should be reflected at every stage of library service design and marketing. With that in mind, start exploring the techniques!

UX Research Techniques in the Library

Choose one or more methods from this list to start uncovering what people really need. This process will start broad to allow for creative brainstorming, then narrow focus to choose a target audience and specific problem area.

Note: Consider this an initial sweep. The "What's the Problem" step will dig deeper to fill in the gaps to make sure the most important problems are addressed, and narrow focus to a feasible project.

Day in the Life

Map out what people face on a daily basis. How people spend their time can reveal what’s most important. Which obstacles do people run into on a daily basis? Where does learning fit in a person’s schedule? Get to know people.

Problem Prioritization

Work from a list of common problems and ask people to rank their top 10 based on how important the problem is to solve. Use this to identify and help decide which problems to focus on in the library. Talk to people!

What's Your Story

The stories people share and read reveal what’s most important to them right now. Learn community values and life goals during book discussions and writing groups. What does your favorite character say about you?

Community Conversation

Uncover the problems that bring people together in a Community Conversation. These events can be casual on a daily basis, or an invitation-only event to reach a target audience. Record the results to inform design.

Reference Interview

When people come in with a question, start asking about which events brought them in and how they are going to use these resources in context. Maintain privacy, but try to gather the information you need to help effectively.

Card Sorting

Keep a set of cards on hand as a tool to understand how people think about what’s important to them. This can be used understand how people view values, technology, life goals and more. Learn to teach how people think.

Question Tracking

Make a running list of questions asked at the front desk, phone, and online. Use this to inform the types of services and resources offered in the library. When possible, track compelling user stories and context as well as topic categories.

Field Studies

Get out there and walk a mile in another person’s shoes. Find out how people live life and how technology fits into their lived experience. Do the work yourself, or work with local partner organizations to share market/ user research.

Resources to Learn More About UX Research Methods

Guide the Design Overview

In the previous section you explored methods to go out into the world and find what matters to different demographics in your community. You may have collected information through a variety of sources, so your notes might feel a bit scattered.

In this section we will put the pieces together in formats that will help you throughout the design process. You will also begin narrowing focus to a specific audience and area of greatest need. You don’t have to use all of the format options listed in this section, just choose the ones you feel would be most helpful. All of these options can either be done using physical pen and paper, or online using free or low-cost tools.

The resources in this section are separated into two categories. The Guiding Design Resources section will serve as a reference point to guide your decisions and ensure that you are designing services that meet people where they are at in daily life.

The Narrowing Focus Resources section will be used to further narrow focus to a demographic, set of demographics, and/or problem area of your chosen demographic. Your scope will still be relatively broad by the end of this section.

Guiding Design Resources

Build visual reminders to put people first in your design. Refer back to these materials as you question decisions about resources, materials, and methods of instruction.


Summarize what people face on a daily basis, what motivates them to get things done, and what people want in life. Refer back to this sheet as you choose problems areas where the library can help. Look at the whole person in your design.

Tell Their Story

Challenge yourself to write a story from the perspective of your target demographic. Place yourself in different situations and imagine what you would do in different scenarios. You can also build short videos or PowerPoints if that is more your thing.

Inspiration Board/ Collage

Put together poster board collages or digital boards with images, art, books, quotes and keywords that relate to your target demographics or problem areas. Use this as a visual guide to stay on track and align decisions with grounded emotion and human need.

Empathy Mapping

Good design relies on empathy to understand how people think, feel and react in different situations. Use the information you collected to imagine people in different contexts as they learn new tech. Make design decisions based on the whole human.

Narrowing Focus Resources

You can't do everything. These methods will help you narrow focus to specific topics or goals. Balance what the community needs with the comfort level of staff and available resources.

Post-It Brainstorming

Find an open wall and start sticking post-it notes with demographics or problem areas. Do a brain dump of everything you gathered, then organize the post-its into categories. Example categories include: motivations, problems, challenges, existing resources, etc.

Mind Mapping

Pick a topic, dump your thoughts on paper, then process the information to find patterns and areas of greatest need. This visual mapping tool lets you build branches to connect the dots between ideas. Try this to map demographics and problem areas.

Asset Mapping

Choose an area of focus based on the resources that are available and what library staff are comfortable tackling. Start mapping out people’s strengths and available resources. Expand your definition of what is possible, then choose a topic of interest.

Shared Problem Board

Post a curated, anonymous problem board in the library, or online and let people tell you what they really need. Library staff, students, and all members of the community can recommend solutions. The best way to find out what matters is to ask and share openly.

What's the Problem?

Everybody has problems. Both big and small, we all face problems at home, work, school and everywhere in between. You probably unearthed a wide range of problems while building a picture of your target demographic during UX research. In this section we will broaden our pool of problem areas to make sure we're focusing on the right problem, and not what was immediately available or easiest to tackle.

Consider this infographic of problems facing single mothers with young children. These problems were unearthed during one round of UX research. However, throughout life, these problem areas might shift in importance. She might be focused on getting a job to pay the bills and take care of her family right now, but the next year she might be looking inward to make sure her life has meaning amidst the chaos of raising kids, figuring out relationships, and staying afloat with mental health. Everybody is different.

Problem Area Infographic

With this picture in mind, it's important to broaden scope one more time before narrowing focus on an actual problem. Be the objective observer to see what is missing from the initial review and identify the largest sphere of importance to focus on in the library. It's easy for people to miss the everyday problems that blend into the background.

Pick the biggest problem sphere for your patrons, then break the problem down into bite-size pieces to identify specific ways in which the library can help. The ultimate goal is to frame an actionable problem the library can help solve on their own, or through partnerships.

With simple problems, like password and account safety, the library will be able to provide the full solution. With more complex problems like career exploration, the library will have to work with partners to map out a full-scale solution to the problem at hand. The key to the whole process is to focus energy on the problems that matter most, and explore tech that can help. This is where the UX research can guide decisions.


The ‘What's the Problem‘ module has been broken down into these sections to help guide you through the process:

Problem Exploration

Explore several examples of common problems as inspiration for your own library. Build a problem statement to narrow focus.

Learn More
Break it Down

Break the problem down into bite-size pieces. Start brainstorming areas in which the library can help.

Learn More
Technology Toolbox

Eplore examples of how technology can help solve common problem areas. What is the role of the library?

Learn More

Problem Exploration

Different problems matter to people at different stages of life. The goal of this course isn’t to solve all the problems ever in existence. But we should know about them to determine whether this is a problem the library can help with in some way, shape or form.

By the end of this section, you will expand the potential for problem areas and frame a problem statement to narrow focus to something feasible for the library to handle. The next stage will be to build partnerships and gather resources to get the job done right.

There are two steps to this process:

  1. Problem Exploration Methods: Choose a method and explore problems
  2. Frame the Problem: Build a problem statement using the worksheet

Problem Exploration Methods

Choose a method from this list, or customize your own option to broaden scope of potential problem areas. Add these problems into your existing UX research documents to build out the life story of your target demographic(s).

This process can be done continuously, or at intervals based on what you have time. There are recommendations for when to use each method below.

Digital Skills Clusters

These problem areas are all directly related to technology and digital skills. Sift through these questions that frequently arise when faced with common problems in daily life. As you find relevant problems, add them to your chosen UX research documents.

Sustainable Development Goals

These goals identified by the United Nations represent the major problem areas faced by everyone on the planet. Explore the problem areas and identify what resonates most with your target demographic. Add relevant problems into your UX research documents.

Community Conversations

Host a conversation with your target demographic. Use open-ended questions to uncover relevant problems. The fun part is that people don’t always realize or accept they are facing a problem until they find out others share their pain and can help.

Shared Problem Board

Continuously gather and share problems on a moderated problem board. This board can either be online or in a physical location. Share market research with local nonprofits and businesses to understand problems where people need the most help.

Strategic Plans

Many nonprofits publicly display their strategic plans. Most businesses state their target market and approach on their website. Sift through strategic plans to id focus on target markets and problems areas. Keep these organizations in mind as partners!

Lived Experience

You interact with people everyday. Many share their problems and seek information to explore curiosities and get through the day. Talk to library staff, volunteers, advocates, and people at all levels of the organization. What do they know that you don’t?

Frame the Problem

Now that you have explored every possible problem, it’s time to choose one. Narrow focus to an area in which the library can help, or partner with other organizations to contribute to a solution. As you decide, consider these questions in this worksheet:

Worksheet 1 Worksheet 2

Answering these questions will help you choose a feasible problem in which the library can readily help. Make sure you choose a problem that will not take an excessive amount of time to develop and train for staff, or that you can count on volunteer aid.

Depending on the amount of time and energy needed to develop the new service and train staff, try to choose a problem that affects a large group of people. For example, if you are helping provide resources to start a new business, how many new business-owners are you likely to serve? Can you leverage resources from other organizations to reduce the time and resources necessary to get up and running?

If you are providing resource packs to parents of teens and tweens, how large is the population? Are there other organizations helping to solve these problems? Make sure you are not competing with an established provider. When possible, work with others rather than competing for market share.

Try to prioritize and devote more time to problems that face a large population. It’s important to reach everyone, but some audiences are naturally more difficult to reach and you may get low attendance for a resource-heavy project. It helps to partner with others to decrease the amount of time and resources necessary to reach people.

Please keep the answers handy for later in the process as you choose the best solution to fit the need.

Methods to Frame the Problem

After answering the initial framing questions, use one of these methods to start framing your problem statements. These methods are adapted from what start-up businesses use since both libraries and startups are trying to test ideas quickly to not waste valuable time and resources. You might not be selling anything, but you’re still making a product to meet a need.

As you progress through the process of developing your library service, some plans will inevitably fall through. Come up with at least three problem statements to explore, just in case something falls through. You might have some blank spaces at this stage of the game. Fill in your full pitch as you go through this course.

Note: These resources are helpful when pitching your idea to potential partners as well!

One Sentence Pitch Madlibs

You’ll probably talk about your idea a lot when trying to gather support and test out different things. This fill-in-the-blank worksheet adapted from the Founder’s Institute will help you distill your project into a one-sentence problem statement and “elevator pitch”.

The Five Whys

Asking why is a simple yet powerful way to dig into the details of a problem and how the library can help. The 5 Whys is a method for Root Cause Analysis and was invented by Toyota. Fill in the worksheet to identify real root causes to address the right problem.

Project Pitch Slides or Video

Guy Kawasaki is amazing at drilling down to the most vital parts of a project idea. Use a template from Canva to research and formulate your plan. Explain it to as many people as you can to hone your idea and make sure you’re addressing needs effectively.

Break Down Problems

When you choose a larger problem topic, it helps to break that problem down into smaller chunks, or steps necessary to address the problem. Some steps or areas of the problems will be addressed by partner organizations while others will be handled directly by the library.

Understanding the root cause(s) of these problems can be extremely helpful in designing the best solution. The ultimate goal is to design a full-service system that addresses all areas of the problem.

The resources in this section address these goals:

  • Break it Down: Understand the process and break it into chunks or steps
  • Root Causes: Understand the root cause of why this is a problem
  • Partners: Identify potential partners and uncover your own strengths

In the next module, we will start exploring ways to address the problem through library services, or train staff to understand and handle partner resources.

Break It Down

The best way to break a problem down into smaller chunks or manageable steps is through process mapping. Start asking the right questions to understand the various entry points and decisions necessary to work through the problem. Use the UX research you gathered to anchor yourself in the lived experience.

Example: Changing Careers

  1. Decide which jobs to pursue
  • Career exploration
  • Map existing skills & interests
  • Which jobs are available?
  • Set job search criteria and preferences
  1. Explore yourself
  • What are your interests & skills?
  • Which jobs exist and are they for you?
  • What are you willing to try?
  • What job settings/ environments work for you?
  • What is your past experience?
  • Are you willing to relocate?
  • Do you know what exists?
  1. Build new skills
  • Identify what you need to know
  • Which skills can transfer to a new job?
  • Find learning resources
  • Learn. Practice. Certify.
  1. Apply for jobs
  • Locate job application portals
  • Research companies
  • Prepare resume & cover letters
  • Fill out online applications
  • Track completed submissions
  • Follow-up as needed
  1. Networking
  • Attend local job fairs
  • Attend professional development events
  • Join LinkedIn/ Social media groups
  • Join interest groups
  1. Interview Process
  • Learn interview etiquette
  • Research job roles
  • Learn interview tools for phone or virtual interview (as needed)
  • Interview follow-up Email
  1. Accepting job
  • Call or email to accept position
  • Fill out necessary paperwork
  1. Repeat as necessary

When you have the full process charted out, start considering the areas in which the library can help, and where you can connect people to an existing solution. Dig deeper into your areas of choice to identify the major pain points and root causes of issues faced by your target demographic.

Choose an option from this list to start breaking the problem into smaller chunks or steps in a process, and identifying root causes to identify the best solution.

Breaking Problems Into Steps

Technology Toolbox

As you break problems down into steps, start considering the technology tools that will be most helpful at each stage. You can only connect people with technology if you know that technology exists. Too much technology exists to be able to pay attention to everything. That is why we narrow focus to people and specific problem topics, then search for the right tech. Not every problem requires technology as part of the solution. Sometimes people help more.

Digital Skills Clusters: This curated collection of websites, apps, and online resources will help you tackle these common problem categories:

  • Looking for a Job
  • Connect with Friends & Family
  • Parenting & Technology
  • Stay Safe & Secure Online
  • Identify Fake News & Misinformation
  • Start an Online Business
  • Buying & Selling Things Online
  • Computers & Devices for Beginners
  • Financial Planning & Banking Online
  • Health & Wellness Tools Online
  • Online Calendars & Time Management

How Do People Learn?

There is often a drastic difference between how people learn in the classroom, and how the skills are practiced in real life. For example, job seekers may come into the library to learn interviewing skills, but they will likely not be in the library during the interview.

The goal for this section is to more deeply understand how and where people are using the digital and technology skills they want to learn, and explore tools and methods to connect people with the skills they need in real life. This section will help you design a better learning experience that fits the flow of people’s everyday lives.

We will continue to draw upon the UX research that was completed in the first step. You may choose to add more research methods as you design the full learning experience.


To help guide the design process, the “How Do People Learn” module has been broken into these smaller sections:

  1. How People Learn: Understand the basics of how people progress through the stages of learning new digital and technology skills.
  2. When & Where:  To design an effective experience, understand where people use their skills and when people realistically have time to learn.
  3. Learning in the Library:  Explore common ways people can learn using library resources. Includes in-person, online, and hybrid learning.
  4. Teaching Tools & Resources:  Build your teaching toolbox using this menu of activities and recommended tools for educators.

How People Learn

For those who are unfamiliar with instructional design, this section will provide a basic understanding of how people learn and build habits. You don’t need to know everything under the sun, but please explore these topics as a primer for the rest of this section:

The Four Stages of Learning a New Skill

According to Noel Burch,  who originated the stages, people pass through four main stages when learning any new skill:

  1. Unconsciously Unskilled:  The learner is unfamiliar with the topic and doesn’t know what to learn or why.
  2. Consciously Skilled:  The learner has a basic understanding of the topic and can identify what to learn next and why.
  3. Consciously Skilled:  The learner is experimenting and practicing the new skill, but requires great effort to get it right.
  4. Unconsciously Skilled:  The new skill has become second nature and requires little effort. New skills can be added at this point.

In the library, try to pay attention as people pass through these stages. You can see an example in the “Learning in the Library” section. Some learners might arrive at the library right in the middle of this process, while others are completely new to the topic. Providing the same course materials to all learners, regardless of skill will turn people off and make them seek other sources.

Learning materials that are too difficult for the current learning stage can also make people give up, or reinforce the idea that technology is not for them. Engaging, skill-appropriate activities are chosen to adequately challenge the learner and help them progress through these stages.

Learn more from Noel Burch, who originated the Four Stages of Learning Any New Skill .


In adult education, assessments are used to determine the starting point of a learner, help identify areas for growth, and build a learning path forward. Assessments can take the form of multiple choice tests, practice activities, certification practice exams, proctored exams, or other formats.

At heart, assessments are agreed-upon benchmarks or sets of criteria used to demonstrate a learner is ready to progress, or has reached the desired competency. In the library, we have to determine who should be setting the benchmark. Who is the trusted authority setting the standard to which learners must comply?

Assessments and preferred materials can vary based upon context, and are often determined using intake forms or reference interviews in the library. Based upon the context in which the learner will use these skills, the library might choose materials geared towards specific workplace criteria, practice exams for specific certification, or create custom assessments.

Try to agree upon assessment criteria to ensure the chosen materials will help the learner reach their goal, and that you choose skill-appropriate materials.

Adult Learning Principles

As you consider the skills people are learning, and how to assess the skills-progression, keep Malcolm Knowles’ Principles of Adult Learning  in mind:

  1. The learning is self-directed:  Adult learners tend to learn by example. Model the best practices, help them get the lay of the land, then act as a guide as the learner chooses the best way to learn.
  2. The learning is experiential and utilizes background knowledge: Adults have been around the block. They naturally tie new information into what they know. Try to relate the new skills to everyday life or past experience.
  3. Relevance of Materials: Adults don’t learn if they don’t care. What do people care about and how will these skills help? Remind adults of relevance often.
  4. Problem-Centered Instruction: Find out what people are directly facing and customize learning activities to reflect real problems. Make people care.
  5. Motivation to Learn: It’s easy not to show up. Adults learn when they choose to learn and are ready to make the effort. Find and reiterate their reason for being.

Read ThoughtCo’s more in-depth article on the 5 Principles for the Teacher of Adults, with related video if you would like to learn more.

Study Habits & Finding Time

The more difficult the task, the more learners will have to concentrate and make time to learn. This may mean changing study habits, improving time-management skills, or learning how to learn as an adult. Learning is also a skill!

Here are some resources to learn more:


Breaking information down into bite-size chunks can help people schedule blocks of time to learn and prevent information overload. Offering a one-hour long video lecture is harder to tackle than a grouping of six ten minute lectures. Logically, learners can watch a section of the longer video, then pause and come back to it when they have time. In practice, people tend to watch a bit, look at their to-do list and never return.

The shorter pieces also allow people to take a break and process the information while they work on other things. You would be surprised what kind of mental connections you can make while doing the dishes or riding your bike.

Chunking can be done with both videos and written content. Consider how this paragraph started on a new line. Avoiding long paragraphs and placing new ideas and concepts in its own paragraph helps people process, learn and remember information. Pairing the information with a relevant graphic can also improve understanding and retention of the content. This is what you can look for when choosing resources.

Ultimately, course completion is up to the adult learner. However, instructional designers can encourage completion by providing information that is logically organized, sequences information to build up to more complex skills, and uses activities that are challenging but not overwhelming.

Learn More: What Research Tells Us About Chunking Content  (eLearning Industry)

Cognitive Overload

When too much information is presented at one time, the brain shuts down and we stop processing new content. Consider the last all-day training you attended. If the content was engaging and relevant, you may have retained more. However, after a certain time period, mental fatigue kicks in and new information is lost.

Chunking content can prevent cognitive overload. So can the design of learning experiences in the library. Lecture based instruction and one-sided webinars with little time for internal processing are not always incredibly effective. Instead, consider a workshop that is chunked out into segments. Talk for about 10-20 minutes, then allow students to complete an activity to process the information. Discuss the results, take a break, then repeat the chunking pattern throughout the workshop. That alternating ‘learn and do’ chunking system lets people process, learn and practice.

At the end of any learning experience, make sure each learner feels equipped with a plan to complete their study independently. Provide a clear path to level up on the path to skills acquisition. Learners can also be overloaded by having to figure out a workable learning path on their own with little free time for research, trial and error.

For specific tips on formatting material, try these 8 Ways Content Chunking Can Help You Avoid Cognitive Overload  (eLearning Industry)

Motivation & Rewards

With busy schedules and a variety of problems competing for time, it can be difficult to keep learners motivated while learning new skills. Try these resources to learn more:

Practice & Reinforcement

When people choose to learn a new skill, the real work happens outside the ‘classroom’. Quite often, an educator can’t be sitting next to the person for life, guiding and motivating every step of the way. Though it would be nice sometimes.

Instead, adults of all ages go out into the world to practice and explore their new skills. We all know that people want to learn new skills on relevant problems, but finding problems that are skill-appropriate and useful in everyday life can be a challenge. Frequently, aspiring learners give up because the examples and exercises provided are too boring, too hard, or just plain impractical. One size does not fit all.

Educators can help students of all ages and experience levels break these tasks down into smaller chunks and explore alternative resources to level up their experience. If you are curating learning resources, choose resources that reward progress through badge systems, incremental completion tracking, or practical certifications. These are visual cues that provide natural stopping points and external motivation.

When the initial workshop, online course, or set of resources ends, try to guide the learner to work through additional, real-world practice scenarios relevant to their skill of choice. These additional learning experiences are what make skills second-nature.

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When & Where

Learning experiences should closely mimic the environment in which the skills are going to be used. This means choosing methods of instruction, practice activities, and additional resources that can be used throughout the skill-building process. To help learners progress, it also helps to understand when a learner can feasibly fit learning into their schedule, and what motivates them to keep going.

The answers to these questions are in your UX research. Refer to the materials you put together and ask more questions to learn this information:

  1. What is your goal?
  2. Which skills do you need to learn to reach your goal?
  3. Are you already familiar with any of these skills, or are you a complete beginner?
  4. How will you know you have succeeded? (Behaviors, events, achievements, etc.)
  5. When will you learn these skills? What is your learning schedule?
  6. Do you report progress to anyone? (Employers, schools, groups, friends, etc.)
  7. How and where will you use these skills in real life?
  8. How important is it to learn these skills? Why are you learning?
  9. What are the potential barriers to learning? (Short on time, budget, etc.)
  10. How will you hold yourself accountable for progress?
  11. What is your motivation to learn? Do you have a support system?
  12. Are other people influencing the learning and skills development decisions? How? Do you update your skills criteria based on outside input?

In some cases, you might ask these questions directly. At other times, learners may not have fully thought through their end goals and what success looks like after learning. Experiment with open-ended questions during reference interviews and make educated guesses based on your UX research.

The answers to these questions will help you design a better experience for the learner using whichever teaching method and activities you choose later in this section. Choose materials that suit the learner's environment, skills level, and meet the needs of any employers, tasks, or skill assessments.

Learning in the Library

The truth is that learning happens everywhere. When people check out a book, grab a handout, take notes during a speaker event, or use any number of library resources, the actual learning and practice of new skills happens out in the wild. This is why we design learning experiences for the real world.

This section asks you to dig deep and fully consider how people use library resources to progress through the stages of learning their chosen skill. The “Teaching Tools, Methods & Activities” section will explore a menu of common teaching methods and resources in the library. With practice, you can choose the best method to suit the needs of the learner. Everyone is starting at a different skill level for designing an effective learning experience in the library.

But first, it’s helpful to look at the example of an adult using library resources to progress through the stages of learning new skills. Let’s use the example of learning Zoom to connect with friends and family:

Example: Adult Learning Zoom (Beginner)

Stage 1: Beginners (Unconscious Incompetence)

The learner recently learned Zoom existed and would allow him to video chat with his daughter who lives out of state. He is homebound so he called a librarian to learn more about Zoom. He has no idea what the platform looks like or which skills are needed. He simply asks “What is Zoom? Will it let me talk to my daughter online?”

Stage 2: Beginner/ Intermediate (Conscious Incompetence)

The librarian explains what Zoom is and sends a Zoom invitation to his email. The link prompts him to download Zoom and the librarian walks him through setting up the account. With the librarian on the phone, he feels confident that he can use Zoom to talk to his daughter. However, when he tries to open Zoom again, he realizes he has no idea how to start a new session or connect to his daughter. He also lost the chat button.

Stage 3: Intermediate (Conscious Competence)

The learner decided to call the librarian again to learn more about Zoom. He wants to know how to go from start to finish in starting a session, learning the right features, and ending the call. The librarian helps him make a list of skills to learn. She formats it like a checklist and starts finding tutorials, cheat sheets and infographics that will help him learn these skills. Together, they discuss different ways he can practice these skills with his daughter so he can conduct Zoom calls independently. He has a clear learning plan. At first, he has to check the tutorials repeatedly to complete the tasks, but it lets him see his daughter once a week.

Stage 4: Intermediate/ Advanced (Unconscious Competence)

The learner continues to practice Zoom with his daughter and some friends. He explores other tutorials on his own and learns new features, adding to his list of skills. He can now switch between virtual backgrounds and give himself a moustache at will. He no longer has to use the tutorials to complete individual tasks. He knows Zoom well.

Translate to Library Service

With the Zoom example in mind, go back to the questions in the “When & Where” section. Answer these questions on behalf of the learner in this scenario. Consider how the answers to those questions may have informed the resources and decisions made by the librarian in this scenario.

Let’s look at a few examples of design assumptions from the perspective of the librarian:

  1. The man is learning Zoom to connect to his daughter via video chat. From there, the librarian can start chunking the process and building a set of basic skills.
  2. Since the man asked what Zoom is, it’s safe to say he is a complete beginner.
  3. The man will practice with real people outside of the library. A set of cheat sheets, quick reference guides, and infographics are helpful in real time.
  4. The man was able to access his email and download the software without assistance, so he has at least basic computer and web navigation skills.
  5. The man only needs access to the bare bones basics, along with resources to learn more based on interest. He is self-directed after initial exposure.
  6. The man called in over the phone and was homebound, so instruction options were limited. Over the phone, email or remote access to the PC are common.
  7. One-on-One training was best since he had a specific goal in mind.
  8. The librarian was able to provide a clear path towards learning, along with resources to learn effectively. Practice came through real Zoom calls.
  9. The librarian had the option to provide practice sessions through Zoom training sessions if the man got stuck during practice. Phone calls were also an option.
  10. The man had a clear visual of success: he is able to independently conduct a Zoom call, from start to finish. The moustache was an added bonus.
  11. The librarian prevented information overload by curating resources tied to specific sub-skills, rather than a large bank of information to wade through.
  12. The resources chosen used clean design, offered bite-size information, and had clear routes for practicing the skill. Generally by following videos.

Teaching Tools, Methods & Activities

In the Zoom example from the previous section, the librarian had a relatively clear choice of one-on-one training over the phone. The fact that the learner was homebound, was already comfortable on a computer, and had a clear goal in mind all contributed to that instruction method.

However, there are several methods of instruction available to library staff and volunteers. This section is going to cover some common options for connecting learners with technology and digital skills resources, and a variety of learning activities that can be used within these methods.

Methods of Instruction in the Library

Here are some common ways to connect learners with skills and resources, all of which can be done in-peron, online, or in a hybrid in-person/ online format:

The selection of an instruction method is going to be determined by these factors:

  • Goal of the learner
  • Number of learners interested in topic
  • Skill level of learners
  • Stage of skills development
  • Level of interest & need for the skill
  • Available staff resources (time & staff in library)
  • Available teaching tools & resources
  • Existing and potential partnerships

Here are some examples of why these criteria are important in practice:

  • Group training works well for beginners to learn the basics of a topic. When learners have a wide range of pre-existing goals for learning, it is difficult to choose relevant examples for every need, at every skill level.
  • If you host a TED talk, group training, or Community Conversation for a topic only a handful of people are interested in learning, engagement and attendance can be low, or non-existent.
  • Curated resource packs and materials should reflect the skill of the learner. Many learners have already googled the topic. If you hand them the same results they found on Google, they are unlikely to return or see the library as a resource.
  • Try to package and customize information to the specific goals and motivation of the learner. Helping learners transfer learning directly to their context and finding heavily tailored results proves the value of the librarian.
  • Understanding the goals and motivation of the learner can build trust and make people go to you rather than the internet.
  • If there is a small group of individuals with similar goals and skill-levels, offer a custom workshop, facilitated Community Conversation of meeting space.
  • Offer infographics and handouts at different skills levels for popular topics. Access to resources that help people identify their starting point and level up is invaluable.

Navigating online resources can be overwhelming at all stages of the learning process. Sit with the learner to help them talk through a starting point, articulate goals, and build a learning plan. Consider both online and local resources to connect the learner with real-world practice options to hone skills along the way.

Examples for Skills Progression

Learners learn everywhere, using any means necessary. There are a variety of entry points into the skills-development process, and each entry point has different activities suited to the task at hand. Here are some examples:

Stage 1: Beginners (Unconscious Incompetence): Focus on introductory & exploratory events where learners can gain exposure to the topic and make sure they are learning the right skill.

  • Technology Petting Zoo
  • Workshop for Beginners
  • Group Training for Beginners
  • TED Talk Event
  • Community Conversation
  • Curated Resource Pack
  • Book & Resource Displays
  • Video Tutorials
  • Makerspace Exploration
  • Introductory Infographics
  • Career Fairs

Stage 2: Beginner/ Intermediate (Conscious Incompetence): Help learners articulate their goals, motivation, context, and true needs for learning a new skill.

  • Reference Interview
  • One-on-One Training
  • Small Group Training
  • Curated Resource Pack
  • Readers’ Advisory
  • Custom Maker Activities
  • Refer to partner

Stage 3-4: Intermediate to Advanced (Conscious Competence- Consciously Skilled): Learners are more self-directed at these stages. Some may only use online library services, others may come in for specific questions.

  • Access to technology tools
  • Access to databases
  • Access to Maker Culture
  • Internet Access
  • Ideas & Inspiration: Books, videos, displays, infographics, etc.
  • Learning Community
  • Social Motivation

Teaching Tools for Activities

Within each of the methods above, there are separate learning activities and ways to practice a growing set of skills. Try this curated collection of Online Teaching Tools  to enhance activities in-person, online, and in hybrid or blended learning environments.

That collection is great if you are developing your own instruction. Many library staff members will be curating learning resources or partnering with education providers. As you create or choose the best resources, consider the ways in which people learn most effectively so you can connect learners with what works.

Try these resources to brainstorm and learn which methods and activities work best:

Find Partners & Gather Resources

In a previous section you chose a main problem category and broke it down into steps. Depending on the complexity, the library may need to bring in one or more partners to provide an effective solution. You may not even need an official partnership. This step is also helpful for broadening a set of quality resources and warm referrals.

The “How People Learn” section provided a primer on how people learn most effectively. While that information is helpful if you are preparing your own materials, the learning primer is also helpful in evaluating the best partners and resources. Now that you know what matters most to people and how people learn, are your potential partners approaching the problem in a similar way?

Remember that partnerships go both ways! How can you help them? Why should they partner with you? Partners can range from non-profits, businesses, schools, universities, local experts, or helpful volunteers. Start local, then broaden scope to regional and national resources to fill the gaps.

This module will help you identify potential partners, uncover assets you never knew you had, and frame the library as a valuable partner.


The ‘Find Partners & Gather Resources‘ module has been broken down into these sections to help guide you through the process:

The Process

Familiarize yourself with the general process of building and maintaining partnerships across different contexts.

Learn More
Assess Resources & Identify Partners

Assess what you have already and brainstorm potential partners to meet the remaining needs.

Learn More
Gather Resources

Assess what you already have and make a list of resources to gather or develop.

Learn More

The Process

If you’re new to building partnerships, these resources will familiarize you with the process and provide some tips and tricks for building a wide range of partnerships with guidance from people who have been there and done that.

There are a variety of different frameworks and recommended processes for partnerships. For reference, this is the framework and terminology that will be used in this Teaching Technology in the Library course:

Download Quick-Start Guide to Building Partnerships Infographic (PDF) Guide to Building Partnerships Infographic

Partnership Guides, Toolkits & Examples

Use these resources to learn the art of partnership building from organizations who have been there and done that a million times.

Pocket Guide to Building Partnerships (World Health Organization)

Learn the stages of partnership development, from formation to implementation, maintenance, and achievement of goals. Build effective partnerships.

Learn More
Partnering Toolkit (Young Adult Library Services Association)

While this kit is geared towards programs for teens, the process works for just about anything. This guide spells out a step-by-step guide to partnerships.

Learn More
School- Public Library Partnerships (Association for Library Service to Children)

This toolkit will help you identify the right contact person, find common ground, and reach mutual goals. Includes guides, templates and examples of success.

Learn More
Community Partnership Examples (Public Library Online)

Find a wide variety of partnership success stories as inspiration for your own community. Learn from those who tried things differently and did great things.

Learn More

Assess Resources & Identify Partners

In the “What’s the Problem” section, you narrowed focus to a problem area, broke your larger problem out into smaller segments, and condensed your information into a “pitch deck” to communicate your service idea to potential partners.

Use this worksheet to start matching problem steps/ categories with what the library already has available, and potential partners who can help. Fill in what you can of this worksheet now, then start having exploratory conversations with partners to learn about resources you never knew existed.

Assess Resources & Identify Partners Worksheet (Google Doc)

Instructions: An example and blank worksheet are included. Please download or make a copy of the Google Doc to complete the worksheet for yourself.

If you're more of a visual person, you can use this mind map style worksheet to start diagramming partnership ideas:

Download Partnership Mapping Diagram Worksheet (PDF): Includes example and blank worksheet in light grey for writing.

Partnership Diagram

Before reaching out to potential partners, make sure you can effectively communicate your end goal and have assessed the resources in the library so you can hold up your end of the bargain. When you have an understanding of who is available to help and the resources that are available across the board, it’s time to assess what the library has to develop, and how to prepare library staff to handle the new library service.

As you map out who is available to help, always keep in mind what the library can contribute to the partnership. Start asset mapping your own resources to bolster what you bring to the table. Use these resources to bring out the best in your library.

Asset Mapping Resources

Uncover new skills within the library and identify organizationa and individuals who can help from outside the library. Many of these asset mapping frameworks include options for user experience reserach and figuring out what people need. You've already done a lot of that at this point, so focus on techniques to identify partners.

What is Community Asset Building? (ConnectedLib)

This thorough guide is geared towards developing effective learning partnerships for teens, but the process and techniques work for any type of partnership.

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Participatory Asset Mapping (Community Science)

Use this toolkit to learn how to lead workshops in support of participatory asset mapping for community building and change initiatives.

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Skills for Community Centered Libraries: Faciliator's Guide (Free Library of Philadelphia)

This faciliator's guide will help you lead an asset mapping workshop for any size library.

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Faciliator's Guide to Community Asset Mapping (See the Change)

This guide uses a focus group approach to bring people together, find strengths, and build a plan to make positive change in the community through partnerships.

Learn More

Gather Resources

After an initial assessment of what you have, and what is available within the community, make a list of what needs to get done. Figure out who is available to do the work, and dedicate time and progress charts to make sure everything is getting done. If you're working with partners, you want to make sure you're holding up your end of the bargain!

The worksheet for assessing resources and identifying partners was a big step in identifying materials, marketing, library space redesign, and any other bits and bobs that are necessary to get your library service up and running. This will look different based on the library service and what your partners are able to contribute.

Library Service Resource Guides: These resources will help you understand what is needed for each type of library service and start preparing eveything you need to get the job done.

Make a checklist of skills to learn, tasks to complete, and an all-around to-do list for the library. Then head to the "Preparing Staff & Materials" section for tips to get started.

Prepare Staff & Materials

Knowing what library staff and/or volunteers should know to get the job done is only half the battle. The real challenges are getting into the right mindset to tackle new skills, and finding time to learn, practice and get comfortable using these skills with patrons in the library.

Technology moves so quickly, odds are pretty good some of this tech is going to be new to the librarian as well. It's easy to say "I'll learn it when I need it" using the trial-by-fire approach, or provide free-for-all optional learning resources for staff to learn when they have time. Too often, that time never comes.

This section will provide a series of tips and tricks to prioritize and make time for staff training, help you get in the right mind set to learn potentially challenging topics, and start building internal resources to support staff in the moment.


This module has been broken down into the following sections to guide you through staff training and preparation:

Mindset & Habits

Technology and digital skills are new for many librarians too. Get in the right mindset to tackle new challenges in the library!

Learn More
Manage Time & Chunk Learning

Librarians need time to learn too. Find tips for making time to learn, and find ways to learn, practice, and demonstrate skills.

Learn More
Resource Repositories

Learn how to build a curated resource respository tailored to your library's needs. Help librarians find the right resources!

Learn More

Mindset & Habits

Learn technology that makes life better. But how? When? Given time, resources, and motivation, anyone can learn new things. The real trick is how you think about learning. Start by looking at this infographic. Now think about technology. What do you think?

Growth vs. Fixed Mindset Infographic

You are not doomed to one mindset for the rest of your life. Habits change, learning happens, and people can change for the better. As a librarian, you probably watched people struggle with new ideas and tasks every day of your life. Now it’s your turn.

This section is about changing your personal relationship with learning and technology. Everyone can learn the tech they need to succeed in everyday life. The goal is to shift to the “Growth” side of the chart. When you’re willing to learn, patrons will be willing to learn. Give your community a place to get the skills they need.

Do whatever it takes. Even if you have to wake up every morning, look in the mirror, and shout “This computer will not defeat me! I will tame this beast of a machine! It’s you or me, computer, and I will learn you good!” Maybe skip the last sentence, for the sake of grammar.

Things to Try for Beginners

Changing how you think about learning technology will likely mean changing habits. When you decide to get a little more techy, start small and build yourself up. Try these options:

  1. Learn one new tech skill every week or month.
  2. Explore how technology can help people. Make book displays to highlight technology that matters to people.
  3. Test out a new tech tutorial and send it to patrons to give it a try.
  4. Start a journal of technology. Surround yourself with ways tech can do good. Spread this tech to the community.

Communities change together. Start with yourself. These resources will get you started with changing habits and mindset to make life better with technology.

Resources to Change Mindset & Habits

Atomic Habits Book Cover
Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits

Find out what it takes to change your habits for the better. Decide what you want to do, then do it!

Learn More
Mindset Book Cover
Mindset: Changing the Way You Think to Fulfill Your Potential

What is a growth mindset? How do you partake in lifelong learning to the fullest? Find out.

Learn More
Beginners Book Cover
Beginners: The Joy and Transformative Power of Lifelong Learning

Why do some people lose the joy of learning over time? How can we rebuild a love of learning new things?

Learn More

Manage Time & Chunk Learning

Even when you’re ready and raring to learn, it can be difficult to make time. Between helping patrons and the daily tasks that make libraries run, learning tech skills often falls to the wayside until it’s too late. I’m sure we’ve all had our minds go completely blank when a patron asks about a new device or software.

It’s tempting to say that technology is not our forte, but where else can people go for help? They won’t come back to the library, that’s for sure. When technology is a service people need, libraries will rise to the occasion!

This section is about techniques to find time to learn, and ways to chunk out and simplify learning so it’s more manageable to work into a task calendar.

Manage Time

To find time, it helps to know where your day goes in the first place. This is an easy (if slightly tedious) activity you can do with just yourself, or the entire library to find time:

  1. Track your daily tasks for a week or so.
  2. Which tasks took the most time?
  3. What absolutely has to get done?
  4. What could wait for a bit?
  5. How do you know you're working on the right task?
  6. Where does learning fit?

You can jot everything down on a sheet of paper, type it up in a spreadsheet, or use these Online Tools for Time Tracking and Project Management. When you’re done with the activity, consider maintaining these tools to stay organized and get the most out of your day. Over time, project management tools become a lifesaver!

Online Tools for Time & Project Management

  • Toggle: Time Tracker & Project Management Software
  • Indistractable Tools (Nir & Far) Tools, Tips & Tricks for using time well.
  • Google Calendar: Add tasks to your calendar to make sure you get to everything.
  • Outlook Tasks: Add calendar reminders to your daily schedule to prioritize learning.
  • Kanban Board (Miro) Tool to track progress on tasks and projects.
  • Trello: Project management software.
  • Notion: Plan, track progress, and organize various project materials all in one place.
  • Clockify: Use Clockify as a timesheet or track how long you really spend on differnet projects. Can be added to Notion.

Chunking Learning

When you know how much time you have available, start prioritizing what to learn first, then chunk learning materials to fit your day. If you have a half hour free every other day, break longer tutorials into smaller segments and assign a tutorial to each free time block on your calendar.

Make sure each larger skill category, and every tutorial you work through aligns directly with your goals in the library. These goals will be determined by the UX research, partnership planning, and library service decisions made in previous steps of this process. Learn skills that matter to you and your community now and in the near future.

Consider what success in learning looks like to meet your goals. What should you be able to do after learning? Who in the library needs to agree on these goals and indicators of success?

Try this chart to stay focused:

Skill Chart

With skill categories laid out, start finding tutorials and other learning resources, then break those resources into manageable chunks to fit your schedule. Try this worksheet to break skills down into sections and track progress:

Use this Skill Tracker Template from Canva

Many tutorials and courses online won't fit your goal precisely, but they can be adapted! Even this one. If traditional certification is not required by your library, build your own curriculum to learn what you need to get the job done.

Resource Hubs & Training Portals

Training and learning tools are often scattered across the internet, waiting to be foraged and (hopefully) re-located as needed. Many resources are too long, need to be chunked out for your needs, or just don't work.

That is why resource respositories and training portals exist. When you have tasks or resources that are used repeatedly, pre-chunk everything and put all the materials in one place. Resource repositories and training portals can be a collection of short training videos, articles, resources, or any number of formats that make life easier for the librarian.

An easy example is the Nebraska Library Commission's Digital Skills Resource Collection. It's on a shared Google Doc so it's easy to update and share anywhere via a link. There is also a Digital Skills PDF version for brainstorming that is the exact same thing, but more visually appealing. The PDF takes a bit longer to update and send out, so Google Docs might be the way to go.

Microlearning that breaks information down into small bite-sized pieces that can be viewed across devices and formats is incredibly popular and effective. Beginner to advanced versions might appear on a website, YouTube playlist, Learning Management System (LMS), or on a shared server. Anything that is quick and easy to access works well.

No matter which platform you choose, planning any training portal follows this process:

Click here for full-size PDF

Training Portal Design Process Infographic

Resources for Designing Training Portals

What to Put in Resource Repositories & Training Portals

  1. Tutorials for common tasks
  2. Department processes & procedures
  3. "Who to ask" directory for info.
  4. Library goals & current projects
  5. Innovation boards & idea sharing
  6. Success Stories
  7. What I Learned from Failure
  8. Guide to make change
  9. Unwritten rules & social norms
  10. Anything to make life easier for newbies

Online Platforms for Resource Respositories and Training Portals

These are some free or low-cost options to build a resource or training portal for your library. To find more expensive options, Google "Learning Management System", "Content Management Systems" or "Knowledge Management Tools".

  • Google Workspace: This used to be called G Suite and there is a free option for nonprofits. Share documents, build learning guides, share calendars, improve learning efficiency, and more. Everything you need to learn and track progress all in one place.
  • Google Docs: Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Forms can work on their own, or paired with Google Workspace. These are free tools to share documents via links and get up and running quickly.
  • Trello Knowledge Base: This article shows the benefits of building a Knowledge Base Trello Board to reduce time spent on finding resources and finding the right person to ask for information. This is also a project management tool.
  • Notion: ,This all-in-one platform helps streamline processes, track tasks and progress, make wikis, and store resources all in one place. Use starter templates to get started quickly. This is also a project management tool!
  • Moodle: This is a free learning management system that has been around for a long time. The learning curve can be a bit higher, but there are a ton of tutorials to get started. It's what we use at the Nebraska Library Commission!
  • Google Sites: Build a quick and free website using Google's simple website builder. Put everything you need in one place and add as you go.
  • YouTube: This collection of YouTube video tutorials will show you what YouTube can do for your library. Try building playlists by topic or skill categoriy to start.
  • Guru: This platform is free for teams up to 3, or $5/ user/ month. Guru will help you organize files and prodive staff training tools in an easy to use platform. It's compatible with Slack for communication and collaboration.

Note: Some of the project and time management tools from earlier in this module overlap with the resource repository and training portal tools. These tasks often occur together and tech designers know it. If you're managing projects, manage your resources in the same place!

Marketing & Follow-Up

Good marketing gets in front of people and makes them take action. Our goal in the library is to provide services people need in their lives, then advertise so the right people know we exist. Brand the library as the best place to get the job done.

In previous steps of the library service design process, you built an understanding of what you want people to do, and why they should care. To get yourself in a marketing mindset, try this simple exercise: Run through a day or a week and track this info:

  • What kinds of ads do you see everyday? For which organization? Take pictures.
  • Where are these ads located? (ie. Facebook, coffee shops, website, etc.)
  • Which ads did you actually act upon? Why?
  • Choose your top three favorite ads. What did you like about them?
  • Choose your top three most disliked ads. What didn't you like?

Tracking your personal experience with advertising will help you reach people in a way that works for them. This module will help you build or improve your library's marketing plan using the UX materials you gathered previously. The module will end with resources to help you evaluate the effectiveness of your chosen library service. Learn how and when to make changes to your library services.

Marketing helps you brand the library in a positive light. Evaluation and assessments ensures you are living up to the promises you made through marketing.


The Marketing & Follow-Up module has been broken down into sections to help you get started:

Marketing 101

Learn about common types of marketing, tools, and resources to build a marketing strategy for your library.

Learn More
UX & Marketing

Improve the flow of the user experience from initial sign-up, to event reminders, and getting additional information.

Learn More
Evaluation Resources

Find resources to assess any type of library service, in any size library.

Learn More

Marketing 101

There is more than one way to market your library. The key is to choose the method that works best for your target audience, fits within your budget, and that doesn't take up too much valuable time. While it's tempting to just hop in Canva and start making social media flters willy nilly, it's better to have a marketing plan.

Download printable PDF of Marketing Plan infographic

Marketing Plan Infographic

The following resources will help you work through the marketing plan.

General Marketing Plan Resources:

Graphic Design Basics

Marketing Methods & Tools

Here are some common and not-so-common ways to market, and the tools necessary to make your ideas come to life:

Idea Resources
Social Media - Most Popular Social Networks (Statista)
- 10 Tips for Librarians: embedding socialmedia good practice
(Library Journal)
- Canva
- Piktochart
Videos Video Production Guide for Librarians (NLC) See Guide
Email - Email Newsletter Design Guidelines (Smashing Magazine) - Mailchimp
- Canva
- Adobe Spark
Website - A Guide to Online Ads & Formats (WordStream) - Canva
- Adobe Spark
- Visme
- The Ultimate Guide to Making Flyers (Canva)
- The Vistaprint Guide to Flyers (Vistaprint)
- Canva
- Microsoft Word
- Adobe Spark
Newspaper Ad - Making Newspaper Ads Simple, Clean & Attractive (Poynter)
- Creating a Newspaper Ad (the Balance Small Business)
- Canva
Tabletop Ad - How to Make a Double-Sided Table Tent in Word (Techwalla)
-Table Tent Ideas (Pinterest)
- Avery Template
Radio Ad - Radio Ad Script Template & Guide (BunnyStudio)
- The Essential Audacity Radio Editing Guide for Beginners
- Audacity
Event Presentation -Presentations to Impress the Experts (Canva) -Canva
Interactive Fair Booth -Exhibit Design: A Primer (American Image Displays)
-Pop-Up Booth Design Ideas (Pinterest)
-Local Print Shop
Book Art Around Town
Spread branded book art all around town!
-Book Art Tutorials (Pinterest)
Handmade from Etsy
Branded Products in Shops Build partnerships with local shops and distribute library-branded
coffee sleeves, coasters, posters, keychains, and more around town.
Try Etsy for custom products
Makerspace Popup Booth Make some flashy makerspace projects and set up shop!
Include a quick hands-on project for passersby.
See Interactive Fair Booth
Laundromat Outreach -Front-Loading Literacy: Laundromat Initiatives (ALA)
-Also try programs in barbershops, senior centers, and anywhere there is a waiting room.
Activity Spinning Wheel
Digital Display
-Guide to Library Digital Signage (novisign)
-Library Signage & Interactive (Pinterest)
Podcast - Engaging Patrons w/ Library Podcasts (PLA)
- Podcasting Guide for Librarians (NLC)
See Guide

UX & Marketing

Marketing is more than an ad. You are shaping how the user views the library. No matter which marketing method you choose, make registration a smooth experience. What do people have to do to sign up or engage with your library service? How are they reminded about the event they registered for several weeks ago? Where do they go for more information? Is it easy?

This section will walk through the ideal user experience so you can incorporate good UX design into marketing materials for your library. Consider making a user journey map to compare how you want users to experience your product or service, then gather information about how people actually use the service. Make design adjustments to make services easy to navigate from sign-up to participation and event follow-up.

Here are some examples of how users flow through common marketing tactics, and some potential pitfalls:

Facebook Ad- Image Only

  1. Library ad pops up in feed
  2. Tap ad on phone
  3. Event flyer appears
  4. There is no registration button
  5. Make a mental note to attend
  6. Keep scrolling
  7. Forget event

Facebook Ad w/ Button

  1. Library ad opens up in feed
  2. Tap ad on phone
  3. View event & tap registration
  4. Fill out sign-up form
  5. Confirmation email
  6. Reminder email day before
  7. Attend Event

Website Ad w/ Printable Form

  1. Click on banner ad on site
  2. Downloadable PDF on phone
  3. Download form
  4. Form not fillable. No printer.
  5. Intend to email or call to ask
  6. Forget event

Printed Flyer at Coffee Shop

  1. Take flyer while waiting for coffee
  2. Scan QR code for sign-up link
  3. Sign up online while waiting for coffee
  4. Confirmation email
  5. Lose flyer in purse
  6. Reminder email day before event
  7. Attend Event

As you choose your marketing method and start designing, think about how people will flow through the experience. What are the steps necessary to engage with your service? Simplify as much as possible. Consider these questions:

  1. What are the decisions people have to make about attending?
  2. What is your "call to action"? What do you want people to do?
  3. What is the trigger that tells people how to engage?
  4. Who are your competitors? How are they marketing?
  5. Do people get lost in the sign-up process?
  6. Are you coordinating marketing with partner services?
  7. Can people find where to go for additional information?

Evaluation 101

Evaluation is all about determining whether a service did what was intended by collecting and analyzing data in various forms. This data can then be repackaged to demonstrate impact to library boards, community planning committees, funders, and advocates. Gather the data you need to help the library thrive!

To many libraries, evaluation is a luxury. The process takes additional time, but is the only way to measure impact and guide improvement. How well did the service meet the intended need? What can you do differently next time? Not everything has to be super in-depth if you are legitimately short-staffed, relying on volunteers, or otherwise frazzled.

The best evaluation techniques are planned for from the start of the library service planning. Decide how much time you have, prioritize what you want to know, then gather data. This way, surveys, gamified evaluation, observations, and other data collection techniques can be implemented throughout, not as an afterthought.

There are many ways to evaluate a library service, but this is the general process:

Download infographic in printable PDF

(Infographic adapted from Free Management Library's Basic Guide to Program Evaluation)

There are often different methods to evaluate and improve online services vs. in-person services. This section provides resources and frameworks for both types of evaluation, and provides options for beginner to advanced level techniques. You also have the option to outsource evaluation to third-party companies or local universities.

Resources for In-Person Evaluation

Overall, we want to know how well people were able to accomplish their goal using library resources. Did the library solve the right problems? In person, library staff can use body language, facial expressions, direct conversations, physical surveys and more. Try these resources for in-person assessments:

Resources for Online & Digital Services

In digital formats, we can track how long people interact with different pages, how they navigate online resources, mouse movements to find out if people are confused, and more. A hybrid approach that uses both online and in-person services may need to mix and match evaluation techniques. Try these resources to evaluate online services: