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Core Competencies for Public and Technical Services Staff When Implementing and Using INNOPAC as an Integrated Library System

Laura Gayle Green, University of Missouri-Kansas City
Kathleen Schweitzberger, University of Missouri-Kansas City
Web Site: http://cctr.umkc.edu/user/lggreen/core/index.htm

Historical Background:

University of Missouri-Kansas City (UM-KC) has a staff of 82 (27 librarians; 55 support staff). Student population is approximately 5,000 undergraduates and 5,000 graduate/professional school.

Prior to the current system, the staff used OCLC for cataloging and ILL, INNOVACQ for Acquisitions (1986-1996), and used a WLN-based OPAC (LUMIN), which was shared with three other campuses (University of Missouri-Columbia, University of Missouri-Rolla, and University of Missouri-St. Louis).

On June 1, 1996 an integrated INNOPAC system (MERLIN) debuted, shared by the four libraries (later joined by Saint Louis University in January 1997). Each library keeps separate accounting and acquisitions files, but the patron, bibliographic, authority and reserves databases are shared. (The database currently comprises 2,672,224 bibliographic records, 5,786,793 item records, 1,122,972 authority records, 193,247 patron records, 211,603 checkin records, and 171,394 order records.) Modules purchased include: OPAC (character-based and WebPAC), Database Maintenance, Circulation, Acquisitions, Serials, and Reserves. The Interlibrary Loan and Booking modules have been purchased, but are not fully implemented at this time. Other special features implemented include scoping by campus and selected branch libraries, patron-initiated borrowing between all MERLIN libraries, and a Z39.50 gateway to Washington University and the Center for Research Libraries catalogs.

Core Competencies:

The presenters defined core competencies as those INNOPAC functions and terminology with which all UM-KC library staff must be familiar in order to provide good public service and to foster better communication between the functional staff divisions. Prior to the implementation of the new system, INNOVACQ was used almost exclusively by Technical Services. Staff had to adjust to having their background processes becoming public information and Public Services staff needed to learn to use the additional information provided by the integrated system to better assist patrons. UM-KC advocates the core competencies program as a means to provide a common knowledge base for all library staff, to provide a consistent library system training outline for new library staff, and to provide a benchmark for supervisors to evaluate staff.

A well-designed core competencies program should include: recognition of individual learning styles, including adult learning issues; time to explore given materials fully; hands-on training (no more than a two staff/one computer ratio); scheduling time for repetition and review of concepts presented; context for concepts being taught and relationship to the whole package; and, creation of a risk-free environment. Sessions at UM-KC last 1.5-2 hours per week, with a total of approximately 15 hours to complete the program. INNOPAC authorizations for staff are modified as needed to complete the training/assignments. Homework is tailored to the situational needs of each staff member. Many sessions are developed around the INNOPAC menu in order to provide a systematized framework.

The program should include a pre-testing of existing competencies. For existing staff, situational tests are recommended (What do they know? What do they think they know, but don't?). New staff need to be evaluated for previous INNOPAC experience or experience with another integrated library system.

Refreshers can be developed as needed, often based on supervisor recommendation. A mini-review (4-6 hours) should be built into the program, scheduled at least every two years. Workshops should also be developed around INNOPAC system enhancements/upgrades.

Administrative support is crucial to implementing a core competencies program, since release time to attend the sessions and practice time after training must be authorized by supervisors. Timing of sessions must be sensitive to certain cyclical activities (fiscal year close, beginning of semester).

Participants and their supervisors must recognize the importance of attending all training sessions. One of the main benefits of such a program is that key system knowledge is not lost due to staff turnover. Moreover, library patrons have better-trained staff who can meet their information needs more effectively.

See the web site listed above for additional information on the UM-KC program, including session handouts, samples of checklists and summaries, and a glossary.

Recorded by: Joan Pirie, Vassar College

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