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Library/Organizational Support on Job-related Training at University Libraries: Perceptions from Support Staff. Sha Li Zhang, Ph. D. Assistant Director for Collections and Technical Services University of North Carolina at Greensboro, U. S. A. Presented at the ALDP 2007 Conference

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Library/Organizational Support on Job-related Training at University Libraries: Perceptions from Support Staff

Sha Li Zhang, Ph. D.

Assistant Director for Collections and Technical Services

University of North Carolina at Greensboro, U. S. A.

Presented at the ALDP 2007 Conference

The Chinese University of Hong Kong

April 11 -12, 2007


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Background of the Study University Libraries: Perceptions from Support Staff

  • Changes in higher education

  • Technological changes in university libraries

  • Increased efficiency/decreased budgets

  • Increased support staff responsibilities

  • Third Congress on Professional Education (COPE III in May 2003)


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Statement of the Problem University Libraries: Perceptions from Support Staff

  • Despite many similarities of library support staff in the six Kansas Regents’ universities, there is little or no cooperation and collaboration on staff training.

  • Little is known at the national level about what support staff perceive as important to their training.

  • Seven dissertations have been done on professional librarians and/or support staff.

  • One was solely on support staff.

  • None addressed the specific library/organizational support to staff training critical to today’s rapidly changing library technological work environment.


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Significance of the Study University Libraries: Perceptions from Support Staff

  • There is a lack of empirical data and analysis on library/organizational support to staff training in the Kansas Board of Regents’ university libraries.

  • The library community recognizes the need for research in this area.

  • Findings from this study will help enhance discussions on support staff training at the national level.


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Purpose of the Study University Libraries: Perceptions from Support Staff

  • Exploration of library/organizational support, valued by library support staff

  • Examination of the differences in perceived library/organizational support as a function of the support staff’s general characteristics.


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Purpose of the Study (cont.) University Libraries: Perceptions from Support Staff

  • General characteristics of support staff:

    • Educational attainment

    • Library work experience

    • Work units

    • Level of job responsibilities

    • Rank

    • Age range


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Research question University Libraries: Perceptions from Support Staff

  • What kinds of library/organizational support are perceived as important by support staff to their training needs?


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Null hypotheses: University Libraries: Perceptions from Support Staff

  • There are no statistically significant differences in the library /organizational supportas a function of support staff’s general characteristics, i.e.,

    • educational attainment

    • total years working in the library field

    • total years working at the current positions

    • work units

    • level of job responsibilities

    • rank

    • age range.


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Research Design University Libraries: Perceptions from Support Staffand Methodology

  • Population of the study: entire support staff of the six Kansas Regents’ university libraries

  • Research design: construction of a survey instrument with 1-4 Likert scale and with open-ended questions

  • A expert panel from the library community for input


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Research Design University Libraries: Perceptions from Support Staffand Methodology (Cont’)

  • Data Collection Methods

    • Panel reviews of field study, pilot study, and final study

    • Pilot study at a large university library

      (Reliability =.781)

    • Final study administered to 167 individuals

      • 139 useful and completed questionnaires

      • Eighty-three percent return rate

        (Reliability = .881)


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Research Design University Libraries: Perceptions from Support Staffand Methodology (Cont’)

  • Data Analysis

    • Variables:

      • Independent variables: educational attainment, library work experience, work units, level of job responsibilities, rank, and age range

      • Dependent variables: perceptions on library/organizational support


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Research Design University Libraries: Perceptions from Support Staffand Methodology (Cont’)

  • Data Analysis

    • Quantitative measures:

      • Descriptive statistics: frequency count and measures of central tendency

      • Inferential statistics: one-way MANOVA, ANOVA, and Scheffe post hoc tests, SPSS 12.0 version


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The 11 Questionnaire Items University Libraries: Perceptions from Support Staff

  • Enable me to practice new skills learned from training

  • Provide me with technical support

  • Offer in-house expertise when I need it

  • Link my training to a pay increase

  • Acknowledge my training on my evaluation


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The 11 Questionnaire Items University Libraries: Perceptions from Support Staff(Cont’)

  • Provide me with release time for training

  • Allocate funding for my training goals

  • Provide me with training materials

  • Supply me with appropriate software

  • Arrange on-site training sessions

  • Suggest relevant training topics to me


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Research Design University Libraries: Perceptions from Support Staffand Methodology (Cont’)

  • Data Analysis

    • Qualitative measures:

      • Open-ended comments recorded and analyzed to allow stakeholder themes to emerge.

      • A record was maintained on the number of times a particular word or phrase was used in open-ended questions in order to identify particular themes.


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Qualitative Findings University Libraries: Perceptions from Support Staff

  • Open-ended responses provided a total of six themes and 83 units of information.


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Written comments: University Libraries: Perceptions from Support Staff

  • “Time to get training would be nice. We are running as fast as we can just to stay even.”

  • “The biggest problem related to attending any kind of training is, who does my work when I am not there?”

  • “Due to budget cuts our unit is short-staffed. The remaining staff are required to take on more and more complicated duties, and yet we have less time available for training.”


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Written comments University Libraries: Perceptions from Support Staff(cont’)

  • “Any type of self-paced learning must be supported by (time) at work. Without this support the work suffers.”

  • “I would like to stress that devoted time to training without interruptions is vital for topic flow and learned development.”


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Written comments University Libraries: Perceptions from Support Staff(cont’)

  • “Training is very important, but along with the training you must have support from your supervisor to use what you have learned and to be supported if you succeed or fail.”

  • “Supervisor/administrative support would go a long way. If they don’t care, then I definitely don’t care.”


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Written comments University Libraries: Perceptions from Support Staff(cont’)

  • “A good rule of thumb would be: if it is not job specific and position specific and if it takes longer than an hour, its probably of dubious value.”

  • “Pay is important, but it is usually important to be able to use the new skill and be recognized for above and beyond the norm.”


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Written comments University Libraries: Perceptions from Support Staff(cont’)

  • “I have children at home and cannot travel and stay overnight.”

  • Training “not only keeps processes smoothly flowing during absences or with unfilled positions but also develops effective staff.”


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Conclusions University Libraries: Perceptions from Support Staff

  • Library/organizational support plays a vital role in encouraging support staff to participate in job-related training.

  • Support staff who are 35 or younger considered release time for training is more important than those who are 36 to 45 years old.

  • Support staff in the age group of 46 – 55 considered funding and on-site training more important those 36 to 45.


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Conclusions University Libraries: Perceptions from Support Staff(cont’)

  • Those who were in the library field between six to 10 years had differing views on practicing new skills, technical support, funding allocation, training materials, on-site training sessions, and relevant training topics. They considered them less important than other groups.


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Recommendations University Libraries: Perceptions from Support StaffFor Further Study

  • Support staff’s perceptions on library/organizational support differed based on the years of library service and age range. Further study could explain this phenomenon.

  • Parameters similar to this study should be replicated in other settings, such as a consortium of school, university, or public libraries.


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Any questions? University Libraries: Perceptions from Support Staff

Thank you

for coming to this session!


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