Open Conference Systems at Dalhousie, International Association of University Libraries, 2016 Conference

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Cooking Stone Soup: “Porous” Workforce Training at the Czech National Library of Technology as a Supplement to (Impermeable) University Education
Stephanie Krueger, Alena Chodounská

Last modified: 2016-04-25

Abstract


As in many other countries around the world, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) libraries in the Czech Republic are facing the difficult challenge of meeting the rapidly-evolving service needs of the communities they support in an environment in which the current university educational system does not provide graduates—neither those from STEM subjects nor those graduating from Czech library/information professional schools—with the appropriate set of skills needed for working in today’s specialized information provision settings. As a result, the Czech National Library of Technology (NTK) has been forced to provide on-the-job workforce training since early 2015 to its reference, instructional, and front-lines services staff simply in order to keep pace with STEM library developments outside the Czech Republic. This weekly workforce training effort, christened NTKu (short for NTKyouniversity), does not resemble traditional university education with its rigid structures and focus on the attainment of a degree. NTKu is, instead, porous: traditional “impermeable,” less flexible university curricula are supplemented with on-demand, ever-changing targeted instruction on specific issues, topics, and skills applied immediately to real-work settings. This manner of instruction, as the authors discuss in the paper, can yield highly effective results; however, unique challenges can emerge in an instructional environment lacking traditional measures of effectiveness (i.e., grades) and requiring voluntary participation by both learners and instructors. Such porous instructional efforts resemble those of open source software (OSS) communities, in which voluntary effort can produce results benefiting a particularly community—but only to the degree of investment provided by contributors. Such initiatives resemble cooking stone soup: the results can be tasty, but everyone involved needs to bring something to the table.