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ISSN 1483-9288

Wired West: Volume 12, no. 4

Librarians As Technology Trainers - A Dispatch From The Front

 As reporters at the Vancouver Sun and The Province newspapers do more of their own basic research, our role as librarians at Pacific Newspaper Group has evolved and expanded in other areas. We work on more in-depth research projects, write content for the newspaper and website, and have deepened our role as trainers for newsroom staff.

Technological change in a work environment such as ours, where staff are required to adopt new technology and workflow while publishing a newspaper six days a week, presents a unique training challenge.

In 2001 we took on a new role as newsroom trainers in conjunction with the Information Technology department to deliver training to staff in non-library applications. We first trained newsroom staff in OS9, the new MAC operating system, and Outlook 2001. Since then we have trained a variety of applications to hundreds of newsroom staff.

Our current training project is a two-stage implementation of a complex new enterprise-wide content management system called SAXOTECH. The first phase of training involved 1½ hour workshops for 225 newsroom staff to prepare them for an upcoming switch from Mac computers to PCs. The workshops included information about the new content management system, instruction on how to transfer files from their Mac to their new PC, Outlook 2007 and Windows XP basics.

The second phase features three 3-hour training sessions for 90 reporters in group classes of 6-8 in all aspects of SAXOTECH. The first few sections of the newspaper will go live November 26. As more reporters and editors are trained, pages of the newspaper will be produced using both the old and new production systems until everyone cuts over to the new one. All this in time for our massive Olympics coverage!

Why librarians as trainers? The reporters are our primary customers. We have built relationships with them, we know the section of the newspaper they write for, how they work, and their technical strengths and weaknesses. If they are on the road with the Canucks or reporting from the legislature in Victoria, they have different needs from a reporter who primarily works in the office. We can customize training in a way that outside trainers could not, and we are also available for follow-up.

The learning curve has been steep for my fellow librarian/trainer Carolyn Soltau and me. Trained for five days as SAXOTECH super users, we began training reporters almost immediately. Being on the front line of technological change of this magnitude feels a little like a war zone. The newsrooms are short staffed, and more change can be a tough sell to already busy reporters. We get our marching orders from above and griping from the rank and file.

Yet, our role as trainers does have its rewards. Learning the complex new content management system has been an interesting challenge. And delivering training to reporters that enables them get up and working quickly and effectively is very satisfying.  We are comrades working side by side in this technological battle. Incoming!

Kate Bird is News Research Librarian at the Pacific Newspaper Group



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