Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
I have to start this review with a confession that I have not come across volumes one or two in this series, despite being engaged in professional LIS training for nearly 20 years. I rely on the comments of previous Editor Ray Prytherch and current Editor Alan Brine for setting the context. Alan Brine comments in his introduction that “Staff development in the library and information sector has changed dramatically over the last 20 months” and I cannot help thinking that it has changed again during the 20 months since this book was published and I was asked to review it. The key question is what does this book offer to make it valuable enough for its audience to invest in it?
The first thing to note is the distinguished list of contributors, well‐known names and respected in their fields of expertise. The second thing is the excellent list of references which each contributor has faithfully noted. The third thing to note is the raft of examples of best practice and case studies which provide a rich resource for readers to use, plunder or learn from.
The book is divided into a series of sections, the first looking at teaching and training users. This is followed by sections on the management of resources and customer service (with an emphasis on inclusion). Subsequent sections look at management covering leadership, mentoring and professional development. Finally, there are some comparative comments on international developments.
I am going to deal with some of the negatives: the time lapse means that the landscape has changed with the demise of the regional MLAs, MLA and LLUK, for example. This is not to devalue, in anyway, the training and development initiatives and legacy but I do wonder if publishers of hard copy should consider accompanying web pages with embedded links and facilities for updating. Ashgate do publish this as an e‐book, so perhaps this facility is inbuilt because following up all the links manually really strengthens the case for me learning to read more content on screen. I was also a little disappointed that the section on national and vocational qualifications did not include the SQA's Diploma and Advanced Diploma in Applications of ICT in Libraries, which are the legacy qualifications of the People's Network training initiative and a real innovation in qualifications for library and information workers. The demise of SVQs, due to low uptake, and modern apprenticeships would have been interesting to explore as would foundation degrees which receive scant mention.
All that said, this book has a tremendous amount to offer staff involved in developing or administering staff development. The section on pedagogy was clearly set out by Jo Webb and Chris Powis and the FILE course by Susie Andretta was detailed and engaging. I was also pleased to see a chapter by John Vincent on inclusion and the need for librarians to be aware their behaviour can make or break access to knowledge for some. Beryl Morris's input on customer care training contains enough information for developing training and evaluating the effectiveness of current provision.
The section on management is particularly strong with excellent contributions from Barbara Allan on first line management and Sheila Corrall on strategic management. It would be good to see any future editions take a deeper look at performance management and the management of change as these are training and development areas with a fresh imperative as libraryland shifts and flexes grappling with deprofessionalisation, the Big Society, outsourcing and new models for delivery. Jane Walton's input on mentoring is useful reading for all workplace and CILIP mentors and Andrew Booth's evidence‐based practice section makes interesting reading.
The book concludes with a review of the Australian training scene and the reference to online vocational and technical training offers new ways of working. The Australians are dealing with many of the issues we are facing – large land mass and small, geographically dispersed populations, or simply isolated in the workplace marooned by lack of investment and the inability to travel to cities for expensive face to face training and development.
In my opinion, it is well titled as a handbook. It is the kind of book a library training officer, staff development manager or library and information services manager will go back to: perhaps to look for alternative strategy tools to shake them up at the annual planning event or when considering why customer care training seems ineffective. There is certainly more value to the book than just a history of how X Service did training and development good! Contributors demonstrate their working knowledge of their subjects and Alan Brine has completed a lengthy editing task to produce a fine successor to the series.