Developing Information and Library Staff through Work‐based Learning: 101 Activities

Wenxian Zhang (Rollins College)

Library Review

ISSN: 0024-2535

Article publication date: 1 August 2000




Zhang, W. (2000), "Developing Information and Library Staff through Work‐based Learning: 101 Activities", Library Review, Vol. 49 No. 6, pp. 303-310.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The goal of the book is to provide a wealth of ideas that may be used to develop work‐based learning in information and library service. It is basically divided into two parts. Part One presents first a description and a rationale for developing work‐based learning. Then it introduces practical strategies for the development and management of learning skills in the workplace including developing individual learning, developing independence in learning, developing a learning organization, etc. Part Two lists in alphabetical order 101 methods of work‐based learning in library and information organizations ranged from action learning to writing. For each activity listed there is a brief description along with an example of its implementation in the workplace. Some entries also include advantages and disadvantages of such applications, various approaches, potential problems and so on. In addition, at the end of the book there is a brief annotated resource guide of eight books published in the 1990s on work‐based learning. No journal articles, Internet Web sites, electronic or multimedia resources are included.

Unlike the traditional way of preparation for work through academic studies or vocational training, work‐based learning involves learning at work and learning through work. Plenty of literatures on work‐based learning in general were published during recent years, though not much is written on its applications in the field of library service. To survive and succeed in the fast changing environment of the electronic age, it is critical for today’s library and information service professionals to commit to continuing education and independent learning. Based on Kolb’s Learning Circle theory, the author explores the concept, strategies, action plans and assessment of work‐based learning from the perspectives of individual, team and organization. The importance of developing independent learners through formal and informal processes in the workplace is emphasized. The book is well written and easy to read.

The core of the book is the list of ideas and approaches that may be used to encourage learning in the workplace. These ideas have come from the author’s own experiences in staff development and training in library information services, from feedback from colleagues, and from professional literatures. This part of the book serves as a reference tool for library employees and administrators to seek new ideas and approaches. Ninety‐six activities for work‐based learning are actually described in the book, and the listing could be better organized. For example, the headings of “Computer‐Based Training, Computer Conferencing, E‐Mail, Internet”, and “World Wide Web” only refer readers to a brief description under “Computer‐Mediated Communication”; on the other hand, there are separate entries for “Audio Tapes, Audio Taping, Multimedia Resources” and “Video Activities”. A person looking for ideas and examples of work‐based learning in the area of computer and information technologies may be a bit disappointed. Despite the drawback, the book remains a useful tool for practising librarians and information professionals interested in developing work‐based learning activities.

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