I've been watching the webinar series from ALA's ALCTS, "Re-envisioning Technical Services," for the last few weeks. As a manager of a technical services department, I've come to realize that skills are vital and difficult at the same time: I have to ensure the people I hire have the right skills, keep up with skills training for the department, and maintain my own skillset while functioning as a manager. In the second webinar, "New Resources on Staff and Leadership Development in Technical Services," Cory Tucker discussed a survey he had done with colleagues that included information about what skills are most needed for essential technical services functions, and whether new graduates are coming out of library school with those skills. Overall, the findings indicated that new hires did have the skills necessary to work in technical services; however, there are always areas in which people can improve. The next webinar, "Case studies: residencies, peer training, and succession planning" offered concrete suggestions for skills training. The residency model is intriguing but probably not practical for many libraries. In this model, recent graduates spend a year as a "resident" working on discrete projects. Peer to peer training is more practical and probably already happening, at least informally, at most libraries. We use it at Boston University to help train our public services staff on back end systems so they can see more information about resources; we also use it to help staff who are currently in library school learn more about different library functions.
It isn't too late to register for this webinar series and I would recommend it to anyone trying to think strategically about their technical services departments. As presenter Jacob Nadal noted, technical services managers need to be managers, experts in our fields, and inspiring leaders. This webinar series is one way to help with that.