The library world is full of blog posts, journal articles and conference papers that are about professional development/staff development/training/etc for library staff. I probably wouldn't get through a week of reading library 'stuff' online without seeing at least one discussion or analysis of the topic. But, although I have always known and understood and engaged in the importance of continuing education for library staff, the last several months of staff training in my work team have really clarified a few important things for me on this topic.
I don't think I have ever before fully realised the vital importance of the 'soft' skills that skilled, experienced and educated librarians bring to their roles. The work team I am part of is currently undertaking a huge staff up-skilling programme, so that lower level staff can gain the skills and experience they will need to fit in with the changing nature of their jobs. Staff are receiving an intense period of training, so that the non-professional staff can take over the majority of help desk interactions with students (including reference and IT help, as well as lending tasks, which is the area these staff were originally employed in). This training programme has been carefully designed to deliver the necessary background knowledge and skills to support reference and IT help and the progress of staff is measured and assessed but helping with this programme over the last few weeks has really highlighted to me how incredibly vital skills like problem solving and critical thinking are and how few of our current staff are experienced in using these skills.
As a librarian (who also currently provides IT support as well) I use my problem-solving skills every day, in virtually every interaction with a client. Very little of my job is 'transactional' in nature, instead clients come to me for help with problems they often don't understand and sometimes can't even articulate fully. Then, the problem-solving skills kick in, without me even having to think about it. I had sort of just assumed that everyone else could do this too.
As someone who has completed a faintly ridiculous number of university courses, I am very familiar with 'Problem-Solving Skills' as a graduate attribute, but I have never really thought about how to actually acquire these skills, or more importantly now, how to teach them to others. I feel like this ability is something that I have always had and I certainly don't ever remember being consciously taught problem solving skills (although I am sure I was, I just didn't realise it). Which leaves me asking, how on earth can we teach a large number of people this skill in a short time frame?
I know there are a variety of methods of teaching problem-solving (I found them when trying to solve my problem-solving problem), but the ones I scanned through this week all feel like they rely on the learner developing the skills over time and having some kind of innate capacity that just needs to be activated. But the staff in this team need these skills ASAP and many have never really had to use this kind of thinking before. It all leaves me feeling a little helpless, but I am just going to bit the bullet and jump in the deep end of teaching problem-solving skills, because as any problem-solver knows, the only way to really solve any problem is to just do it.