Too often, libraries don’t have time to come together for group training. In an age when both schedules and budgets are tight, getting everyone together for staff development can be tough. But squeezing out that time can be important. Face-to-face group training can be a positive experience that increases the staff’s skills while fostering a larger sense of workplace community. Additionally, it can break people out of their webinar rut.

Whether it’s a stolen hour before or after work or a full-sized staff development day where the library shuts down for everyone to receive training, making time for continuing education is important. If you’re new to planning these types of events, here are some best practices I’ve learned in helping to plan West Georgia Regional Library’s annual Staff Development Day.

  • Plan the outcomes first.

If your library is anything like ours, the amount of time you have available to devote to staff development with everyone in the room is rather low. In that case, make sure that you utilize your time to the best of your abilities! Remember: not everything can be covered in one meeting or a single day. So choose what you want staff to leave knowing, and use that to inform your choice of speakers, venue, information presentation, and the rest.

  • A little bit of sugar makes the medicine go down.

Just because time is tight, don’t let yourself become a goal-accomplishing tyrant. We’re all adults here, but we all still like to have fun. A training session or day may be one of the few times that the staff has a chance to come together as a group without their attention being drawn elsewhere. If so, it’s only natural that people will want to get to know each other better (especially if they are scattered among different branches). For longer events, you could plan something fun in the break. At our 2015 West Georgia Regional Library Staff Development Day, we’re hosting a costume contest and several photo booths alongside the more serious keynote addresses and breakout sessions. If people have fun while learning, they’re more likely to look forward to these events all year long!

  • Don’t monopolize the planning

It’s amazing how complicated a staff training opportunity can become. Organizing people to attend, lining up speakers, procuring food, setting up the room, gathering feedback, recording the event for posterity…the list goes on and on. While the training may be your primary responsibility, don’t be afraid to reach out to other people for help and support. They can offer their time, skills, connections, and ideas to whatever you are planning. Continuing education isn’t an island, and this is one of those times when many hands do make light work.

  • Ask and ye shall receive

In conjunction with asking from help for coworkers, ask your network for help. If you need volunteers for check-in, reach out to your Friends. Ask for donations for food. Apply for grants to host speakers. Contact your professional networks to find interested speakers. The worst that anyone can say is no, and you may end up receiving more than you could have ever expected.

When planning a staff training opportunity, make sure to use the time as good as you can but also remember that it doesn’t have to be perfect. As long as people are learning and growing in their professions, then your training is a success.