Maintaining a library of training materials

Sometimes the best training is done by independent study. Matthew Mercurio has some tips on providing on-demand training with a library of reference materials.

I would guess that our company spent in the neighborhood of $40,000 last year in training. Some training was completed on-site, while other sessions took place at a third-party vendor training facility. We sent several groups of people at different times to learn different applications. Some concentrated on Microsoft Office Professional, while others improved on their operating system skills. Microsoft Outlook was a major player in our training efforts, as we use the program for our corporate e-mail system. Using the network and practicing good file transfer techniques are the topics of many training sessions. Spending this amount of money on training makes it necessary to make sure the vital information is not forgotten or physically lost.

Stockpiling reference material
At our facility, I have created a small library for reference material. Our employees use these materials to keep the information they learned fresh. Every time a training session takes place, I make sure one of the students brings back to the office a list of reference material the instructor recommends for that particular class. Between,, and local bookstore vendors, we manage to keep a fresh supply of the newest reference materials available. Some of the books we use are:
  • Adobe PhotoShop 5 Classroom in a Book
  • Windows 98 for Dummies
  • Windows 95 for Dummies
  • Using Outlook 97 By QUE
  • Using Outlook 98 By QUE
  • Using Office 2000 By QUE
  • Beginner’s Guide for Microsoft Office 97
  • Learn Microsoft Office 97

These books are available to our employees during regular business hours. Employees can check out books and review some issues that they didn’t quite get during the training session. For example, an employee was trying to find a way to password protect a single worksheet of an Excel workbook. After checking out one of our books, that person was able to find a solution to the problem.

Applying rules to the library
Making these reference manuals work for the IT department is a must when investing so much money for training. We do this by applying some rules to using the library. First of all, we make everyone check out the book by signing his or her name on the dotted line. Also, no one can check out more than one book at a time. Employees must return the book in the same condition it was found, or they pay for it. They must also return the book in one week from the time of checkout. We also like the employees to share their problems and solutions for future use of the books. I ask everyone to write down on an index card the reason they checked out the book and where they found their solution in the book. We then attach Post-It notes to the pages, so the next person can find solutions to known problems in the book.

Having these reference materials on hand really helps to answer some of the more obscure questions that come along. Making our training dollar go further is always a plus. The managers as well as the employees seem to like having the library in place for both economical and supportive reasons. This is a win/win situation for the IT department.

Matthew Mercurio is IT manager for Clear Channel Broadcasting. Follow this link to write toMatthew .

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