College & Research Libraries News

Training library student assistants: Bloomsburg University’s interactive instructional program

by Erik Poole, Frank Grieco, Heather Derck, and Tom Socash

Bloomsburg University, located in rural northeastern Pennsylvania, is home to the newly constructed Harvey A. Andruss Library. This state-of-the-art building, which opened May 26,1998, now offers stack space for more than 400,000 volumes, up-to-date equipment for viewing more than 1.7 million microfilms in the library’s collec- tion, and open ac- cess to current pe- riodicals, as well as pre-1987 jour- nals that had been in storage.

These enhance- hancements have led to an increased reliance on stu- dent employees to perform basic duties and functions. These students are expected to perform a wide variety of tasks ranging from assisting patrons to shelving library items.

The main menu displayi the four Section of the training program.

The problem

Faced with the dilemma of providing in- depth, consistent training to a large number of students on an individual basis, the library’s supervisors contacted the Institute of Interactive Technologies. A group of five graduate students volunteered to design and develop a fully computerized training program, which was to be accessible to the students in the library.

The evaluation of the initial training provided to student employees re- vealed several in- adequacies. Stu- dents received only one or two hours of one-on- one training with a supervisor be- fore being asked to serve patrons.

In addition, the participation of various super- visors in the de- livery of the training had introduced inconsistent results. The training also proved daunting for the library supervisors due to the large influx of new students each semester. Finally, the minimal number of training hours could not possibly prepare a student to handle all the responsibilities that the job demands.

Providing the students with individualized training became difficult due to students’ conflicting and hectic schedules. Instead of be- ing able to train a group of students at a time, the supervisors were forced to deal with each student on an individual basis. This took up large portions of time, which forced supervi- sors to neglect other important tasks.

About thr authors

Erik Poole, Frank Grieco, Heather Derek, and Tom Socash are a graduate students atthe Institute for Interactive Technology at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, e-mail:,,,

The solution

The interactive instructional program devel- oped to meet these needs encompasses the four major skill sets used by students em- ployed at the circulation desk. These areas include basic customer service, the handling of periodicals, the 1 terials, and the use of “Voyager,” the computerized li- brary catalog. With presentation of les- son content, the program provides an assessment for each subject area and tracking of stu- dent achievement.

The main menu is broken down into four lessons, one for each major skill set. At the end of each lesson, the student is pre- sented with a review section summarizing the section’s con- tent and the option to repeat the lesson or complete a practice assessment.

Each practice assessment contains four ob- jective questions, which are designed to al- low the student to work with the material presented in the lesson and also to deter- mine whether the student is ready to move on to the final assessment. A score of 75% must be achieved in each practice section for the student to be allowed access to each lesson’s final assessment. This process en- sures that the students have retained a suffi- cient amount of information from the lesson content prior to viewing the final assessment.

The program provides interactive ex- amples and presents ordinary scenarios as- sociated with the circulation desk. This gives the students a chance to encounter common tasks without any real consequences occur- ring if a mistake is made. It also familiarizes the student on the basic roles and responsi- bilities one has while working at the circula- tion desk.

The results

The program allowed students to receive training without the aid of a supervisor and on an individualized basis. The supervisor’s duties were minimized to only checking as- sessment scores and monitoring student progress. Students were able to access the training at any time in accordance to their schedule. The program also delivers the train- ing in a standardized format, eliminating any discrepancies. Now, every stu- dent is taught the same group of procedures and nothing is left out due to lack of time.

The key ele- ment in any train- ing program is to produce evidence of learning. All stu- dents participating in the training program’s evalua- tion had no prior experience in the area of library services. In small-group evaluations, eight stu- dents were asked to complete all four lessons and assessments in one session.

For all lessons, the students surpassed the minimum mastery level of 75% or 3 of the 4 practice activities on their first attempt. Also, 87.5% of the students tested achieved the required mastery level on the final assessments after going through the training only once. The mean scores and required mastery levels for the final assessments are summarized in Table 1.

In actual delivery, student employees of the Andruss Library will review each of the lessons separately over the span of a week. This will allow the students to peruse each lesson until they are comfortable with the content, and complete the assessments individually. Therefore, it is anticipated that a higher rate of achievement will be realized upon actual implementation.

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