Labs and Equipment

Dream Lab

One of my favorite training bloggers, Andrea Mercado, has posted some exciting news over on LibraryTechtonics. The trustees at her place of employment have approved spending $12,000 to improve the library’s computer lab. New computers, new furniture, a SMART Board, and more are in the works!

I’ve spent a lot of my library technology training life taking my show on the road and adapting to various rooms and environments. I have set up and torn down computer labs so many times that I go into a sort of Zen zone every time I do it (I actually enjoy it for that reason). When I did a lot of team-training (and therefore, team lab set-up), it seemed there were always an initial few minutes of struggle between the trainers… in which we tried to determine the best arrangement for a particular space.

When my place of employment moved into a new building recently, I was really able to be very specific about the training lab I wanted to have. It was a little overwhelming. I think that because I have always focused so much on adapting to not-ideal settings, trying to envision the ideal was a new thing. I’m happy with how things turned out.

A few of the things I like when doing technology training:

  • U-shape set-up (horseshoe) so that learners are facing one another (I dislike when they have their backs to one another)
  • Printer availability (handy to be able to print things on the fly)
  • Speakers for the presenter computer (show quick videos, etc)
  • White board for writing notes/reminders (I like this in addition to the SMART board)
  • Telephone w/speaker phone (we seem to be doing more and more webinar type things – where it’s handy to be able to have someone on speaker phone in the lab)
  • Comfortable chairs
  • Empty desktop space at each computer (enough room to write, set a folder, etc)

People have started bringing their own laptops to training now and then, so we’ve created workspaces in the training lab for them, too. I would guess the number of people doing that will increase.

Those are a few things off the top of my head. I’m going to try to think of more and would love to hear from other trainers. What’s on your list?



I have written about Andrea Mercado’s tech training on this blog before and just really like her philosophy and style. She recently wrote about an email class she taught for beginners. She makes many great points and observations in the post, but the thing I am most struck by is her curiosity about the learners. I think that’s the number one characteristic in a good technology trainer — a genuine curiosity about the ways that people learn and try to make sense of things. Having solid technical knowledge, a great presentation style, etc… is all great, but I really do think that curiosity is the key.

I think a good trainer is not driven by getting through a certain amount of material, but is driven by constantly trying to gauge the experiences of each learner — letting people make mistakes and figure out answers, helping people build their confidence with the computer. It’s what makes training so challenging, but also what makes each class a unique and interesting experience.

Active Learning, Labs and Equipment

Geek Out Don’t Freak Out


If you have attended one of my train-the-trainer workshops in the recent past, then you have probably heard me mention The Reading Public Library’s “Geek Out, Don’t Freak Out” classes for patrons. I first read about these classes on trainer-librarian Andrea Mercado’s blog, LibraryTechtonics.

Andrea’s “Geek Out, Don’t Freak Out” classes have covered digital cameras and she will soon be offering a class on MP3 players, too. People are encouraged to bring their own equipment and as the class description states, “we’ll all figure it out together.” She encourages both newbies and more savvy users to attend. This way the group members can help one another, too. Andrea creates a handout of resources for each class. The handout includes an integrated list of library items (she also brings the library items to the class for reference), articles, and web sites. The handout really shows off what the library and librarians can offer them (and provides participants with something to take notes on). She also lists her email address on each handout, just in case participants have future questions. While it might sound like she’s asking for trouble, Andrea reports that most often people don’t badger her or treat her like tech support.

There are several things that I love about this approach to technology training. First of all, I think it demonstrates a learner-centered, rather than a trainer-centered approach. Encouraging people to bring their own equipment is brave! It is impossible to know exactly how each camera works or how each MP3 player works ahead of time. Too frequently a trainer has a predetermined agenda and predetermined examples and a predetermined flow for the class and focuses on getting through the predetermined material. In the “Geek Out, Don’t Freak Out” classes, the focus really is on helping people learn the things they want and need to know. Seeing a trainer demonstrate a camera is very different from having a trainer help you learn to use your own camera.

A second thing that I appreciate about these classes is that they cover topics that are not necessarily traditional library technology training topics. I think it is important to offer classes on database searching and web searching, etc…, but I think the “Geek Out, Don’t Freak Out” classes really represent a “shifted” approach. I am guessing that the people who attend these classes really develop an appreciation and a broadened perspective regarding libraries and what libraries are about.