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The best way to ensure adequate communications with all staff members during system implementation is to develop a comprehensive training plan early in the implementation. Staff who are well informed can contribute a great deal to the entire process.

All staff who will be affected by the new system must be taught, even if they will not be day-to-day users. The exact content of their instruction will vary based on the actual use which will be made of the system. Management staff and others who are not directly affected may require an overview of the system's functionality. Staff members whose functions are being automated will need more in-depth training in specific tasks. All staff will need to know how the system will affect their jobs and what, if anything, they will need to do differently.

Similarly, various levels of instruction will be required during the process of implementation. Initial instruction should provide an overview of system features to let you complete the orientation and software testing phase of the implementation. Later, when the system is about to be moved into production, staff will need comprehensive instruction in the actual use of the system. Marlene Clayton (Managing Library Automation, London: 1987) suggests that the training program for an automated library system should consist of at least these seven steps:

    1. Identify the people to be trained--those who need a basic introduction to the system as well as those who need specialist skills and detailed system instruction.

    2. Identify the activities that require special training, e.g., command searching, report development.

    3. Establish desired method(s) of training (formal seminars, onsite or off, individual instruction, etc.).

    4. Prepare any training programs to be run internally.

    5. Arrange the schedule for courses.

    6. Conduct the training program.

    7. Review and evaluate the training plan.

Various workshops maybe available from the vendor. Talk with the vendor to determine which workshops are most appropriate for you.

One approach is to schedule instruction soon after installation. This session orients several key staff members so that they can effectively plan the implementation. Later, these individuals can train the rest of the staff.

Another approach is to schedule training shortly before actual production. Ideally, training should be far enough before the system is operational so that staff have adequate time to practice and get comfortable with the system, but not so far ahead that lessons are forgotten before the system is put into production.

In addition to formal product instruction, staff who will be operating an automated system for the first time may need general "computer literacy" instruction. This introductory lesson could be provided through your organization's systems training section, external workshops, or a local technical college, and might include:

    a. Introduction to computer systems,

    b. How to operate the equipment (turning the terminal on/off, using the barcode scanner) and,

    c. What to do if things go wrong:

    • How to report errors,
    • Whom to notify,
    • What to tell patrons if the system is unavailable for an extended period of time,
    • How to proceed with work when the system is down and how to "catch up" when it is back.

Because no system is up 100% of the time (because of scheduled maintenance, unexpected errors or environmental problems), it is best to plan for system unavailability.

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