Today marks the end of a great event: our state library sponsored a summer reading contest. Participants simply read books and then submitted their name and the book’s title to the library’s general email address. My team and I asked our employees to copy us on their submissions. Participation was high. Some folks submitted books on a daily basis, while others were at least submitting on a weekly basis. It’s events like this and the general plethora of resources that makes our library so great.
My favorite resource that the library offers is Safari Tech Books Online. Oftentimes, I find myself starting here when I need to find the latest literature on a particular soft skill or hone my technical skills with regards to a certain piece of software. The search feature is amazing, which can’t be said of all library-related search engines. The search function combs through the texts, word by word, and returns related results based on the number of hits. Once you find a worthy text, the reading pane is easy to navigate and offers a variety of features. Did I mention that I can do this all from the comfort of my work desk because our library recognizes my agencies IP address? If I’m at home, I just use my handy-dandy library card to verify that I’m a government employee.
A close second, and technically part of the Safari Tech Books Online, are the Videos-on-Demand (VODs). Recently, we had a new, younger employee start with our organization. They confided in me that they didn’t know Microsoft Excel very well. I recommended classroom training, but they were too prideful to attend. I couldn’t get them to sign up for anything, so I recommended the VODs with the library. Long story short, they learned quite a bit about Excel and are a fully functioning member of their team. There’s a reason a billion videos are posted to YouTube every day. We like our content in short, digestible videos that are readily accessible.
This next resource has a funny, personal anecdote. The library also has civil service exam study materials. I’m a historian by trade so, a couple of years back, I thought the perfect scenario would be to obtain a historian position with my state. We have an exam for the historian classification (as of this writing), so I requested the study materials from the library. When they arrived, I reviewed what was essentially a high school history exam from 1970. Upon contacting the library, they assured me that the materials were indeed out of date and needed to be taken out of circulation. I’m just glad that I could still recall that the American Civil War ended in 1865.
The last resource I want to highlight is the library’s handcrafted reading lists. If you are researching a particular topic, the library will not do the research for you (that would be too easy). Instead, they will take the time to put together a reading list for you. The last time one of my teammates requested a list of digital sources, the librarian put together a document with at least two pages of hyperlinks. The answers to her problems were not served up on a silver platter, but the librarian did make things ten times easier for her.
I do miss “the stacks” at the library. In a perfect world, I would lounge around the stacks all day, every day, and just read. I love the smell of library books. I love the strange soundproofing that the bookshelves offer. If you miss the same things, or can’t relate to what I’m talking about, start by getting a library card. Your library will probably issue you a library card for free. I would recommend that all government employees discover or reconnect with their library. Learning professionals in government should not let a treasure like the library go to waste.