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An organisational restructure led to the Mackay public library implementing the Australian library industry training package. The package has the necessary flexibility and high degree of relevancy to allow implementation in the workplace. Library staff received recognition for their existing skills and an outcome from this has been improved morale as well as the beginnings of a culture of lifelong learning. Edited version of a presentation at a national Culture Research Education and Training Enterprise Australia (CREATE) workshop, Canberra 27 October 2000

The library and information services training package became available at a time when the Mackay public library service was undergoing change--a major reorganisation. This in turn led to the identification of a significant training need for permanent staff members, some of whom had worked for Mackay City Council for over ten years. With the need identified, it also became evident that any form of training undertaken would need to be flexible so that it met the requirements of both the participants and the organisation.


Mackay City Council Library Service in northern Queensland has three branch libraries and one mobile library. It services a population of 75,000. The council area extends as far north as Laguna Quays (or Midge Point), about one hour drive north from Mackay

Library staff

6 librarians (including the manager)

5 level 3 library assistants (equates to library technician level)

6 trainees (currently undertaking a national library traineeship local government - certificate II in libraries and information studies)

9 library assistants

1 administrative officer

I have been manager library services for one year, prior to which I was the technical services librarian. I came back to public libraries after four years of teaching in business studies at the Central Queensland Institute of Tafe - Mackay. This experience was useful when it came to dealing with training issues. The Tafe experience ensured a very strong commitment to lifelong learning.

The final element which impacted on the decision to implement the training package was my role as a regional representative for an Industry Training Advisory Board (ITAB), that of Arts Training Queensland.

Climate of change

Just prior to my appointment as manager, the council undertook a library service review. Not surprisingly, one of the issues to come out of this review was staff concern with the lack of a career path for library assistants. Before this issue could be addressed, a major restructure of the library service was undertaken to create a structure which would support the delivery of a quality library service to the Mackay community. This is not described here.

What was the result?

Most important was the creation of 5 level 3 positions from within the existing staffing establishment. Staff promoted into these positions gave a commitment to undertake relevant study. Level 3 equates to a para professional position.

While everyone was keen to take up the new positions, the thought of study was unsettling for a number of reasons

* no recent experience of formal study

* the costs involved

* family situations

* lack of confidence

The staff were looking for some form of reintroduction to study. They were not ready to tackle university or associate diploma studies.

Impact of enterprise bargaining agreement

At the same time, Mackay council was in the midst of negotiations for a new EBA. One of areas under discussion had significant implications for all council staff currently at the base level ie level 1. There is the potential for pay increments to be based on a competency level that would allow staff to fast track to level 2. There are additional aspects apart from the competency such as years of experience and/or performance appraisals results.

Both of these factors supported the training need.

The starting point

Through my contact with Arts Training Queensland, I was already aware of this training package and had been lobbying Tafe to register it. Now my involvement really began, as I agreed to take part in a pilot study on implementing the package.

Council support

Council supports the training package by reimbursing participant fees on completion of competencies. This alleviated the financial burden for participants.

Participant interest

It was necessary to gauge initial participant support with a brief survey that included a question about the certificate level that people would be interested in undertaking. Twenty people responded, and based on responses it was decided to proceed with certificate level III and IV. III to meet the potential competency levels that may be required for staff keen to move from level 1 to level 2 and IV for the staff at the new level 3 but who did not feel able to take up library technician studies at this stage.


Next was need for a registered training provider. There are several in Mackay, but Tafe expressed an interest and requested a business plan. The plan highlighted the potential for the training package regionally, as well as a delivery strategy. CQIT has colleges in Rockhampton, Gladstone, Emerald as well as Mackay. Information on the number of public and school libraries in the area where the package had potential was included. Another aspect that made the proposal attractive to Tafe was the low cost of implementation, as resources (facility, technology and teaching/assessing ie me as workplace assessor) were readily available.

There was a small amount of Tafe funding available, enough to implement the package.

Course registration

Part of the process was to develop a RPL/RCC package, assisted by Tafe. Also a number of sample assessment instruments had to be developed for the registration process.

No learning resources were developed at this stage because the training package implementation guidelines maps the new standards to the 1995 curriculum. It was felt that the RPL/RCC package and the existing resources would be sufficient to get things underway, and this has proven to be the case.

Arts Training Queensland was very helpful during the registration process and John Ryan, CEO Arts Training Queensland, was able to come to Mackay on a number of occasions for information sharing sessions and to assess the registration application.

Delivery strategy

According to this plan, the first step in the delivery strategy was to conduct the RPL/RCC process and issue qualifications or statements of attainment for individual competencies achieved. This was to be followed by identifying skills gap and developing a training program. This again would be followed by assessment and the issues of outstanding qualifications.

That was the plan. However what ended up happening was that with the flexibility in enrolment, people are undertaking both RPL and assessment.

Information sharing sessions

While the development and registration processes were underway, information sharing sessions were held with the intending nine participants. A representative from Tafe facilitated the sessions on the practicality of enrolment and the RPL/RCC process. I spoke about the tutorial sessions, staff rotations for on the job experience and assessment.

Resistance and blockages in implementation

The staff were keen to get started and the actual pace of implementation became an issue. There was significant preparation time involved in developing the RPL/RCC packages, in the registration process and in writing assessment instruments. Explaining what a training package is, and how it differs from a traditional training course seems to be a difficult concept for people to come to terms with. The information sharing sessions were essential in overcoming this.

There is a significant need for more workplace assessors. While other staff have been cooperative in helping participants gather evidence of competency and arranging on the job experience, additional assessors would help streamline the process.

Benefits of the package

The library and information services training package was an excellent option for Mackay City Council Library Services because

* it bridged the gap for those participants wanting to study but not ready to undertake university study

* of its flexibility

* students can enrol in as few or as many competencies as they can manage

They work at their own pace, with no need to attend formal classes. It fits into whatever is happening in their lives.

Benefits to the organisation

It is relevant and `fits' the organisation. Delivering the training package on site means it can be tailored to suit the workplace and the participants.

There has been an improvement in morale. As the participants gain competencies through the RCC/RPL process they receive recognition for existing skills. The impact of this is important. More staff are talking about undertaking some form of study

A better informed workforce is developing as staff are gaining experience in working in other areas with which they are not so familiar. This has had a positive impact, with comments such as
 Now I understand why filling out the interlibrary loan card correctly is so

 I didn't realise what was involved in acquisitions section

All the participants have enrolled in `Train small groups', a core competency, and joined a main stream group at Tafe. In this way we were able to make use of existing resources and a training program for a competency that no one had the supporting evidence for recognition of prior learning.

The process of gathering evidence for competencies has made the participants really look at, and understand, their workplace processes.

Where to from here?

* The first group completed the training package in December 2000

* The extended package has potential within the region and elsewhere

* It should be used for library traineeships rather than the current national library traineeship, because it has the key advantages of relevancy and flexibility

Erica Nagle Manager Library Services Mackay City Council QLD

Received December 2000

Erica Nagle BA(Lis) has been the Manager Library Services, Mackay City Council Library Service since 1999. Prior to this she was Technical Services Librarian, a position she came to from a training role at Central Queensland Institute of Tafe-Mackay campus. Her experience in an adult learning environment has led to a strong commitment to lifelong learning. Address: Mackay City Council PO Box 41 Mackay Qld 4740 Tel(07)49684516
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:presentation at a national Culture Research Education and Training Enterprise Australia workshop, Canberra
Author:Nagle, Erica
Publication:Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Dec 1, 2000

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