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How To Reduce Scrap Learning In Training: Take It From Librarians, We Know Scrap When We See It

When it comes to our collections, great public librarians are like great Instructional Designers: We keep them current, relevant, appealing, and responsive to our communities. Keeping our collections useful and looking good means we have to get rid of things though. That’s right: Public libraries throw books away. Here is how to reduce scrap learning in your training.
How To Reduce Scrap Learning In Training: Take It From Librarians; We Know Scrap When We See It

Reducing Scrap Learning In Learning And Development 

Why should Instructional Designers should take advice from librarians when it comes to reducing scrap learning? Because librarians know scrap when we see it.

Public librarians can be brutal. We don’t cling to every single item that we ever bought or anybody ever donated. We don’t have the shelf space or the server space for everything under the sun.  Shelf space and server space are commodities for us, just like any business’s time or money. And, as publicly funded entities, we generally don’t have much of either. So, yes, we weed (i.e. discard) materials from our collections.

Cue the public outcry:

“Why would you get rid of Master Plots?!”

“You’re just going to toss out a set of encyclopedias?!”

“For the love of Melvil Dewey, THIS IS A LIBRARY!!!”

Scrap Learning: Scrap’s Content Component

When we weed our library collections, our patrons enjoy a less cluttered, more pleasing environment, and there is increased physical space for the materials they want.

Jeannette Larson (2008) describes the benefits public libraries enjoy as a result of weeding:

  • More room for folks to enjoy their community space and everything therein.
  • Patrons and staff spend less time searching for what they need because everything isn’t crammed in so tight (which is also damaging!).
  • Our collections look more modern and well cared for, overall.
  • We earn a reputation for “reliability and currency and build public trust”.
  • We Continuously Review, Evaluate, and Weed (that’s CREW, to those “in the biz”) to keep up with our collections’ condition and inventory.

Our patrons share their comments, feedback, and requests with us, all of which are helpful when libraries are making purchasing decisions. Larson’s perfect example: “Knowing that the business books are out-of-date, the librarian can approach an organized group or an individual and request specific assistance in building an area of special interest and usefulness to them.” (You heard it: We don’t shush people anymore. We are your community partners, and we LOVE to know how we can serve and support you!)

Aren’t these old books so quaint? Wait though. Where are the New York Times Best Sellers? Like, the things people come here for?

Aren’t these old books so quaint? Wait though. Where are the New York Times Best Sellers? Like, the things people come in here for?

beautiful usable library

See the difference here from above? So browser-friendly!

When we reduce scrap learning in training:

  1. There is more class time for group discussion, practicing, planning, and identifying opportunities for collaboration back on the job.
  2. Training is right there when and where learners need it.
  3. Training materials are not woefully unattractive.
  4. The content is exactly what learners need, the results are exactly what the business needs, and positive changes occur across the organization.
  5.  Software and related accouterments stay up-to-date.
  6. Frequent communication keeps trainers, learners, and managers on the same page.

So, how do we reduce scrap learning? With CREW: Continuous Review, Evaluation, and Weeding, of course! The CREW Method outlines 6 criteria to consider when evaluating our collections, and those are MUSTIE (Larson 2008).

MUSTIE items are those that may be weeded if they are:

  • = Misleading (and/or factually inaccurate).
  • U = Ugly (worn and beyond mending or rebinding).
  • S = Superseded (by a truly new edition or by a much better book on the subject).
  • = Trivial (of no discernible literary or scientific merit; usually of ephemeral interest at some time in the past).
  • = Irrelevant to the needs and interests of your community.
  • = The material or information may be obtained expeditiously Elsewhere through interlibrary loan, reciprocal borrowing, or in electronic format.

Could there be anything MUSTIE in your training? 

  • Instructions for processes or technology nobody uses anymore? (Misleading!) 
  • Unattractive clip art looking graphics or training videos with obnoxious muzak? (Ugly!) 
  • Manuals with outdated policies? (Superseded!)  
  • Activities just for the sake of doing an activity? (Trivial!)  
  • Content that doesn’t relate to business outcomes? (Irrelevant!)  
  • Long-winded, overly verbose explanations for procedures that could be replaced with short, just-in-time video? (Elsewhere!)

As you evaluate your content, methods, and objectives, why not think like a great public librarian and keep your eye out for what’s MUSTIE to reduce scrap learning? Are you spending your or your customers’ time on anything that is misleading, ugly, superseded, trivial, irrelevant, or available elsewhere?

Scrap’s Customer Component

In Learning and Development, our customers are our learners and the businesses whose outcomes our training has to optimize. As business needs change, Instructional Designers must adapt their content, methods, and objectives, in response.

I may be biased, but I don’t know who understands changes in customer needs better than librarians do. Google has not replaced us though, and here’s why: We are working hard all the time to keep up with and, ideally, stay ahead of our customers’ needs.

How, you ask? You can bet we’ve got a nice, neat, organized system for that too. Project Outcome, for example, is a research and data-informed initiative of the Public Library Association that guides public libraries across the country in using patron surveys to measure and analyze results from their programs and services in Civic/Community Engagement, Digital Inclusion, Early Childhood Literacy, Economic Development, Education/Lifelong Learning, Job Skills, and Summer Reading.

We are methodical and purposeful and, boy, do we like things orderly. If you’ve heard the rumors though that librarians are out and about town, asking their customers how they can best support them, the rumors are true. We have common goals with you, Instructional Designers and eLearning professionals. Come on in and meet us. Or, better yet, find us embedded in your community.

A caveat: Hands off those banned books though. If you think we’re weeding out Slaughterhouse-FiveThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, or And Tango Makes Three, umm, no.

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