WebJunction Experience: Self-paced Courses

The WebJunction Course Catalog is a treasure trove of library-specific learning

Kathleen Gesinger /

As much as libraries are about information, they are just as much about people. Interacting with lots and lots of people. Is it any surprise that the two most-viewed self-paced courses in the WebJunction Course Catalog are Dealing with Angry Patrons and Extreme Customer Service, Every Time? It gives us hope that, even though there are a number of frustrated or angry patrons, there are literally thousands of library staff actively looking to better serve those patrons. Library staff are finding ways to diffuse challenging interactions and get to the root of someone's information need, even if that need is just to be heard and seen in the moment.

While WebJunction has always served public libraries, we didn't always provide free access to self-paced courses such as these two popular ones. The change to free and open to all happened in 2014, when we shifted our approach to meet the needs of everyone interested in better serving libraries and the communities that rely on library services. Thanks to the generous support of OCLC, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and many state library agencies across the U.S., WebJunction broadly opened our course catalog with a focus on library-specific content. Including the wide range of webinar archive recordings, our course catalog is focused on library-specific learning that you won't find through other self-paced course providers.

If you don't have a WebJunction Course Catalog account, create one today! It's fast and free!

The Value of Self-paced Content

We frequently hear from library staff that lack of time or funds to attend in-person training is a large barrier to learning. We know how energizing face-to-face training can be, and we also know that busy schedules and tight budgets call for additional ways to learn. Self-paced courses provide an opportunity to explore new learning experiences from within your library, allow you to go at your own pace and on your own schedule. With focused topics and opportunities for interaction and reflection, you can find bursts of time at your desk or sofa to explore new topics and build confidence. Additionally, you have access to downloadable resources or tools that complement the course content and help you put your learning into practice.

It's like Reading a Book, but Better!

Often, our self-paced courses are divided into chapters that allow you to read and interact with the screen. Depending on the course, you may also include your own reflections or work through knowledge checks or scenarios where you're asked to consider "what would you do?" We have a wide-range of content contributors who have provided applicable, library-specific content with ideas you can try as soon as you log off and get back to the floor.

The learning approach behind self-paced courses is almost like having a personal tutor help you navigate your learning. Unlike attending an in-person class or workshop, you decide the pace and the direction of the content. You can often select the sections you'd like to review first and swing back to the other sections to fully complete the course.

There's no right or wrong way to take a self-paced course! It's about your learning experience and what catches your attention. Of course, just like all other forms of learning, what you put into your learning really dictates what you get out of it.

Find Your Learning Flow

While everyone learns in a different way, or at a different pace, there are some basic things everyone can do to encourage a positive learning experience. Below are some suggestions for getting started and getting the most out of your self-paced learning.

Put time on your calendar for learning. Just as you'd make sure to block out time for an in-person training or workshop, be intentional with your learning time. Can you find one hour a month to commit to your own learning? Book that time on your calendar and honor that commitment.

Find a location that meets your needs. The constant hum of a busy library is proof of active learning. For some, that background noise is music to learning ears. For others, it can be distracting. If you haven't already, consider the type of environment that you need to learn and make a plan to spend quality time focused on your learning.

Focus on your learning. As tempting as it can be to multitask, many reports suggest that busy, distracted learning is not effective learning. A focused half hour will be more effective than an interrupted two hours of learning. While it runs contrary to much of our daily reality, close your email, put your phone away and close social media.

Share what you learned. One of the best ways to cement your learning is to put your learning into practice. Reflect on the top three lessons you took away from a course and what you'd like to try out first. Sharing these lessons and your excitement to try out something new with others in the library can reinforce your learning and engage others too.

Support your colleagues in their learning. We know that not everyone feels supported in their learning. Consider ways you can support others as they focus on their learning. If you are a supervisor, could you cover the desk for someone for one hour while they focus on learning? Finding a partner to support professional learning and growth is a win-win for all staff involved. No matter your position, consider who in your library you work well with and how you could support each other in meeting your learning goals.

Online learning has found its way into our day-to-day routines, whether that's through social media outlets, online videos and presentations, or live-stream meetings or trainings. Adding self-paced content into your personal learning plan is one way to show initiative and build skills that can make you happier at work. WebJunction strives to provide that positive influence and is continuing to build new content to help library staff thrive and look ahead to the new promises, or challenges, yet to come.

We've also shared information about other ways (or modes) to learn at WebJunction and other examples of how these modes can be optimized to represent a piece of your robust library learning pie. Learn more in WebJunction Experience: Webinars and WebJunction Experience: Blended Learning Strengthens Library Practice.

"I manage a small rural public library far from any college where my staff could take a continuing education course. It is fabulous that WebJunction offers so many relevant online courses — we all enjoy learning new things and enjoy staying up to date with library issues." — respondent from 2016 survey  

Quick reference on little known things about our course catalog

  • ALL courses are FREE.
  • Setting up an account takes just a few seconds and is also free.
  • Once you finish the course, you'll be able to download a certificate of completion.
  • You can track your learning with your free account. All courses you've started and paused or completed are found under "my courses."
  • The WebJunction Course Catalog contains both self-paced courses and webinar recordings, so all your learning opportunities are located in one place.

"As funding challenges continue for libraries, it is increasingly difficult to send library staff to paid programming, regardless of how useful or relevant it is. WebJunction plays a very important role in helping library staff grow and stay motivated." - respondent from 2016 survey