How can Public Libraries overcome Geographic Distance?

I work in a public library. I love public libraries.

I consider myself a learning professional. I want to learn things from people. Everyone.
A lacuna does sit between these two loves of mine, however. Training budgets? Well, no kidding. I know that training budgets are always an issue for most libraries and especially public libraries. But training budgets really cover instructional opportunities — like for-cost online programs, courses and the like. Ok. So I can’t just jump at every professional development opportunity I see and have my employer pay for it. That is not a huge thing. I’m willing to pay for the really important stuff.

No the lacuna is not budget oriented. The lacuna is geographic distance. Public library systems often cover huge expanses, with branches in rural, sub-urban and central urban areas. Each branch has a different clientele; a different look and feel; a different community that makes it what it is. This is a beautiful thing — a gold mine of an opportunity to learn diverse skills in diverse ways. Physical distance, however, means that internal networking opportunities are time consuming, expensive and ultimately, not often that effective.

Geographic distance must be common organizational learning issue for public libraries. I wonder if anyone out there has a strategy to manage organizational learning in sparse public library systems with no training budget.

E-Learning seems like one solution. Skype and collaborative software another. But how can an organization with a sparse geographic make-up support its employees in using these tools? Maybe the solution is to look outward rather than inward — ie. encourage personal blogging about professional issues. I hope there are people out there with ideas.

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