Information and Learning Resource Centres in Industry
Gathering and updating information
Offering learning possibilities
Critical Success Factors
Physical design of the information and learning resource centre
Checklist for information and learning resource centres
Information and learning resource centres play a key role in the formation of learning opportunities in companies. We understand with this centre a facility collecting crucial information and learning resources to be used flexibly by the employees. Thus these information and learning resource centres must be placed close to the employees with an easy access.
The information and learning resource centres are the key places to find the right and appropriate technical information as well as learning materials for the professional development for employees. The idea of these centres relies strongly on the idea of open access to information and learning.
Usually the information and learning resource centre is a one room facility within the office. It should also be stressed that the continuous maintenance of the information and learning resource centre is as crucial as the proper founding of the centre itself.
2 Gathering and updating information
The first important part in the work of a information and learning resource centre is to establish a "one-stop" information service for the employees. In many cases much of the needed information for effective day-to-day operations already exist within the branch, but there is not available a clear tracking method for the materials.
In addition to the company-specific and business-specific information there exists much of public information, such as legislation, safety regulations, national standards etc. It is also important that such information is displayed and offered through the information and learning resource centre.
The information resource function is not a one-time-off activity; the competitiveness of every company requires also continuous maintenance and updating of the information resources at the information and learning resource centre level.
The other key question is open access of the employees to all technical information they need to undertake their jobs. This aspect should be taken strongly into consideration when designing the opening hours of the centre and the policy of the use of the centre.
And thirdly it is important that someone within the branch has the main responsibility of retrieving new information as well as updating and maintaining existing information.
3 Offering learning possibilities
The other main function of the centres, in addition to the effective information provision, is the function of a learning centre. As stated earlier, the main denominator is competence. There are different methods to reach competence within work: it can be reached reading the technical manual, by discussion with colleagues, by studying. However, it is obvious that the rapidly changing environment is not permitting the use of lengthy training programmes outside the daily job - this tendency will favour learning which is linked with the job and learning which is triggered by the problems faced during the daily work performance.
In many companies the shift has changed clearly from classroom-based training towards more adequate learning forms, in particular to the "any time - any place" learning mode (see figure 2 - source KOMunity Software).
The other dimension in the learning centres is the active provision of learning opportunities by learning needs identified by the individual employees or together by the front-line employee and supervisor. The different resources for learning at the information and learning resource centres have been displayed in figure 3.
For the effective use of open learning methods, one must not in particular produce own open learning materials. In many countries generic learning materials (in technical areas such as electronics, mechanics as well as in other areas, such as customer service, quality etc.) can be found also in open learning format. In many countries there are also national databases or resource centres which provide information of the available open learning materials.
4 Critical Success Factors
According to the experience in many companies , it is likely that there are four different success factors, which all must be present for successful learning
environment within the company. These factors include:
• learning materials and learning equipment
• physical arrangements
We have discussed the different forms of the learning and information resource centres in previous chapters. Enclosed you will find a checklist of the crucial aspects in design and running of a information and learning resource centre.
5 Physical design of the information and learning resource centre
There are many design aspects to be taken into consideration of the technical design of the centre. These include, for instance,
• the location of the centre within the office
• storage capacity and storage facilities in the centre
• furnishing of the centre
• technical equipment within the centre.
Usually the information and learning resource centres within the company office can not satisfy the learning needs of larger groups at the same time. However, the information and learning resource centre should be able to facilitate 3-4 persons simultaneously, although they must work with different resource.
for information and learning resource centres
Access and support
Information and learning resource centre has been placed appropriately within the company
Management has agreed on the terms of utilisation of the information and learning resource centre
Supervisors have been trained to guide the use of the information and learning resource centre
Hours of operation have been agreed upon
• general opening hours
• special arrangements of groups with alterating working hours
Facilitators and supporters have been appointed
• technical experts
• other supporters
Employees have been informed of the principles of the centre,
opening hours and access
• small group orientation
• branch newsletter
• continuous flow of information - new releases etc.
Practice has been established on how to inform of the new resources of the centre for the employees
Practice has been established on how to update and maintain the information resources within the centre
Proper cataloguing system has been established for the different resources available
Interior decoration is feasible for learning and information retrieval purposes
• tables, chairs, cabinets
Storage space is sufficient for information and learning materials
• open shelves for freely accessible material, cabinets for computer programs, video tapes etc.
Lighting and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) are appropriate
Electric needs have been fulfilled (enough electric outlets for computers, VCRs, TV, spot lights etc.)
Needed media are available with proper and clear operating instructions
• VCR and TV
• PC with a modem
• audiocassette recorder
• photocopying machine
• other media (such as IVI)
Technical support is available at the branch for the hardware
• hardware maintenance
• hardware user support
Information and learning materials
Mechanism has been created on
• collecting all important company documentation
• updating all important company documentation
Mechanism has been created on collecting information materials of competitors and other actors on the field
Collection of appropriate information and learning materials has been set for use
• information materials
• learning materials
Mechanism has been created to assess the needs for information and learning materials
Cooperation potential has been investigated with other local actors, such as local technical schools and colleges, libraries and local learning resource centres