Director of Digital Services, Gail Borden Public Library District, Elgin, IL
MLIS, Dominican University, 2008
Photo by Nancy Vallardes
After 15 years as a corporate trainer, says Monica Dombrowski, “I decided what I really wanted to do was teach people something…that would have a direct impact on their quality of life.” That decision took her to library school and Illinois’s Gail Borden Public Library District, where she turned her training background to educating her patrons, from beginners to the tech savvy.
Dombrowski also noticed that other public librarians were in need of training and a basic tech curriculum for their own patrons. That was the impetus for her to develop Gail’s Toolkit (named for her library). It’s an online portal providing outlines, presentations, and handouts for tech classes in public libraries; the model is based on adult education theory that employs easy-to-re-create lesson plans. The classes can be adapted to any library with any staff size, no matter the technology on hand. It’s become a global resource for librarians, with more than 25,000 page views and 4,200 site visitors, from its launch on September 30, 2015, to the end of 2016.
“The idea…seems simple, but it’s revolutionary,” says Carolyn Coulter, director of the PrairieCat Library Consortium/RAILS (Reaching Across Illinois Library System) network (RAILS sponsors the toolkit website). “[Now] librarians anywhere can download the materials, train themselves, and deliver a program to patrons.”
For Dombrowski, the toolkit seems like a no-brainer. “How can we use our skills, talents, and resources to help those who feel intimidated by technology to feel confident and excited?” she asks. “The thing I’m most passionate about is developing people…. Everyone should have someone along the way who is cheering them on.”