Gale Courses online learning for public libraries

Keeping Pace in Your Career (and Life) with Gale Courses

Posted on January 21, 2016

By Mary Kelly and Holly Hibner

Personal and professional development is one of the least-served but most important aspects of anyone’s job. This is especially true in the world of libraries. Serving library patrons depends on library staff being up-to-date in a variety of subjects. Ask any librarian out there on the front lines of service and all will agree that keeping up to date in everything from technology to the latest best seller is essential!

My personal struggle as a librarian is finding time to sit down and learn something. I don’t always know what I need to learn or how to approach a topic. This is especially difficult when talking about technology skills. Even when I feel good about my own tech skills, I know there are things out there that I don’t know and probably should. Wandering aimlessly, googling answers, and watching YouTube videos are usually how I start learning something. It can be done, but it isn’t pretty and it isn’t efficient. Enter Gale Courses.

Gale Courses are six-week, instructor-led online classes on a variety of subjects. The lessons are released twice a week, so you can keep up (or even get a bit behind and catch up!) and finish the lessons at your own pace and schedule. The lessons often include text, video, interactive games, and images to cater to all learning styles.

The catalog of courses ranges from creative writing, test preparation, computers, and personal growth. There is no course that can’t benefit those of us in the “helping people” business. Professionally, I have been able to expand my web development skills, try some coding projects, and really learn the ins and outs of the Microsoft Office Suite. Gale has got me covered.

I have taken four courses from the Gale Courses line-up, and have not been disappointed. My first course was Creating WordPress Websites II. As a librarian with website duties, being current on web development and maintenance is critical. This WordPress class was structured as step by step. At the end of a six-week class, I had created a new website and was able to put so much of the course into immediate practice.

The other courses I have taken in the course catalog operated similarly. There is enough theory and background to give one a framework and starting point, but the emphasis is on real life examples and situations. The course is presented in reasonably-sized bites, so even the busiest among us can still learn.

The instructor relationship is one of the key features of the courses. Each instructor promptly answers questions and you can even get feedback from other students. The responsiveness of the instructors is what sets this type of virtual instruction apart from other tutorials or video presentations. As a student, I always felt like I was a part of a real class.

Aside from professional development, it is also a great service to give provide library patrons. The variety of course options are particularly expansive; there are course options for:

  • Personal development such as investing, gardening, writing, and other artistic skills
  • Topics in health and wellness and job hunting
  • Students looking for exam preparation or improving English and math

The variety of options for everyone is astounding. I have had a large number of patrons ask about Windows 8, which my library has not yet upgraded to. Being able to suggest Introduction to Windows 8 via Gale Courses allows me to refer patrons to a quality training experience that I can’t yet provide in-house. Similarly, my library offers beginning computer classes on Microsoft Office Suite products, but we don’t have the staff time, computer lab space, or expertise to go beyond the basics in our on-site classes. Gale Courses on these Microsoft products delve deeper into the software, providing a perfect environment for our patrons to become more proficient than through library instruction alone. It’s the perfect companion to library technology instruction!

For me, even subjects I had never thought about are now on my list of future courses to take. I am planning on a repeat of the Creating WordPress Websites II class (just to review and plug holes in my memory) as well as Intermediate Microsoft Excel 2013. My library recently upgraded to Microsoft Excel 2013, and the last time Microsoft “upgraded” something, I spent a week looking for buttons. This time I am going to be proactive!

I would also like to improve my coding and web development skills. Introduction to PHP and MySQL is another class on my to-do list. There isn’t a profession anywhere that couldn’t benefit from the class offerings in Gale Courses. Patrons and staff all have an opportunity to go beyond “dabbling” and really improve their professional skill set. There is no excuse not to pursue additional training with the Gale Courses. I don’t know of any working person out there that wouldn’t benefit from the selection of training.

New classes are added frequently. Right now there are over 300 offerings of various depth and skill levels. I have a feeling as long as Gale is adding new classes, I will be adding to my Gale “to-do” course list. Every time I complete a course, I feel a bit sharper and better able to serve my staff and patrons. Join me in the Gale Courses and become a better librarian and a better human.

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[alert-info]Holly Hibner Mary Kelly

About the Authors

Holly is the Adult Services Coordinator at the Plymouth District Library in Plymouth, MI. She has a mild obsession with collection quality (ok, maybe not so mild) and can be found at the Readers’ Advisory desk dreaming up read-alikes.

Mary is the Youth Services Librarian at the Lyon Township Public Library in South Lyon, MI. She, too, is obsessed with collection quality, and has taken it up a notch with never ending shelf lists, spreadsheets, and inventory. Mary has a special knack for linking books to readers of all ages.

Together Mary and Holly are the authors of “Making a Collection Count: a holistic approach to library collection management.” They also tweet at @awfullibbooks and blog at


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