British Library

Reflecting on how we train new starters in web archiving

Web archiving is a niche area of expertise in the information management sector for both curatorial and technical staff. Professionals in this sector have built up their knowledge over time by learning on the job from colleagues and through research outputs disseminated through blog posts, academic papers and conference presentations. As there is no formal structure to introduce new staff members to web archiving, how these colleagues are trained depends on what resources individual institutions have to hand. The IIPC has worked on developing a collective approach to training within this sector but there are still gaps in our knowledge.[1]

At the British Library we use a range of strategies to train new starters and external partners we work with on building new collections as part of the UK Web Archive. When training new members of staff on the curatorial side we usually have a discussion first that gives the background to web archiving at the British Library, an overview of the UK Non-Print Legal Deposit Regulations that came into force in April 2013 and a walk through of our curatorial tool W3ACT. A reading list of relevant blog posts about working at the UK Web Archive and the technical limitations and possibilities to read during the course of the first week and a set of practice seeds to get more familiar with W3ACT. Once the staff member is more familiar with W3ACT they are given an overview of the Quality Assurance (QA) strategies used at the BL and put to task on a special project like doing QA and seeking open access permissions for a curated collection or a subsection of a large curated collection. It is only recently that this process has become more formalised with additional materials being produced to compliment the original support materials such as the W3ACT User Guide. We have produced a comprehensive QA Guide for internal use and are working on developing training videos over the course of this year. The technical staff at the British Library work in a separate department to the curatorial staff and go through a different training process. Most of the training is on the job, complimented with documentation on the internal wiki pages and there are plans to have more formal support materials developed over the next year that could also be used by curatorial staff.

There are lots of debates on whether or not there is such thing as different learning styles but one thing is certain is that people have preferences for how they like to communicate with each other. [2]

Most people when learning can relate to the Benjamin Franklin quote ‘tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn’. [3]

It can be very challenging to find the most effective way to involve a trainee in web archiving and transfer your specialist knowledge. However, before taking on new strategies it is important to understand your own beliefs on training and what actions you currently take when training new staff. Reflecting on these points can help you to become more aware of any biases you may have in terms of preferred training delivery style which could be contradictory to what the trainee really needs.

This is an introductory workshop on how reflective practice can improve our work practices. This workshop will reflect on what are the positive and negative methods participants use when they are training new staff members on web archiving. As well as, how they can assess the success of this training whether it be a formal or informal review at the end of a probation period, a mid-year review or for a mandatory Performance Management Review (PMR).

One definition of reflection is that ‘it is a basic part of teaching and learning. It aims to make you more aware of your own professional knowledge and action by ‘challenging assumptions of everyday practice and critically evaluating practitioners’ own responses to practice situations’. The reflective process encourages you to work with others as you can share best practice and draw on others for support. Ultimately, reflection makes sure all students learn more effectively as learning can be tailored to their needs’. [4]

By being more aware of what we do and why we do it, we can create a trainee centred learning environment. This workshop will have the following outcomes:

  1. Participants will become more aware of their current practice of training new staff.
  2. Participants will learn from colleagues what strategies have worked or not worked in the past.
  3. Participants will develop their reflective practice skills that they can apply to other elements of their work practices.
  4. The main discussion points that come out of this workshop will be written up in a blog post that will be shared with the web archiving community. It is hoped that it can help inform the development of web archiving training materials.


[1] IIPC Training Working Group, formed in December 2017, http://netpreserve.org/about-us/working-groups/training-working-group/ (accessed January 3, 2018); IIPC Past projects, ‘How to fit in? Integrate a web archiving program in your organization’, http://netpreserve.org/projects/how-fit-integrate-web-archiving-program-your-organization/ (accessed January 3, 2018).
[2] The Atlantic, ‘The Myth of Learning Styles’, https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/04/the-myth-of-learning-styles/557687/ (accessed December 20, 2018).
[3] Goodreads.com, ‘Benjamin Franklin > Quotes > Quotable Quote’, https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/21262-tell-me-and-i-forget-teach-me-and-i-may (accessed December 20, 2018).
[4] Cambridge International Education Teaching and Learning Team, ‘What is reflective practice?’ https://www.cambridge-community.org.uk/professional-development/gswrp/index.html (accessed December 20, 2018).

Workshop: Reflecting on how we train new starters in web archiving