The Guerrilla Training Method

You’ve heard about Guerrilla Storytimes, but did you know the guerrilla training method can be adapted for all your library training needs?


Traditional trainings are top-down in style. That means the library pays an “expert” to provide skills training to staff. Frequently, these “experts” are no longer practitioners—they do not work for a library, and they have no, or limited, current on-the-ground experience with what is going on in library services. Yet they are at the library imparting “expertise” that may or may not be relevant to what libraries are doing now.


And that just doesn’t cut it when it comes to meaningful professional development. Staff who attend these trainings can have all sorts or responses to these expert trainers and their content:

  • “What does this have to do with my job?” – This person feel frustrated by having to attend a training that does really relate to what they do at the library.
  • “When’s lunch?” – Talk about not being engaged in the training!
  • “Cool ideas!” – Someone will always get something useful out of a training (although the goal is for lots of people to get something out of it).
  • “I could lead this training and it would be so much better.” – It’s a horrible feeling to be sitting in a training only to hear the trainer talk about doing things that a) you already do, and feel you do better; or b) would not work for your community. So frustrating.


So let me pose this question: Why are we stifling in-house talent?! Everyone with a library job has expertise to share about their position. Everyone. That means you’re sitting on a goldmine of best practices, but all your really great expertise is stuck in the spectator seats in traditional trainings.


So use all your staff expertise! Guerrilla styles of professional development get library staff sharing and collaborating. You’re tapping the resources you already have and allowing colleagues to learn from one another, build off of one another’s work, and scaffold best practices to be really excellent.


Guerrilla trainings are different. The content of a guerrilla training is largely determined by the attendees. Sure, you’ll want to have a broad theme: say, storytime (this whole idea is inspired by the Guerrilla Storytime model of the Storytime Underground, after all). You know your topic is storytime, but attendees determine the content of the training. If attendees want to talk about movement songs, they can. If they want to talk about troubleshooting caregivers who don’t interact with their kids, they can. Guerrilla trainings are collaborative and thrive on feedback and participation from attendees, and when attendees—your in-house experts—speak up, they set the course for the training content and provide tremendous peer-learning.


In guerrilla-style trainings, your staff are much more engaged, empowered, and intellectually fulfilled. Suddenly all these attendees are having much more positive reactions to the training:

  • “My library cares about what I do here!” – By offering trainings that are, by design, only ever about what is really happening in the work of attendees, those attendees know that the library administration understands and values the work they do.
  • “Sharing is fun!” – Learning from someone who you know does a similar job as you do is much more enjoyable than hearing a former practitioner “expert” condescend to tell you how to do things.
  • “These ideas are tubular!” – Like I said, someone will always get something useful out of a training. The goal is for everyone to feel like they’re walking away with lots to think about. Professional development that is relevant to the work happening in your library is the quickest way to accomplish that.
  • “I have something valuable to offer!” – When you ask your staff to directly participate in guerrilla-style trainings, they get to use their voices. They get to share their ideas. As a result, two things happen: 1) staff feel like the library appreciates what they bring to the organization; and 2) staff realize that they, too, are experts in their fields. That is extremely empowering.


So empower your staff! They’ll be happier, more engaged in their jobs, and feel more connected to the library and the work they do.


And save money! When you use lots of in-house talent to source the content of trainings—people already on your payroll—you don’t have to spend big bucks bringing in outside trainers. These traditional trainers can cost libraries a lot, from the training fees to lodging to travel and mileage…not to mention paying staff to attend. Since you’re already paying staff to attend trainings, have them lead the trainings. It just makes sense.


Go guerrilla for professional development! Make your professional development more meaningful, more empowering, and better for everyone involved.


Does the guerrilla training method work beyond just storytimes and early literacy services? You bet! In fact, professionals across the US have started adapting the guerrilla methodology for other aspects of librarianship. Examples include:


If you’d like more information about Guerrilla Trainings, or want to talk about how you might adopt the methodology for your library training needs, let us know! We’re happy to talk about the methodology via email; just drop us a line at storytimeunderground (at) gmail (dot) com.


And if you do use a guerrilla framework for your library training, we ask that you cite it thusly: This guerrilla training method was created by Cory Eckert and pioneered in Guerrilla Storytimes facilitated by the Storytime Underground.

Guerrilla Storytime is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution:

Creative Commons License
Guerrilla Storytime by Cory Eckert is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at

Share this!Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook0Pin on Pinterest0Share on Google+0Share on Tumblr0Email this to someonePrint this page

Leave a Reply