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Always Learning

by Loretta Dunne

As twenty-first century librarians, one of our main tasks is to learn: learn about new technologies, new ways of locating and delivering information, and even new ways of being librarians. Some of that learning comes from reading, keeping up with your colleagues and participating in seminars and workshops at a local level or at national conferences.

Where do you turn when you decide it is time to add new skills or knowledge to your repertoire and you want more extensive knowledge than you might gain in a two-hour or one-day workshop? What is your own learning style? Do you do best learning on your own, on your own timetable? Or do you find that a formal, in-person class helps to push you along and challenge you? The learning method you choose might depend on the subject area itself – some lend themselves to thorough study while others require less time to get you moving in the right direction.

There are more and more learning options for librarians, just as there continues to be new subjects to learn.

Classes

One possibility is to take online classes offered by library associations. The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) of the ALA offers courses including web design, copyright and teaching portfolios, http://www.ala.org/ala/acrl/acrlproftools/elearning.htm. The ACRL also has several immersion programs that allow participants to focus on a subject for four and a half days. They include the Information Literacy Immersion program and the ACRL/Harvard Leadership Institute for Academic Librarians. See http://www.ala.org/ACRLTemplate.cfm.

RUSA (Reference and User Services Association of the ALA), has courses such as reader’s advisory, reference basics and marketing for librarians.

The Special Libraries Association (SLA) offers a wide range of classes through its Click University.

Another option is to take library training from an educational company. Kovacs is one such company, and their offerings include a course on Instructional Design for Web-Based Learning.

Technical skills are important to librarians and there are many ways to increase those. Ed2go has a group of Computer and Technology online courses for $119.00. You can learn basic HTML, Graphic Designs, Database skills and more at http://www.ed2go.com/. If you learn best in an in-person, structured situation, a local community college can be a good place to take courses in technology and Microsoft tools.

What about taking an education course or two if an important part of your tasks includes information literacy? It is rare that education courses are part of the MLS, although today’s trends make teaching almost a required skill.

Certificates

You might decide that a more formal course of study will provide you with the knowledge and, perhaps, credentials that you would like to establish in a specific discipline.

The Click University has recently started offering certificates in competitive intelligence, http://sla.learn.com.

O’Reilly, the publisher of many well-respected technology books, is now provides a number of web development and web programming courses online, http://www.oreillylearning.com. A student can take a few courses or opt to complete one of the web related certificates that they are offering in association with the University of Illinois.

The American Library Association - Allied Professional Association (ALA-APA) is now offering a Certified Public Library Administrator (CPLA) program. The CPLA program is a voluntary post-MLS certification program for public librarians with three years or more of supervisory experience.

Webjunction has many courses for information professionals. They also offer the Synchronous Learning Expert Certification. This certificate teaches how to design and facilitate live online training.

Post-Master’s Graduate Courses

You could take a graduate course in Library and Information Studies that you always wanted to take but couldn’t fit into your schedule when you received your degree. If you are not local to a university that has a library science program, the online options are extensive. U.S. News & World Report has a list of online MLS programs at http://www.usnews.com/usnews/edu/elearning/tables/lib_reg.htm.

A number of Library and Information programs now offer post-master’s options. Drexel University offers a Post-Master’s Certificate of Advanced study. Other examples of schools that have a Post-Master’s certificate include The University of South Florida, East Carolina University and Indiana University; you may find that your own alma mater has such a program. Such certificates enable a librarian to specialize in a specific area or to refresh their credentials.

Continuing Your Education

Learning something new can make your job fresh, as well as increase your value to your current employer. Also, a deeper understanding of an issue or strengthened skills can move your resume to the top of the pile if you decide to seek a new position. Take any approach you like – the pragmatic or the inspired – just continue learning.

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