Professional Development 101

By Alexandra Janvey and Jaime McCurry

Librarianship is a rapidly changing profession, continuously evolving to keep pace with the invention of new technologies and the changing needs of its patrons. This is one of the major reasons professional development is critical for librarians. It allows them to be relevant and valuable members of the library science community. Participating in these opportunities is a vital tool for all librarians at any stage of their career. Whether they are experienced, new, or transitioning jobs, professional development is beneficial. It can help build transferable skills during the job search or provide the information and training required for a current position. Professional development has become a requirement for many positions and certifications. Ultimately, it is the librarian's responsibility to investigate and seek out available avenues of learning and growth in order to perform at their best. Working together and sharing ideas helps librarians face new challenges and adapt to the library's ever-changing nature. The following are some helpful ideas and methods for getting started with professional development.

Professional Organization Involvement
Involvement in professional organizations is essential, especially in such a collaborative and communal profession as librarianship. It's a great way to become immersed in the library science community and connect with other like-minded individuals. It allows librarians to share their ideas, stories, knowledge, and what they're doing at their own organizations with one another. No matter what committee or organization you might get involved with, you will always learn something new. It's also the perfect opportunity to develop your soft skills, which are critical to personal and professional growth. Some examples of the soft skills that you could improve upon with professional organization involvement are problem solving, collaboration, communication, interpersonal skills, outreach, and leadership. There are numerous organizations that could match your interests and desired career path. Many of these organizations also offer discounted memberships for students and individuals at transitional points in their career.

Continuing Education
This is another wonderful professional development prospect. Continuing education encompasses a wide variety of learning opportunities including conferences, workshops, webinars, and classes. It's learning at the most fundamental level and receiving training in the skills that you need in order to become a more well-rounded professional. These events and classes are also a great way to stay abreast of new technologies and keep up with the latest trends.

You can find out about continuing education events in various ways. Most professional organizations and their local chapters post the events they hold on their website calendars. These professional organization websites are a great resource to see if there are any upcoming events that you are interested in attending and for details on how you can register. Pricing will vary depending on the type and organizer of the event, but some will hold these events at a discounted price or even free for members. Even the large, national professional organizations will occasionally make their webinars free to everyone, including non-members.

Additional Resources
Social media, listservs, and e-discussion groups are also great ways for discovering continuing education events. Professional organizations regularly use social media to announce their upcoming events. Make sure to follow those professional organizations you belong to on social media, as well as any other organization that may hold events you're interested in attending. Notices for continuing education events are usually posted on relevant listservs, so make sure you're subscribed to receive the information. Social media itself can also be used for continuing education. These online tools are a good way to keep up with trends, news, and networking. Use social media to interact with the members of the professional community as their opinions and recommendations can be valuable.

Conducting research and asking questions is one of the best ways to discover all the various continuing education opportunities available. If money is an issue, there are also plenty of low-cost and free options available. For both local and national conferences, look into grant and scholarship opportunities. There will often be some kind of scholarship that will either cover the cost of attendance or offer a discounted price. It's also a good idea to save and keep track of all continuing education event certificates to ensure a record exists. This will be useful if professional development hours are required for certification, employment, or if you simply wish to place these events on your resume and portfolio when applying to jobs.

Try to avoid limiting yourself to librarian-focused continuing education. Librarianship is a diverse profession that often overlaps with other fields, so don't be afraid to think outside of the box when looking into the different training opportunities. Many skills are easily transferable to the library world. The more unique a skill is, the greater the chance of standing out in the job search or the work place. Some examples of non-librarian focused continuing education that could be worthwhile are grant writing, writing, web design, time management, public speaking, project management, critical thinking, and marketing.

Develop your own approach to professional development that fits closely with your interests. Professional development is done on your personal time, so it helps to be interested and passionate about the work you get involved in. Keep an open mind when it comes to trying different classes or attending different types of events. Give something new a try because you might actually wind up enjoying it. While it is good to be involved and connected with the librarian community, don't overextend yourself. Get involved and devote your available energy to a few chosen commitments at a time. Remember, professional development is completed in addition to having a job, family, and other regular responsibilities. It's supposed to be an advantageous activity, not an exhausting burden. Managed right, professional development is an exciting way to enrich one's career as well as open up new opportunities for networking and advancement.

Alexandra Janvey is a librarian and archivist at Long Island University. Visit her online portfolio.

Jaime McCurry is a recent graduate of the Palmer School at Long Island University. Learn more by visiting her LinkedIn profile.