Monday, August 19, 2013

A New Take on Professional Development

This post originally appeared on Information Space, the blog of the iSchool at Syracuse University, on 10 February 2012.

Even as a library student, “professional development” seems to have an ominous ring to it. Visions of mediocre webinars and uninspired speakers compete with the certainty that professional development will be expected, even required, as we move into the library field. However, that sort of thinking is outmoded. Change your expectations, and professional development becomes diverse, interesting, and something to get excited about.
Take Advantage of Learning Opportunities
Every profession has a skill set; in library-land, these skills include community relations, reference, and library advocacy; web development, blogging, and other virtual ventures; organizational and cataloguing skills; and dozens more! While there might be certain minimum standards for entry, even professions that require advanced education don’t expect practitioners to know everything right off the bat. Professional development should supplement your knowledge, build on your education, and keep you current within your field.
At Syracuse, there are myriad opportunities to explore. Lectures, brown-bags, student symposia–informal and formal concerts and talks are given nearly every day during the academic year. Other universities are much the same, and often their programs are accessible to the local community—check with your local college to see what might be offered!
Sharing Knowledge
Something I’ve noticed about librarians is their willingness to share with and teach each other, and that seems to hold true throughout long careers. That sharing “counts” as professional development, even if people don’t think of it that way. If you have a colleague you especially respect, find out if they’d share their insight with you.
Graduation, even from a terminal program like the M.S. in Library and Information Science, marks the beginning, not the end—after a basic foundation, where do you want to build? What interests haven’t been explored yet? The art of professional development lies in (re)discovering curiosity, and holding on to it for dear life. Once you’re curious, find people passionate about those topics to answer your questions, and the “professional development” will happen without you even noticing.

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