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!
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