Author’s Corner: Professional Development for Librarians

Welcome back to Author’s Corner! This series features excerpts or guest posts from authors of books about LIS careers. 

In this installment, we hear from Mary H. Moen and Sarah A. Buchanan, the editors of a book about keeping our skills sharp and our knowledge up to date. In addition to the stated benefit of a continuing education course, Moen and Buchanan point out some of the additional benefits for our career development. 

If you’re interested in reading beyond this post, the citation for the book is:

Moen, M. H. & Buchanan, S. A. (Eds.). (2020). Leading Professional Development: Growing Librarians for the Digital Age. Libraries Unlimited. 

Continuing education for library professionals is a shared endeavor of professional organizations, graduate schools, and employer libraries. Continuing education programs today have diverse characteristics and are ever-evolving as online learning networks, in-person workshops, study abroad immersions, service-learning coursework, digital badges, and combinations thereof. 

Skills Development: Where to Turn

Library professionals seeking to enhance their skills can choose from many source providers who specialize in teaching information literacy and/or serving one’s community through public programming. A set of papers engaging with recent initiatives was grouped for presentation in Denver, Colorado at the February 2018 ALISE Annual Conference – a key national venue for library education research (that was till then co-located with the ALA Midwinter Meeting). There, one of our audience members was Dr. Blanche Woolls who expressed her appreciation for the “necessary” research having been done about the initiatives’ educational contributions, and also her interest in seeing a “good, practical book on providing professional development.” Dr. Woolls provided steadfast guidance – and expert indexing – to our resulting editorial collaboration on Leading Professional Development (2020). Together we recruited authors and reviewers, ensured reviewer comments were addressed by authors, witnessed the emergence of new ideas, and contributed a preface reflecting thematically on the chapters in the current learning environment. When we returned page proofs on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 to our Editorial Project Manager, the global pandemic was just encroaching and soon it would redefine libraries the world over. Yet rereading the book in 2022-23 at the gracious invitation of Emily Weak now offers us many useful reminders of what specific learning activities might best serve one’s changing needs in our changing times – e.g., we have each recently graduated students whose entire MLIS education was completed online, and have taught others in both in-person and hybrid modalities. Each program or course offers everyone – student and teacher alike – a chance to incorporate the new “tips, ideas, and proven solutions” (Catherine Hakala-Ausperk in Public Libraries magazine 60.5, 2021) that are generously presented by the chapter authors.

Lifelong Learning Resources

In addition to choices in modality, new professionals can choose from providers for their learning experiences that may be based in universities like ours, in state and municipal workforce departments, and/or in professional societies. The introductory chapter establishes how the library profession sustains itself through the twin avenues of career development and outward-facing engagement. Its overview of the book demonstrates how each program, detailed further in an individual chapter, successfully engages the learner by “networking” them into community resources – including fellow professionals at all career levels – and encouraging learners’ continued engagement with pressing social and cultural issues. Four trends – digital technologies, practical tips, building community, and experiential learning – that are examined across the subsequent chapters facilitate productive transformations between the theory and practices of lifelong learning that we see as so central to modern librarianship. Today we appreciate the insights still to be gained from wider participation in such programs: both as presented and in the evolutions that have occurred since their writing and which are sure to continue. Given the ALA’s cumulative estimate that over 350,000 people work in paid library positions (per 2018 statistics), there is sufficient demand along each of the dimensions of modality, provider, and topic preference for many programs, including those discussed in the book, to be sustained and continue meeting future needs. We see a role for every kind of learner and provider in bettering both the world of libraries and the worlds they serve.

Dr. Moen is faculty in the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies, University of Rhode Island. She has been a school librarian and program director of the Media Smart Libraries program at URI:

Dr. Buchanan is faculty in the iSchool, University of Missouri. She has been a librarian and archivist and advises the Public Broadcasting Preservation Fellowship at MU: .

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