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Week 8: Professional Conferences

June 29, 2011

This week we’re addressing two topics that at first seem unrelated: budgets and professional conferences.  Dr. Currier’s lecture addresses both topics, while Dr. Alman’s recorded lecture addresses budgets. And, of course, your assigned readings for this week focus primarily on budgets.  So, in order to balance out this week’s materials, this week’s blog discussion will focus on professional development.

Professional development, as I mentioned in an earlier blog post, is a vital component of an librarian’s career, whether or not you’re in management.  In fact, it is usually a line item in library budgets (I guess we’re still talking about budgets after all!).  Unfortunately, despite the importance of developing and enhancing your knowledge, skills, and abilities, professional development money often is one of the first things that get cut in tight budget times.  A few years ago at Indiana University, the university cut travel funding in half, transforming my already meager travel fund into something even tinier.  I had to be creative about seeking ways to fund my professional development endeavors.  Fortunately, my director is very supportive, and he was able to find other ways of helping to fund my trips.  I also applied for campus grants from various faculty committees, which helped as well.  This made it possible for me to go to both LOEX and ACRL Immersion last year.

As an early career librarian, it is important to demonstrate a commitment to professional development and service as you navigate your career.  Join a professional association now, if you can, to take advantage of the student rates.  Join ALA, and join the appropriate divisions for your areas of interest (ACRL for academic librarians, PLA for public libraries, etc.).  Once you join ALA and the appropriate division, and any other sections or round tables that interest you, you will start receiving the publications of those various groups you belong to, which you should definitely read and keep up with.  On the job market, this is how you demonstrate familiarity with the major trends and conversations circulating in the profession.

In an American Libraries article from March 2010, Catherine Hakala-Ausperk describes a structure librarians can use to plan out professional growth goals.  While the purpose of the article does seem, in part, geared toward promoting her book Be a Great Boss, does her advice still hold relevance for you as an LIS student?  Why or why not?  Do you agree with this statement below?

An investment in yourself to always keep learning and growing will pay off again and again, with benefits affecting your coworkers, your staff, your customers, your library, and, ultimately, your career. Especially in these changing and challenging times, we can’t be too busy to get better.

In your comments, write about your reaction to Ms. Hakala-Ausperk’s advice about investing in career development and growth and how it may or may not be relevant to you as you embark on your library career.  Please also describe what your career goals are at this point, no matter how nebulous and fuzzy they might be, and try to imagine yourself five years from now and what you might be doing.  One way to approach this is to think of professional librarians you admire and whom you’d like to emulate.  What do you need to do in order to be like that person five years from now?  Explore this in the comments!

36 Comments leave one →
  1. Dana Alsup permalink
    June 29, 2011 12:30 pm

    I think that continuing education is important in many fields, including libraries. Being in school this past year I have heard never-ending arguments and discussions about digital libraries, e-books, and many other technologies. The only way to make sure you are up to date on these issues and ever evolving practices is to read and continue to learn. I know there are some librarians who are afraid of the e-readers and e-books and refuse to learn anything about them. But ignoring the future does not mean it will not come. The only way to be prepared in the library is to be looking forward and attempting to be one step ahead.
    Several library positions I have looked at while applying to jobs have mentioned the willingness of the candidate to participate in continuing education classes. One of the libraries even said they would pay for the courses. It is good to see that the library system itself knows how important it is to be up to date and be the best in the field. In libraries that do not encourage this, it can really be seen in the attitudes of the library staff and the library’s collections and services. Who wants to use the library of 50 years ago?
    In five years, I would like to be a full-fledged librarian. Many of the positions I am applying to now are part-time or there are too many candidates for the recent graduate to be at the top. I would also like to be exploring new ways to bring library services to where people are. My internship at the 225 square foot library in the Pittsburgh Public Market is a great example of that. People are really excited when they walk in and see the library. In the present times of people wanting information instantly, where does the library fit? I still use the library, but how many people get up, drive, and go into the library for help? Many people rely on Google. The tiny library is a great way to bring library services to people outside of the traditional library setting.

    • July 4, 2011 10:31 am

      Your internship sounds like it’s at a fascinating location. And what a great way to bring the library to the people instead of waiting for people to come to the library! I’m sure you’re getting invaluable experience there that will serve you in good stead.

  2. James M. permalink
    June 29, 2011 8:27 pm

    I think that continuing to develop one’s education throughout their career is important for anyone’s academic and/or technical career. Considering how technology has changed over the last ten years, it may change as much or even more so over the next ten years, and people will have to continue to educate themselves to become efficient at their work because of this. I think that medical doctors are exemplary of the need for individuals to continue to develop their education for their careers, because if many medical doctors didn’t continue their education after receiving their degree, then they could be considered to be inferior to other medical practitioners who are more perspicacious and skilled at their work. I think that for librarians, career development is important because of the necessity to become more technologically adept to assist patrons, and to become more familiar with the new software and digital programs that are being created and pertinent to the work of librarians.

    In five years I would like to be working in either a public or academic library, and I would still like to be learning as much new information as possible that is relevant to the library community. Considering that I have worked at only public libraries in the past in both urban and rural settings, I still have much to learn about working in academic libraries, if I were working in one. I think that in five years, I will have learned enough about libraries in general to become a good academic librarian, and I would still be learning about the differences between public and academic libraries. Upon speculation, I think that it is important for more people to become involved with rural and urban public libraries, because unfortunately many rural and public public libraries do not possess the technology to assist their patrons efficiently in many circumstances. In the public libraries I have visited and worked, I have noticed that many of them do contain recently updated materials and computer software, although much of the literature has not been recently updated. I can imagine myself working to improve the conditions of many urban and rural public libraries that are in need of assistance in the future, because of my experiences with such libraries.

    • July 4, 2011 10:38 am

      Urban and rural libraries are definitely in need of skilled, technologically-proficient librarians. If you aren’t familiar with it already, you might want to check out, Jessamyn West’s blog. She is a library technologist in rural Vermont.

  3. Lynn S. permalink
    June 30, 2011 11:41 am

    Having worked as a physical therapist for many years, I can attest to the necessity for continuing education. Only recently has the PA State Board required a specific number of CEUs to maintain a current license, but the physical therapists I know have always read and gone to courses to keep their skills up-to-date, often on their own time and dime. Many teachers, writers, and volunteers in various areas also spend their own time and money to enhance their skills and knowledge, thus enriching the environments in which they work.

    I think professional development will become even more important as budgets shrink. In this week’s reading, Gordon addresses the need for libraries to compete for funding on a continual basis, not just at grant or referendum time, by providing programs and services that show the importance of libraries in a changing world. We can only lay this groundwork if we keep abreast of that changing world. Books, webinars, and local conferences are readily available. Libraries could also consider continuing education partnerships, where participating libraries could host simple presentations or discussions on various professional hot topics on a rotating basis.

    As far as my own five-year plan, I’d like to work in an environment that builds on my skills and interests in one or more areas: science, nature, health care, and writing. In my current field placement at Longwood Gardens, for example, I’m able to use my knowledge of science to help with horticultural research questions, and to ensure that entries to the digital gallery are properly labelled. And of course, each skill that I learn now—through school, work, volunteerism, conferences—can be leveraged in the future, a fact that Dr. Currier frequently mentions.

    • Amy Ambler permalink
      July 3, 2011 9:18 pm

      “We can only lay this groundwork if we keep abreast of that changing world.” This is a very powerful and important point. In order to express and illustrate the importance and value of libraries, we must understand how that relates to current society and patrons.

    • July 4, 2011 10:43 am

      You’re right, Lynn, that your current school, work, professional, volunteer, and other experiences are transferrable to the professional library setting. In fact, as a physical therapist, you probably have strong interpersonal skills that will prove to be very useful in other professional settings.

  4. Kelly M. permalink
    June 30, 2011 9:25 pm

    Professional development seems important in any field. I would agree that the quote is correct in referring to professional development as essentially a good investment in oneself and one’s career. I also think that seeking professional development opportunities is good because it shows you care about your patrons and being as up to date as possible in your field. It’s great if professional development can be paid for by the employer, but an employee shouldn’t count on that as the only option. With budgets being cut, I imagine we should be prepared to invest our own money in professional development.

    In terms of my own career plans, I’m not restricting myself only to libraries so my professional development course may differ from most people’s. My main priorities right now are in developing specific job skills, such as software skills, because those seem the most important things in the job ads that I’m seeing. Membership in professional organizations is nice, but anyone can pay the fee and stick the membership on their resume. I don’t see memberships as being very meaningful at that level. Getting involved with the organization in some way would be different.

    • July 4, 2011 10:47 am

      It’s true, Kelly, that professional memberships are only as useful as you make them. Sure, I can put my ALA and ACRL memberships on my resume, but so what? What counts in the academic librarian setting is service. This demonstrates that I’m not just a member–I’m involved. When you decide to join ALA and the relevant division, look for the volunteer form, where you can indicate your interests in getting involved and in what areas and capacities. That’s one way of making the most of your membership.

  5. Julia S. permalink
    July 1, 2011 2:29 pm

    Like the other posters, I too agree with Ms. Hakala-Ausperk’s advice regarding the value of committing to continued education in one’s profession. I also appreciate the way in which Ms. Hakala-Ausperk provides the practical suggestion of devoting an hour every week to such professional development, as it answers the likely common issue of feeling too busy to take on even an activity that could benefit oneself.

    The reading on budgeting this week actually also helped to communicate the need for library professionals to seek out further education. While the information Gordon and Evans and Ward provide on the topic is certainly helpful, it’s clear from that information that the activities and theories related to financial management are many and complex and that a library manager would benefit from exploring the topic further; Gordon even says, “In-depth explanations of financial statements, budgets, and cost-benefit analysis are beyond the scope of this book, but are covered quite thoroughly elsewhere” (p. 204), and she directs the reader to the chapter’s “recommended reading” section. Besides needing to continually educate oneself in order to stay current about trends and developments specific to librarianship, then, a librarian also needs to consider expanding his or her self-directed learning to include other fields that are relevant to his or her current position or the type of position he or she hopes to eventually hold.

    My (broad) hope is that within five years I’ll be a full time librarian who has gained as much professional experience as possible. I’m currently in my first semester, and I entered the MLIS program with the intention of going into academic librarianship, but I’m reconsidering that at the moment. (This term I am taking the program’s four core classes, so I’m currently getting what feels like an overview of the professional landscape.) I am also excited by shifts in the profession that allow for opportunities for librarians to take on less traditional roles, such as embedded librarians.

    • Amy Ambler permalink
      July 3, 2011 9:10 pm

      I think you make an excellent point that librarians need to pursue learning and skill development that is relevant to a position they hold. For example, one might hold a managerial role unexpectedly and may need to develop more knowledge specific to that role, like budgeting, personnel management, etc.

    • July 4, 2011 10:57 am

      I agree, Julia, with the “one hour a week” advice regarding professional development. It’s important for busy professionals to carve out dedicated time just for this purpose. And I also concur that embedded librarianship is an exciting development in the profession today. I have relationships with both the First Year Seminar Program and Honors Program at my institution that have embedded qualities, and it’s very rewarding, interesting, and satisfying work!

  6. Sadie Roosa permalink
    July 1, 2011 3:48 pm

    I am at least somewhat in favor of what Ms. Hakala-Ausperk says. I think that learning things, even if they don’t seem directly and immediately relevant, is never a bad thing, and usually ends up having some unforeseeable benefit. This has never really affected me in my work experience, but it certainly has in my academic experience. When I was in college, I finally decided I wanted to major in literature. I had already filled all of my other liberal arts degree requirements by this time, so I could have only taken lit classes from that point on. I mean, what would have been the point of taking other classes, when they didn’t relate to what I was focusing my studies on. However, I continued to take other classes too, a couple of linguistic and art history ones, and a few more as well. I took them because they were interesting, even though they were not lit classes. I am very glad I took them, not only because I was interested in the subjects, but because I ended up applying what I learned in those classes to my lit classes and to my senior thesis. Even though I technically wrote a lit thesis, I had a whole chapter of linguistic analysis which complimented some of my arguments. Had I not taken those linguistics classes, I never would have been able to make those arguments. I think the same can be true of professional information and skills. If there is a seminar that you are interested in, even if it does not relate to your current position, why not go, as long as you can afford it? You’re never going to advance out of the position you’re in, if you don’t learn new things that you can apply in different or more advanced settings.
    As for my current goals, they have changed a lot since I decided to be a lit major. First I decided to go to library school, then I decided I wanted to do research and reference, then I decided that (ideally) I would like to do art reference, preferably in an art library, and even more preferably with a special collections attached to it. I know, I’m reaching. Five years from now, I feel like I will either have changed, at least slightly, based on what new information and experiences I am exposed to or opportunity I’m presented with, or I will still be on my way to the goal I have now. I know that there are steps I have to take. I think that joining professional organizations specific to my interest will show my employers that I am dedicated to the profession and will allow me to keep up with what is going on in art librarianship, even if I’m not an art librarian yet. There’s no way to break into that field, if I don’t already know what’s going on. I also am kinda counting on getting a job at a university that will then pay for the second masters in art history that I know I’ll need to ever reach my goal. I think that participating in as much art library professional development as possible will show that institution that it’s worth them paying for my second masters because I’m dedicated to the goal.

    • July 4, 2011 11:13 am

      You have a great attitude toward learning, Sadie. And your plans aren’t necessarily reaching! It’s true that the job market will be tougher if you have too narrow of a focus, but staying opening to new experiences and new things will be helpful. If you can’t find art history positions, then maybe being a humanities librarian might be an option. This would use both your liberal arts/literature degree as well as your art history interest. Don’t be afraid to have bold goals, but remember to stay flexible as well.

  7. Amy Ambler permalink
    July 1, 2011 9:10 pm

    I absolutely believe that investing in education and personal growth can benefit not only yourself, but your coworkers, friends, and the people you serve. I think the most telling point from Ms. Hakala-Ausperk’s article was that there are constantly going to be new ideas and new practices to learn about in a field that is ever changing, and if you don’t make an effort to stay updated and discover what you or your library could be doing to improve, you’re missing an important opportunity. I also like the idea of creating a plan and holding oneself accountable to it. Personally, that provides a lot more motivation to meet goals than simply saying “I’ll get to it later.”

    In five years, I’d like to be a youth services (children, teens, or both) librarian in a public library who is really making an impact on youth in the community and helping them to build digital and traditional literacy skills. In order to get there, I need to constantly be learning about new trends in library services, stay up-to-date on all kinds of technology, and build my knowledge of how youth grow and develop. One way to do this is to read the literature from professional organizations and stay connected online to important organizations. I am a student member of ALA, YALSA, and ALSC, and I’ve gotten publications that just sit in a pile while I focus on schoolwork and internships. However, this is exactly where Ms. Hakala-Ausperk’s advice is just as relevant to LIS students. Everyone is too busy, whether at work or at school. Everyone wastes at least one hour a day. Being in school is not an excuse to not devote time to professional development.

    As a new professional, I also believe investing in professional development and growth is important. It will increase your skills and make you more marketable to potential employers. In addition, networking, attending conferences, and being knowledgeable about your field can help your career in ways you can’t even imagine yet.

    There is a librarian I’d like to emulate, not necessarily in terms of specific career goals, as she is not a youth librarian, but in terms of enjoying her job and striving to do it better. The best things I have learned from her are:

    1.have enthusiasm for what you are doing
    2. get involved
    3. take every opportunity you can to learn from others
    4. be passionate about learning and trying new things

    • July 4, 2011 11:29 am

      Good points, Amy. If you’re in a dynamic profession, like librarianship, your approach to your professional development must also be dynamic. You have to be willing to grow and change as the field grows and changes. And it sounds like the librarian you’d like to emulate is an excellent example to follow. Those four items are critical elements for any librarian in any specialty.

  8. Becky Brendel permalink
    July 2, 2011 5:45 pm

    I like the examples Ms. Hakala-Ausperk gives in her article about the importance of staying “up to date” in various fields of studies – doctors, mechanics, etc. It’s clearly a persuasive tactic but it’s also an excellent point: new innovations are constantly being developed, and regardless of career choice it’s important to stay “on top” of what could be around the bend, and always seek to provide better service. Professional development to me seems most useful because of the new ideas you’d be exposed to through meeting other librarians and getting involved – ideas that you can put to use in your own library.

    As for having a personal “career” – I can’t say I’ve ever thought about it in those terms for myself. I don’t think about it in terms of what I can “get” out of the career, but in terms of what I can give – because hopefully that’ll be its own reward for me, or else I shouldn’t be in a service profession. Continuing education is absolutely important, and I plan on pursuing it when I can, but at the moment I’m more concerned with being able to adjust well to the current ways of doing things at whatever library I end up working for! It’s better to get a comfortable idea of the way things are before starting to bring in the way things could be, lest you introduce programs and make waves that no one really wanted to be stirred up in the first place – even the patrons you’re hoping to “serve”.

    Five years from now, then, I’d like to be serving in a public library in some capacity, particularly if it involves getting to meet a wide variety of people. Outreach appeals to me in theory though I haven’t had a lot of hands-on practice with being the person to extend the hand, seeking neighborhood partnerships, so I think once I have a position I’ll need to work more on being the assertive person who goes out into the community instead of waiting behind the desk for the community to come to them. I love the idea of being an active librarian, and I’ve loved contributing to outreach projects. But I’ll need to train myself and work hard to be the person who can diplomatically and positively offer that hand, beginning to take the library beyond the physical space and out into the greater world.

    • July 4, 2011 11:36 am

      Outreach is definitely an important element of librarianship, and your interest in that will certainly help as you develop professionally. You might want to check out Dr. Alman’s library marketing course, if you have a the chance, as well as seeking out a practicum/field placement opportunity as well, if your schedule allows.

  9. Kelly D. permalink
    July 3, 2011 3:03 pm

    I completely agree with Ms. Hakala-Ausperk and my classmates: professional development and continuing education is an incredibly important part of any career but especially for one that changes as quickly as library science. As Becky states, Ms. Hakala-Ausperk gives some really wonderful examples of why it is so valuable to stay “up-to-date” within various careers. Her rhetorical method here is effective: these persuasive examples drive home the point that being successful in any career depends on staying in the loop with the most recent developments. As a professional involved in youth services specifically, I am especially aware of the need to continue studying and learning as a professional. Working with children and young adults is an area of library services that involves constant development and change. New resources, media, and research surface on a monthly basis.

    But, as others have already stated, where do we find the time? I too receive a variety of great professional publications that frequently sit and get dusty while I rush around to complete assignments and prepare programming. I’ve found that professional or semi-professional blogs have been one way to stay informed at a minimal degree. But there are so many other professional development opportunities out there that I simply miss in the rush of every day. So Ms. Hakala-Ausperk’s suggestion of creating a clear plan and mission greatly appeals to me. I did some version of the planning in my head when I decided to come to Pitt for my degree last spring. I knew that I wanted to join ALA and several of its divisions, especially the Young Adult Services Association and perhaps the AASL (school libraries) and ALSC (children’s services), and round tables. I also knew that I wanted to find a way to attend the ALA Annual conference in June 2011. I was told about the Student to Staff program and so I planned to apply as a candidate for that program. I was lucky enough to be chosen as the Student to Staff candidate and so attended the conference last weekend. It was a wonderful experience and I believe I learned a great deal about professional development. However, I don’t know when I will return; therefore I want to find ways to gain such development from home all year round.

    In five years, I hope to be a full-fledged librarian working with young adults, either in an independent school (continuing the career area I’m beginning in the fall) or a public library. I also hope to have assisted in developing a stronger cooperation between school and public librarians who work with teens through shared programming or at least more frequent shared forums. I wish to emulate many of the wonderful librarians I know in terms of their passion for their work and, especially, their continuous efforts in personal professional growth. Many librarians I admire are very active in professional associations (such as YALSA) and work hard to continue learning and growing as librarians through networking, conferences, and reading.

    • July 4, 2011 11:42 am

      You aren’t alone, Kelly, in your concern for time and keeping up with what’s going on in the profession. I know a certain someone (not naming names, *ahem*) who has a pile of articles printed out to read, and the pile keeps growing, and eventually I’ll get around to reading all of them…(oh wait, this is me! :) ). But when I plan out my time, day by day, hour by hour, I can build in time to read and to other professional development activities, so I can say that Ms. Hakala-Ausperk’s suggestions are indeed useful!

  10. Ian Baran permalink
    July 3, 2011 5:54 pm

    I think continuing education is extremely important whether it is “official” through certain groups and round tables or through your own reading and self-driven initiatives. I find that conferences can be great for many reasons. One can meet people with similar interests, be involve in facilitating a meeting that is about specified interests or important issues, and can branch out and see what else is in the library field. Unfortunately I find conferences to be just as frustrating of events, it can be hard to reach many people because there are so many people, and while you might have a round table event, that does not necessarily mean agendas will get done. Overall, I am definitely for going to conferences, but it is important to make sure items and agendas get done, just like in meetings, otherwise it is travelling and wasting time.

    Though the reality is different, I would hope that many librarians would be interested in continuing education through at least reading and being able to recommend books. In this way you are also improving public relation skills, reading skills as well as the ability to connect. On this basic level, librarians should always be continuing education. Yet, being involved in organizations that matter are important as well. Whether, as stated, this is through a round-table discussion or private groups this is the same. There are groups that are not ala affiliated that are concerned with library funding and many librarians become active in these groups. To me this is still continuing education, through being involved in a group that concerns itself with public relations, public policy, education interests. One needs to build arguments when trying to defend why libraries should exist. Maybe on a more traditional level joining a group such as YALSA or PLA are important too, but at the same time one needs to join something they will be active in and want to be in.

    In my librarian future I want to get experience in being a librarian and hopefully become a head of a library. WIth that knowledge I would love to get involved in public policy and make sure that library funding is a key issue in the city I am living in, as well as know how to break down funding to show the importance, as well as know how libraries could best spend money.

    • July 4, 2011 11:45 am

      Good points, Ian. If you’re interested in library management as a career goal, you might want to check out membership in LLAMA, the Library Leadership and Management Association. They might have good tips for helping early career librarians develop into library heads and directors. You might find the Emerging Leaders program to be of interest as well. I have a podcast about my experience in this program in a discussion board in Courseweb, if you’d like to check that out.

    • Katherine N. permalink
      July 5, 2011 3:00 pm

      Funding for libraries is an extremely important issue, especially during these challenging times. I agree with your comments in breaking down library funding for people. It is important for our users to know how much it takes for a library to function. Would you do this at Board Meetings?

  11. Priya S permalink
    July 4, 2011 1:33 am

    One interesting aspect from the comment which really made me think was the fact about not just shaping your job, but your entire career; as you may continue at another job in the future. Just because you get turned down financially for a professional development opportunity, doesn’t mean that you should give up on other forms of monetary help. In the end, this is essentially about you and your career. I think people can get caught up with thinking; well this is all of the money I’ve been allotted, so I won’t be able to ask other people for more. However, you really have to think outside the box for other financial grants and realize the value of professional development for yourself.

    My future career goal is to be a medical librarian at a small- medium college or university. In terms of a professional librarian I admire and would like to be similar to in the future, I particularly respect my field experience adviser. I think in order to be like this librarian I will have to know about the particular ins and outs of PubMed, CINAHL, the National Library of Medicine, other health databases, and NIH funding. I would have to put in extra effort outside of work into learning as much as I can that first year especially; in order to be more like this librarian and to show my worth to my institution. This librarian also had a prominent role in MLA and has been able to network, grow, and facilitate his own learning because of it. I think trying to be active in your organization helps you to meet others who are like you and want to be better and to learn together. I actually was fortunate to go to MLA this year and was able to meet some great people. People that I met through my field experience adviser, who were in the initial years of their profession as medical librarians. And it was refreshing and enlightening to hear their work stories and how they became involved with MLA.

    • July 4, 2011 11:47 am

      Priya, that’s great that you were able to go to MLA this year. I’m sure this was an excellent experience for you that will continue to serve you well in the future. Meeting great people is one of the primary benefits of going to conferences, I think,.

  12. Varina Jones permalink
    July 4, 2011 2:24 pm

    My career goal is to work as a systems librarian, designing and implementing user interfaces for the catalog, cleaning up and customizing staff clients, insuring smooth access from the library website to databases to the needed information, and just generally allowing patrons to seamlessly access the information they need. In this field I think professional development is especially important and couldn’t agree with Ms. Hakala-Ausperk as to the absolute necessity of making time to learn new skills and keep up with developments in the fields. With library systems keeping up with new trends becomes especially important as the technology can change so quickly. Every time Google rolls out a new feature it sets a new benchmark for what patrons expect from an information retrieval system. A good systems librarian constantly works to make sure the system is intuitive for patrons to navigate, and this often depends on keeping up with trends in the layout and interface of popular sites and programs which patrons are already used to using. Since patrons usually access the library’s site from off-site computers or mobile devices it is also important to keep up with changes in the software and hardware on those devices to ensure the site runs smoothly on all platforms. I have been reading blogs and listservs for systems librarians and the need for constant professional development is pretty universally agreed upon, but then the challenge of staying on top of everything, and the pressures to do so (systems librarian’s work should be invisible when working well which often means that your boss will only notice your work when something breaks!), can be overwhelming for some. With all these challenges I still find the field fascinating, and kind of like the idea of being invisible — like an information ninja.

    Before I am ready to be the sole or head systems librarian for a library I need to learn more about user interface design and information processing. Recently I have been working on learning about website access for people with different disabilities and how those consideration should affect design (like the importance of alt text for the blind). I will also need to continue to keep up with trends in information retrieval and I think mobile computing will be an increasingly important topic to be aware of.

  13. Rose R. permalink
    July 5, 2011 2:19 pm

    Ms. Hakala-Ausperk’s article advocated personal and professional goal-setting and a consistent focus on the future. The same principles she laid out appeared in much of the literature I read on time managment while I was preparing my virtual poster. While I understand, in theory, the value of setting and working toward goals and of having a long-term career plan, I have not embraced these practices myself.

    To this point, my career and educational choices have not been goal-directed but instead have resulted from a continuing process of vocational discernment. My perspective on this has been shaped by my years of formation in theological and ministerial contexts, so I think in terms of God’s call, my discernment of what exactly that call is, and then my response. This is outside the scope of the question asked in the blog post for this week, but it’s the only way I can think about my career goals.

    In general, I have not seen more than one step ahead–for example, I left North Dakota to go to school in Indiana not because I wanted to prepare for a particular job, but because I wanted to go to school there. After I graduated I did a two year service-learning program because I felt called to do that program, not because I felt called to be a parish director of religious education for the rest of my life. I left my job in Minnesota and came to Pitt to study library and information science not because I felt called to be a librarian, but because I felt called to study library and information science. Nevertheless, I believe strongly in professional development for some of the same reasons Ms. Hakala-Ausperk gives. Growth, whether personal or professional, seldom comes without some intentional action or exploration of new ideas and opportunities. To some extent, then, I consider Ms. Hakala-Ausperk’s advice relevant.

    As for my career goals, I really do not have any. In August I will begin a new job doing social media outreach for the Sisters of Divine Providence (Allison Park, PA, just north of Pittsburgh). I am looking forward to it very much because I believe in the sisters’ mission and the work will be a challenge and will integrate my background in theology with my more recent education here in the MLIS program. I do not know whether they or I will want me to stay in that position beyond this coming year, though. I intend to learn as much as I can from and for that position, most likely after developing a plan for professional development like Ms. Hakala-Ausperk suggests. All the while, I will work to be patient and discern how and where God is calling me to serve. I would really like to see farther ahead, but at the moment I do not. In a way, professional development and ongoing education are ways to be ready for anything.

  14. Katherine N. permalink
    July 5, 2011 2:46 pm

    I think becoming a librarian is a process that never truly ends. We always should be open to new ideas and concepts about our profession, because then we can better serve our patrons. Even though I am currently learning the ins and outs of librarianship, I still think it is vital to keep tabs on professional development opportunities. Learning too, is a constant process. Librarians should take into consideration Ms. Hakala-Ausperk’s advice. In terms of following through with the advice, I really think it depends on the person. For myself, I would want to map out what resources and educational conferences are available, so that I could fit them into my schedule and budget. My career goals center on becoming a public library director. To obtain this goal, I have been working at my local public library. I work at the circulation desk, as well as Inter-Libraryloan, and have some accounting duties. Beginning small and moving my way up also gives me a chance to explore professional literature and other job opportunities.
    The current director at the library where I work is someone who I admire very much. She has been in the profession for over forty years. Her wisdom (and wit) relating to libraries in general has taught me many things. She has taught me, most importantly, that a good librarian is someone who takes the time to listen to people. If you can help someone find a book, print an important article, or even find that tax form that no one has ever heard of, you have done a good day’s work. Librarians also must deal with institutional changes, whether they be related to funding or management. Five years from now, I would like to be a director of a public library that has at least some experience in these things. I think so far, I am on the right track. However, I am the type of person to make an on the spot decision. I should pace myself and consider all options, if I truly want to be a good librarian.
    -Katherine :)

  15. Amy T. permalink
    July 5, 2011 4:49 pm

    Ms. Hakala-Ausperk perspective on professional development and personal career goals is one that I have not encountered previously.  This is a new approach to looking at career goals and the way one approaches professional opportunities, and I like it because it brings more cohesion into the somewhat chaotic and random world of careers, employment, and libraries.  Looking at personal career goals in both the short-term and long-term will help me ultimately shape my career into something that I can look back on with pride and satisfaction.  In theory.  Right now, this idea of creating an overarching career goal and long-term plan seems daunting and difficult to pin down.  I assume that this is partially because I am still a student and lack a full-time, paid position in a library and the responsibilities and opportunities that go with this.  Ms. Hakala-Ausperk’s ideas seem more relevant for those librarians with some professional experience.

    I do agree that continuing professional development, even if it is strictly through personal means (as opposed to professional workshops and conferences) at the moment due to budget issues, is absolutely necessary.  The analogy she makes between the heart surgeon who hasn’t attended a conference in years and a librarian who also has not been involved in professional development is apt (though with less deadly results, perhaps, for the librarian). Ms. Hakala-Ausperk emphasizes the need to consistently work on professional development, even if it is for just one hour per week. This seems not only advisable but also manageable, especially when referring to professional journals. This is an inexpensive way to keep up on emerging trends in the library world, and remain relevant in your library position.

    At this point, I would like to be working as a children’s or young adult librarian in five years (hopefully less!), and involved with innovative and exciting programming and outreach. I would also like to be actively involved with ALSC or YALSA, both as a means of professional development but also as a way to meet other librarians. One professional librarian who has positively influenced me throughout this program has encouraged me to think big and go for what I want. This is something that I try to keep in mind as I seek out new opportunities, whether they are career opportunities or one-time practical experiences.

  16. Michael permalink
    July 5, 2011 8:13 pm

    I agree and think that Ms. Hakala-Ausperk’s advice is crucial to our careers as librarians. We all need to start setting goals or at least roughing them out now. Some of my good friends are ex-MLIS students, who graduated a year before me (I am a part-time student), and are now struggling to find jobs. I am not sure how they are working to improve themselves as librarians. But I think with today’s rapid changes in technology and rocky economic climate we have to start making ourselves as appealing as possible to future employers. When a hundred applications come streaming past their desks, we need to be able to standout from the rest. Continual self-improvement in our profession will definitely increase our chances in getting were we want to go. Ms. Hakala-Ausperk’s advice for setting aside one hour a day for self-improvement is a great starting point. And when you are invested and dedicated I think that hour comes naturally. I enjoy studying Web design as a hobby, and I never find myself having to look for an hour. It comes naturally. And I am sure, at least hope, that it pays off in the future as an added benefit to my general interest.

    With that being said, I am not sure where I want to be in five years. I would like to work more behind the scenes in special libraries or somewhere in information management. Though, I hope that I will always be able to donate my time as a volunteer at the public library. I am sure that I will not find a job right out of library school and in the interim I am planning to resume my post-baccalaureate status at Pitt taking classes for interest as well as to enhance my MLIS. And I am also starting to network with librarians with similar interests; I am a student member of SLA and working with a web committee posting job applications to their website.

  17. Beth Pelton permalink
    July 5, 2011 8:28 pm

    Ms. Hakala-Ausperk could not be more right about investing in continuous education and learning and about the benefits received from it. In today’s market with continuously cut budgets librarians more than ever should be able to rely on each other not just for support but for collaboration and shared resources. Possibly even by banding together budgets could be affected positively and proof given to the budget makers that more money should be put toward information resources and the libraries that house them. Not to mention that collaboration would also mean more good for the whole rather than just the individual organization. This may sound “socialist”, but I think that resources are resources and should be made available to everyone, not guarded by one particular institution.

    I also feel this way about the education that is available to librarians. While Ms. Hakala-Ausperk is quite correct, finding the funds to pursue more learning is quite difficult. As an individual at a student rate I still have a very difficult time finding money to attend conferences. As most academic institutions give faculty and administration money for travel and conferences, attending as a staff member some day will most likely not be an easy task. It is a shame that these conferences cost so much money. To me, it would be great if parts of these sessions were taped and put out by the ALA to be viewed from their website. Why guard this information if it could affect so many people working in your same field?

    You may have already inferred this, but I hope to work in an academic library someday, in any capacity. I would simply love to attend conferences and learn new things about librarianship and information management now and in the future. I think that five years from now I will be at least three and a half years into my first library career and I will be ready to apply for a more senior position within the library. Maybe I will try to be a director of some library function! One particular professional librarian that I had the opportunity to work with was Mr. John Necci of the Temple Law Library. He was simply fantastic, no other word for it. He was forward thinking, so open to everyone’s opinions, he took everything seriously and gave it real consideration, and was the nicest, most approachable man I have ever met. Not to mention that he seemed to radiate professionalism and knowledge. If I could be even half of those things as a librarian in five years I will be thrilled.

  18. Melody permalink
    July 5, 2011 8:44 pm

    I think self-improvement is important for everyone in all fields, and it is definitely something for which I strive. I believe Ms. Hakala-Ausperk provides inspiring words, particularly for those of us who are new in the field. Personal development is closely intertwined with professional development, and I believe it is a wonderful idea to relate the two. Just as liberal arts education has broadened the perspectives of many individuals, I believe it is beneficial for librarians to learn not only within their field, but in whichever ways prove to be of interest to the individuals. Personally, I sought out a scholarship for a conference in the field of economics, though it seemed to have little relevance to the library field when I submitted my application. Now that I am preparing to participate, I have been inspired through my readings to set up an independent study on a subject relating economics with the library field.

    Funding for continued education can be an arduous task, however I believe technology is starting to break that argument down. Open information is growing with such abundance, I believe there is much to learn at a low cost to anyone who is willing and able to take time to pursue a furthered education. I learn quite a bit by simply reading through blogs, which direct me to reliable sources of further detailed information. I also think seeking grants or other opportunities for scholarship are wonderful.

  19. Erin M. permalink
    July 5, 2011 10:09 pm

    Before I even applied to University of Pittsburgh, I recall talking with the director of my local library (my manager) about how librarians constantly need to be learning new skills to be successful. Changes in technology, for instance, I observed as being the biggest driver of learning.

    It occurred to me then that if I became a librarian, I would never stop learning…Just working at the circulation/reference desk taught me that noble truth, with the reference questions I had to field from our patrons. That’s one of the reasons I decided to go to school to become a librarian, for the love of learning.

    My current career goals include working part time at a small public library while I attain my degree. I plan on joining a few professional organizations, and perhaps interning at an academic library, to round out my library experience.

    Five years from now, I hope to be a full time children’s librarian at a public library. I recently got my feet wet by having the opportunity to present a story time hour to preschool age children on Japan. It was a portfolio project I developed for a course last semester. I found planning and implementing the story time to be very rewarding. What ever I am doing in five years, my most fundamental goal for myself will be to ensure that I love what I do for a living.

  20. Katie DeRusso permalink
    July 5, 2011 10:46 pm

    I absolutely agree with Ms. Hakala-Ausperk about the importance of investing in career development and growth. I recently attended my first ALA Annual conference and one of the things I took away from it is the importance of beginning professional development early. It takes some extra effort, but as a student there are plenty of ways to help finance attendance at conferences and workshops. I think at this point it is most important to show that you are interested and committed to continuing to grow and develop as a librarian. Working on professional development even before landing that first professional job shows you are willing to take the extra step and interested in being an active contributor to the profession. It is important to continue with professional development after landing that first professional job and throughout your career. One of the things that attracted me to librarianship is the opportunity to be a life long learner. Professional development is one way to do that and continue to grow as a librarian.

    My goals are to become a reference and instruction librarian at an academic institution. Part of my professional development may include working towards another masters degree in a subject specialty, continuing to attend local and national conferences and eventually participating in poster sessions and panel discussions.

  21. July 11, 2011 11:10 am

    Continuing education is important in any field, but I feel that it is especially important in the library and information sciences. There is so much to keep up with and it would not do to fall behind the scenes and become archaic in your services. I have not myself attended any professional conferences, but forsee such attenance as essential for present as well as future progress. Not only will it be a means of educating me, but it will also provide a way to network among my peers.

    As I contemplate my future, it is difficult to see a clear picture. There are so many variables and it is difficult to plan or foresee where or who I will be in regards to my career. I find myself observing librarians around me and the ones I want to emulate the most are those that are most passionate about attending conferences and continuing their education through seminars and webinars. My current boss has dedicated years of service through ALA programs and chairs. I admire this and find that although it sounds very time consuming and perhaps tiring, the benefits far outweigh the pitfalls. Although a rigorous task to take on, participating in roundtables has so many advantages–again, the most satisfying would be the connnections and relationships formed. You have opportunity to get to know and be connected with fellow peers from all over the country.

  22. mengjie zou permalink
    August 1, 2011 4:47 pm

    I am always thinking this problem, what could I do in my whole life as a librarian. To help people, to let them know the book is the most beautiful thing in the world. To help children, to let them know this fabulous world through different views and different methods. To help disabilities to see this world more comprehensive. To let people know the library is the organization of knowledge accumulation. If I could be a librarian, I want to be a children librarian. When I was a child, it was a golden age to read to write,

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