Guest post #6: Practical approaches to CPD

The latest guest post come from Frances Machell @hybridcollector and I’m very pleased to announce that I’ve recruited her as co-editor of Librarians with Lives, which means there will now be two of us asking for content on Twitter! Please join me in welcoming her to LwL. She wrote her own introduction to this piece and will be adding her own, longer contribution to the About section of LwL in due course:

I currently work for a university in the wonderfully titled post of “Hybrid Collections Coordinator”. Although it sounds like my job should involve cross-breeding butterflies, I actually spend most of my time working in e-resource management/content development/acquisitions areas. I’ve worked most of my library career so far in universities, both on the content and subject support side, and sometimes get deeply irritated by library world as only someone who loves it could do.

Frances’ post is a great, down-to earth look at CPD which sums up everything that LwL is about:

I’ll start with a confession. I used to be one of those super enthusiastic new professionals, the kind of person who stayed late at work doing my Chartership and who volunteered as a Candidate Support Officer. These days… well, I still enjoy my job (most of the time) and still feel that enthusiasm (when not banging my head against the wall) but I’m also a pretty typical time-poor, mid-career, middle management librarian whose “Professional Involvement” section of the CV is maybe starting to look a little bit dated.

And so time for a few salutary reminders – for myself and for the other Librarians with Lives out there.

Continuing Professional Development is not the same thing as going on courses. It’s also not the same thing as:

  • Going to many many conferences
  • Posting loads on Twitter and having hundreds of followers
  • Joining lots of local committees
  • In fact, you can pretty much insert whatever professional activity you feel guilty for not doing here, whether it’s reading the Gazette or keeping a blog or whatever.

Don’t get me wrong, all these things can be fun, motivating, and certainly a good way to see and be seen, but they’re not an automatic pass to being a good professional. The biggest problem has never been a shortage of information: it’s the application that’s the problem (how many times have I come back from a conference or course ready put the world to rights, only to be swamped by the everyday necessities?). It’s an old CSO cliche, but it’s not what you’ve done or read that matters, it’s what you learned and changed as a result.

So don’t worry about it. You don’t have to be an expert on all aspects of Library World. If time is short, focus on the useful stuff. In my area (e-resources/digital content/acquisitions), there’s maybe two or three mailing lists where most of the useful conversations happen, one really good conference, a couple of blogs which are worth reading and an awful lot of material out there on the Internet which can be skimmed or just plain ignored. And as for all those long reports – remember, executive summaries are there for a reason…

However I do honestly believe in true CPD. Which for me is about the serious question of: how can I be good at my job? Faced with this project/this team/this deadline/this set of limitations, how can I do my job better both as a librarian and, just as importantly, as a manager. And it’s precisely when I’m time-poor, that it becomes easiest to fall back on old habits of working, not even by conscious choice but simply out of pressure to get a job done.

That’s why I’d say that there’s one area of professional involvement (with a lower case p and a lower case i) that’s always worth investing time in: namely building up a strong, relevant network of people you can talk to. Like-minded individuals you can bounce ideas off, compare plans with, draw on for inspiration and outright copy from. Colleagues, ex-colleagues, local librarians doing similar jobs or just old mates from library school days, I’ve had long and useful discussions with all of them, and not just because I love a good gossip either.

So do I still think I’m not doing enough CPD? Maybe not, as long as I can still say “some of my best friends are librarians… and good ones at that”.*

* And yes, I’ve just written in praise of professional networks without talking about social networking. That’s a whole subject in its own right…

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