Posted on Friday September 03, 2010 at 09:02AM
Last week, when I was moving things around in my brand new office, I came across a stack of newsletters and articles that I had meant to read. Some of them dated back to March of this year. Feeling somewhat guilty, I skimmed through them then passed the whole stack on to the next person on the list. Now why should I feel guilty about that? Doesn’t it indicate that I am so engrossed in my job that I don’t have time to read magazine articles and newsletters from other systems? Isn’t this a good thing?
Not really. By not keeping up with what’s going on in the library profession, I am limiting myself to the ideas and technologies that I picked up when I was in library school. While that doesn’t seem like such a long time ago, things do change quite rapidly in the field of technology. By not reading about what’s going on in other libraries, I limit my ability to anticipate the needs of libraries in our own system.
The same holds true for conferences. I tend to groan inwardly whenever I see myself booked for a conference, yet I find that when I am at conferences I get a lot out of them. I take lots of notes that I bring back to the office about things I can write blurbs on, or include in a discussion while I’m on a library visit. At conferences I become inspired. I try to attend sessions that I think will be relevant to my work situation, and then spend the time during the session thinking of ways to apply what the speaker is talking about to my job.
So why is there the sense that professional development is a frivolous extra? Aside from the Dutch-Calvinistic work ethic/guilt thing (which we won’t get into), I often feel that professional development is not really considered work. If someone stopped by my office and I was on the phone or on the computer, they would immediately assume I was working. If they came by and I was reading the Feliciter, or a newsletter from another system, would they still make the same assumption?
I think library employees and boards need to feel that professional development is not just important, but vital to the smooth running of any library, the anticipation of client needs, and the overall betterment of library employees. Libraries that do not change become static, dusty, musty, fall into disuse and die. If we want vibrant libraries, we need to work on becoming better librarians, managers, staff and board members. The only way to better ourselves is to allow for opportunities to learn and share. This should be part of the job; not something we have to find time for in our home life. Reading journals and newsletters and attending conferences should be considered a valuable aspect of the job, and worth doing well. Make time for it.
Now if you will excuse me, I’m going to sit in a comfy chair and read a journal article for the next hour or two. See you at conference.
Author: Northern Lights Library System