It is really very important to keep up to date with new developments, innovations, ideas, issues and so forth in our field. You need to be a life-long learner if you are going to succeed in Libraryland 😉 Things are constantly changing; the way we utilise space, new technologies, what is expected of us, how we are viewed and how we must justify ourselves. There is a lot to learn. Not only this, it is important to network and get to know other professionals. You need to create relationships. These are especially helpful if you have a question or need some guidance, or more employment. So where to start? There are a few things you can do:
- Professional Memberships: You can join groups such as ALIA, as well as the groups that specifically relate to your field (e.g. ASLA and SLAV for school libraries, ALLA for law libraries, ASA for archives etc). If you are lucky, your employer will provide a paid membership for you and your team. If not, you will have to weigh up the costs and benefits of joining. Some are not cheap, and if you are just starting out it can be hard to afford. There is sometimes a discount for new or graduate members. Do some research, there are many blog posts by others that go through all the pros and cons of joining different associations. I can only tell you what I have done, and this may by no means be the best route for you. I have been lucky to have most membership provided by my workplace. I did not join ALIA previously as I did not have the money as a student. I felt, from my experiences, that the cost did not balance with the benefits. I received the newsletter for free and accessed their website for updates on events. The events were only a little bit cheaper if you were a member, and I felt it was cheaper for me to pay the full price for the event (as I couldn’t attend too many) then to pay the full membership and get the minimal discount. This however, meant I was not supporting the group as much, and could not take part in particular things, or take an active role in groups they provided. I balanced this by trying to do as many free or cheap alternatives as I could.
- Networking Groups & Reading: These are fantastic! But you really need to commit. Join, attend, read, discuss, post – do it. Seriously. Even just reading can be so beneficial. Then you can start commenting and discussing. Going out and meeting people is even better. Here are some of my favourite groups and sites:
- GLAMR New Professionals (find them on Facebook): “GLAMR New Professionals is here to connect students and new professionals across the GLAMR sectors through the early stages of their careers. An initiative of the Vic Branch of the Australian Society of Archivists.” They organise monthly meetups which are fun and inspirational. And it’s totally free (except for the drinks you buy 😛 )
- International Librarians Network: They are “a meeting place for librarians from around the world.” They offer a peer mentoring program which is really amazing – you get linked up with another professional from across the globe, and then you email each other discussing libraries and more. Definitely worth checking out. Plus – it’s free and you get a certificate!
- OZTL_Net: This is a discussion list email for Teacher-Librarians. Though I am not one, I worked in school libraries and found it a great resource. You can ask questions and be linked with a huge variety of very knowledgable librarians. You can read it to gather ideas, and discuss issues that arise in the field. Free to join.
- Public Libraries Victoria Network: again, even though I did not work in public libraries, I was keen to learn as much as I could. This website and email list provides great resources and keeps me up to date with events. I love working with youth, and found that public librarians working with youth and school librarians could share lots of knowledge. Free to join.
- International Federation of Libraries Association: “a global voice for our profession”. Not free to become a member, but you can sign up to their newsletters and email discussions for free.
- Library 2.0: provides a forum, webinars, conferences and more about the future of libraries in the digital age. Great for learning and discussion. Free.
- Scoop-it & GoodReads: not a networking group but good for reading – provides great resources. Sign up for free email alerts. In Scoop-it you can follow topics related to your interest and you’ll get sent articles and info about it so you can always be up to date! GoodReads keeps you up to date with new books, especially helpful being in a school library and needing to know new fiction and recommended reads!
- FAIR: “a campaign for a fair, open and democratic society where information belongs to everyone.” Part of ALIA – sends out a free newsletter keeping you up to date with issues regarding copyright and other freedom of access issues.
- The Wheeler Centre: “Melbourne’s home for smart, passionate and entertaining public talks on every topic. Across 200+ events each year, you’ll find some of our finest local and international speakers sharing their expertise, their imaginations and their ideas.” Sign up for the free newsletter, watch video talks, read interviews and go to lectures (some cost a little bit).
- The School of Life: Develop as a person. Sign up to the newsletter for free. Some of their classes are expensive, but they’re apparently very good according to a friend who has been (I am yet to attend ). Watch their YouTube channel for advice and philosophical ideas.
- TED: sign up to email alerts for their playlists. Choose topics that interest you. Learn. Watch free video talks and be inspired. Get new ideas. Share them.
- Blogs: Look up topics that interest you and follow blogs about them. Make comments. Start your own!
- And of course, you can ‘like’ most of these pages on Facebook as well.
- Other Opportunities: Through joining this array of email newsletters and groups, I now know about all the events and new ideas going on in Libraryland. If I like an idea, I will add it my ideas list and see if we can implement something similar one day. When I see a question I know about, or an issue I am interested in, I try to post back. When I see a free event I want to attend, sometimes it’s on my time off – so I will go. Sometimes you can ask your boss if it’s ok to go on work time so it counts towards your professional development (PD). Make sure to give notice and follow the proper procedure. If there is a paid event, sometimes your work will pay for it. Find out what your budget is for PD and ask if you can go. There are great things called ‘unconferences’ – “a loosely structured conference emphasizing the informal exchange of information and ideas between participants, rather than following a conventionally structured programme of events.” These are more likely to be free, and are lots of fun! I recently went to one, and will be making a post dedicated entirely to that event. I will also post in the future about some paid workshops I have attended (funded by my employer), and what I learnt from these.
As a new professional, I believe it would have been beneficial to take a more active role in certain groups. For example, had I joined ALIA as a student/graduate, I could have tried to work in the group on the board, be part of a committee, applied for scholarships, tried to get awards, presented at a conference, published an article, gone to more meetups etc. This involvement would have given me more opportunities and experience. And also allowed me to meet more like minded individuals. I am now on my way to building me work in these organisations. I would definitely recommend finding a way to be more involved like this.
I know I’ve forgotten some more great opportunities, so feel free to comment with your suggestions!
Tune in next time when I discuss the recent Library at the Dock Youth Unconference ‘Outside the Lines’ (and the first part of me posting about engaging youth in the library).
Thanks for reading 🙂