Friday, June 18, 2010

Article note: On the need for librarian continuing education

Citation for the article:

Massis, Bruce E., "Continuing Professional Education: Ensuring Librarian Engagement." New Library World 111.5/6 (2010): 247-249.

Read via Emerald.

This is basically a short opinion piece that advocates for the importance of continuing education and professional development for librarians. I don't think anyone can argue against that, even though training programs and options are often the first thing to get the ax when budgets get tight. Massis does mention that training is one of the first things to go in depressed economic conditions. To counter, Massis argues that training and continuing education have inherent benefits such as "strong engagement on the job and supporting the overall mission of the organization" (247).

Massis goes on to mention that there are options for affordable training; these options often take the form of online offerings. Things like "regular web references, postings and readings of blogs, wikis and other social networking tools can increase the level of knowledge, understanding and engagement in the profession on a daily basis" (248). Such tools tend to be the darlings of the 2.0 librarians, and I agree with the statement to an extent. I do quite a bit of my upkeep via blogs and tools that provide a feed, but those only go so far. My problem with cheap (or free) online options is that, like everything else in life, you get what you pay for. The quality of those cheap options varies greatly. A good number of free webinars, for instance, do not provide anything new or substantial if you already keep up and are well read in the profession. After a while, one needs more professional sustenance than blogs or links you follow on something like Twitter. My point is that too cheap training, something that many libraries are relying on now in the interest of being budget conscious, is not going to be beneficial either. For example, I have kept notes on some of those webinars that are not exactly groundbreaking, such as this one.

Massis also suggests that full time staff members (from the title of the article, this term usage would suggest librarians, but I am guessing Massis does mean to include paraprofessionals) need to meet with their supervisors and plan their professional development. This is what annual evaluations are supposed to do, at leas the part where you set some kind of goals for the year. The problem often is budget; if there is little to no training budget, and key training is part of your plans, well, to put it simply, you are in quite a pickle. In the end, it becomes a matter of making do with what you do have. Massis calls for a "blended learning" model where the staff should be able to choose from various learning options that can suit the person's needs and learning styles. This sounds very nice in theory, but again, it can be limited by budgetary constraints. I mean, you can discuss all you want with your superiors about learning options you need to have as part of your plan, but if that involves travel to some crucial conference, and there is no travel budget, it isn't going to happen. And while you can at some times substitute with some free options, that is not always desirable. I am not sure what the answer is. When you have cut as deep as you can go, and the administration still asks you to cut more, well, let's just not dwell on that.

Finally Massis reminds us that it is important for those who do undertake training opportunities to share what they learn with others. He then ends the article urging that librarians need to keep up and stay ahead of the curve. I know I will try to do so with what I have.

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