Instructional librarians and a culture of professional development

In my course discussion this week about professional development for information and technology literacy, one of my classmates suggested the importance of maintaining the funding for professional development. She spoke of how much she appreciated the opportunity to attend conferences in her current position and how it sounds idealistic, especially in the public sector, but that she felt it was important anyway.

Just because you spend money on something doesn’t mean that you will get results, BUT dedicating money to something (or not) in a budget DOES show your commitment to that thing. I think my classmate’s suggestion about keeping money available for professional development is a wise one.

Let me offer an example of the consequences:

Due to some of the budget side-effects of Act 10, my school district slashed this kind of professional development funding and it seems we are often told, “No, you may not attend X-conference; we don’t have the budget.” Additionally, the Tech Department has been allocated less money and seems to mainly operate as firefighters, trying to put out “fires” with the network and hardware to keep us running, and they too can’t really devote the resources to serve as instructional leaders either. Which leaves the librarians… As far as I can tell, with the upper levels of support stripped back, it is these professionals left at the front lines to help–and they are rockstars! Unfortunately, it’s probably only at the one-on-one, ad-hoc level, instead of systemic, intentional training. Every time I reach out for their assistance though, I’m met with, “What can I help you with?”

While it is possible to be grass-roots and low-budget, money greases the wheels!

From my humble point of view (because I’m not gong to tell anyone how to do their job), to insure that staff participate in long-term, on-going professional development for info/tech literacy, it’s the LEADERSHIP (principals, administrators, directors) who also must believe in the value of developing their staff. The instructional librarian can advocate for this kind of training on their own, but the leadership has to give them the time of day. (The librarian will probably have to sell it to their administration first.)

To be an instructional leader like this, the librarian has be a good communicator, able to read timing, body language and institutional culture. For example, if the librarian’s position has been viewed as lowly, then the librarian will probably be better off treading lightly and not coming in with a tour de force (lest they want to risk their employment status). Instead of shoving change down people’s throats or condescending them by sharing an unsolicited criticism of what’s wrong with the system, working with people to solve their problems will probably earn more respect.

The other thing I would advise would be to ask questions at all levels and try to find the holes in info lit/tech skills and the perceived needs of the building. This way the librarian can find a place to fit their expertise and leadership and potentially come in and save the day. It takes time!

The best advice I was ever given in my career (and I didn’t know it then, I had to learn the hard way), was that “Changing a school (we could say library) is like turning an ocean liner.” There are a lot of moving parts and things are bigger than just you. Plus, we don’t need to capsize the whole ship.

Annotation: EdCamps as a solution for teacher PD

PD (Mostly) Sucks. Is EdCamp The Solution? (n.d.). TeachThought. Retrieved November 24, 2013, from http://www.teachthought.com/learning/pd-mostly-sucks-edcamp-solution/

This article suggests EdCamps as an alternative approach to the professional development that many educators have come to dread. The idea is to provide a blank slate of time slots and locations on a board and then ask the professionals on your staff to organize themselves into sessions based on what they are interested in sharing, presenting, discussing and exploring. It seems to me to be a bit optimistic, logistically, to expect the entire staff of a school, which might number over 100 people, to gather around a whiteboard, and negotiate their interests. However, the author does present several variations on how an EdCamp-style professional development day might work and references a Learni.st board with even more ideas. The important part is that staff are engaged and have ownership over what they are learning—this is the kind of learning that we expect teachers to facilitate for our students, so it makes sense to offer the same opportunity for teachers’ own learning.

An Opportunity to Earn Our Keep

Corrall, Kennan and Afzal discuss bibliometrics and research data management services in their 2013 article from Library Trends. Because of internet research and e-resources, university library services have changed though their mission remains the same–supporting learning and research activities. The authors paraphrase Ball and Tunger’s (2006, p.563) argument that “libraries need to cease resembling museums and become efficient ‘business enterprises.’” Typically, I resent notions of commercialized learning, but this smacks of Library 2.0 and “3.0,” and I do think that’s something that we need to keep working toward.

There is a gap and therefore, an opportunity, for academic libraries to offer services using bibliometrics and data management for trend analysis, publication strategies, faculty reviews, grant writing and job applications. As it turns out, bibliometrics is a home-grown research area and specialization, not something LIS has imported or borrowed from other fields, but even this study gives evidence that libraries need to get going on putting it into practice.

The survey used by the authors targeted academic libraries in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and the UK. While many of these libraries had bibliometrics and RDM programs in place and/or plans for more, many of the librarians stated that they didn’t feel prepared with the knowledge, skills or confidence they need to implement them. There is a call for LIS curriculum for RDM, even in the form of electives and short courses on data curation, technical skills and ICT skills (information and communication technology? …British vocab, I guess). 

The authors point out that most MLS programs prepare their graduates with a “general education for all library sectors” (p. 664) and that such specialties may not be applicable to all. I can say that even after working in my field for six years, there are parts of my job that my first Master’s did a lousy job of preparing me for and I have had to do-it-myself–we can say that professional schools need to add X or Y to their curriculum, but there will always be something lacking. I’m glad that someone is paying attention to what academic libraries could do and prepare themselves for so that they stay viable. Actually, we all need to do that!