Life Long Learning , Not Just a Buzzphrase: Continuing Your Education After Library School

Lauren Bradley recently graduated from the Pratt School of Information & Library Science in Manhattan. She is a library assistant at the Leo Baeck Institute. She enjoys costume librarianship, database searching, and government documents. Follow her on Twitter @BibliosaurusRex

A number of us Hack Library School readers and writers have finished library school recently, but our education is far from over. Many of us have criticized what we feel was lacking in our LIS schooling (and in fact, was the very inspiration for this blog!) In order to become the most competitive job candidates we can be (and to remain relevant as our careers progress) we must continue learning far after graduation day. A personal anecdote: my cousin went to library school in 1999, which was really not that long ago. Two years later, Google was launched and changed the way the world interacted with information. Here are some ideas on how to keep learning:

Develop your skill sets – Librarian positions require a wide diversity of skills, many of which aren’t taught in library school (and even the ones that are, often are taught in a theoretical sense that doesn’t really stick). Revisit Annie’s self-assesment post for discovering what skills you lack for the positions you wish to hold. At this point int time, tech skills are invaluable. Mashable recently had a post about free resources for learning programming languages. For a more formal learning setting, community colleges are a good place for technology courses, and don’t forget to look into auditing courses at your alma mater(s). Don’t be afraid to venture outside of the library community; there are many free or cheap courses by community groups aimed at other types of professionals.

Look for leadership development programs – Apply for a leadership development program like the ones held by ALA and SLA, among many other professional organizations. Your local chapter may have their own program. Leadership programs don’t need to be library-specific; if you work at a large institution, your workplace may have a leadership or mentoring program in place. Another idea is to find a librarian fellowship. IMLS and Library of Congress both offer fellowships, although there are many others to be had, especially in the special libraries. These are a good way for new librarians to gain experience with a short time commitment (typically 6 months to a year).

Stay connected – Nicole wrote tips on how to stay connected last week, but I want to reiterate the importance. The library world is very small and it’s important to make connections in the field. These connections may help you land a job or create a partnership across institutions. Being connected will also keep you on top of emerging issues in our field and help you identify emerging skill sets (back to point one; we need to stay on top of these in order to remain relevant).

Do free work – Most of us did free work throughout library school in the form of internships or volunteer work and it seems most unappealing to go back to. However, continuing to do free work can help you network, expand your skill set, and get out of the rut of your own institution’s workflow. Get more involved with professional organizations, either on the local or national level. Join committees, attend meetings, or volunteer your time. However, free work doesn’t need to be a hardcore commitment– one of the technical services librarians at my work volunteers once a month at a local charity bookstore. It allows her to give back to the community while at the same it gives her the chance to work with the public (something she doesn’t do at our library) and work with popular titles (we are a specialized academic research library). Volunteering with a book sale, literacy project, or a Friends of the Library group is an easy commitment to make and uphold.

Publish – Although publishing is only really required for academic librarians, it never hurts to have a few citations of your own work on your resume and portfolio. The thought of publishing may seem terrifying, but remember, we do hold master’s degrees! It is completely appropriate to try to publish, particularly in the library and information science field. If there is a particular student piece you wrote that you feel really good about, try approaching your professors and asking for help to whip it into publishing shape. They may also have connections with editors at various journals. Unless you are on the tenure-track, consider publishing in journals that aren’t peer-reviewed, open access journals, or doing reviews. If you aren’t ready for traditional publishing, start blogging. Don’t be afraid to pitch ideas for posts at established blogs that accept guest bloggers (like this one!).

To start my own post-library school education, I am working with a former professor to get a piece published in a journal in our field, and will be sharpening my markup language skills this summer. How will you continue your library education?

27 replies

  1. Thanks for this post; continuing education is really important (I say this as a current student, even), and although many of my professors have actively promoted this, it does sometimes go overlooked.

    Publishing is trickier, though. I had one professor express interest in helping me get a paper published, but unfortunately nothing has come of that yet, mainly because the professor is busy and it’s difficult for me, in the infancy of my career, to know what publications might be interested in the kind of piece I’ve written—especially since it probably wouldn’t be a good fit for the more mainstream publications. I wish there were more resources out there on publishing for LIS students, because I’m sure that there are plenty of us out there that would love to pursue this, but simply don’t have a real mentor yet to help.


  2. An online program for continuing prof. development is just starting today: 23 Things for Professional Development, It’s modeled after the 23 Things program for learning social media, but mixes social media and general professional development topics. It’s open to anyone that’s interested in signing up and working along. It should be interesting!


  3. Unfortunately–and I’m saying this as a libschool critic–newly minted libbers really need the extra credentials to make themselves competitive in a slashed-budget market. I’m so obsessed that I’ve gone and created a post-graduation schedule – so, like, when I get my librarian-card this August, I’ve already committed to begin the Sunshine State Leadership Institute program and pick up my Network+ certification by the end of the month.


  4. One of the reasons I chose librarianship is the culture of continuing education. I love that we are encouraged– and as is touched on above, is in this market, essential– to continue to grow. One other tip I would throw out there is to look to other fields that overlap with your own to be as marketable as possible, as well as potentially interacting with other industries whose professionals can serve as partners.


    • This is great advice. A few weeks ago I went to THATCamp, which is centered on Digital Humanities. I was initially nervous about whether, as a librarian, I would fit in among a bunch of humanities scholars, but it turned out to be a great experience. I met people who do really interesting work (including other librarians!) and got some new perspectives on librarianship to boot.


  5. Lifelong learning comes pretty natural to me, which might be why I consider librarianship such a good career move. However, I have noticed in the six months since finishing grad school that it can be easy to put off certain aspects of professional development. I had planned to take advantage of some of the stuff available through my school before my access is revoked, but I have yet to fit that into my schedule. I’ve also bookmarked the Mashable post Lauren mentioned, as well as some of the Lifehacker night school series, but never seem to have enough hours in the day to learn everything I’d like to! Although I’ve already explored a lot of what’s being covered in the cpd23 program, I do plan to follow along in order to get myself in the habit of focusing on a different professional development activity each week. Maybe once the routine is established, it will be easier to work in the other stuff!


  6. Don’t forget that your State Library probably provides many CE opportunities that are most likely free or at very low cost. Check out their website or call the CE Consultant. I am sure they will be more than happy to talk with you.


    • Good point! I’m actually on the Indiana State Library’s committee for professional development. We have our second meeting today, and are still trying to figure out how best to support professional development efforts here. If any Indiana-based folks are reading and want to pass along ideas, just let me know!


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