I spent about half of 2020 trying desperately to not go back to school. I had realized that I was interested in an archival career (an interest that’s grown to encompass digital collections and curation in general), but I did not want to go to school again. Surely just taking a bunch of online professional development classes on my own time and dime would help me land that dream archives job, right?
Well, no. I eventually bit the bullet and started IUPUI’s MLIS program, specializing in digital curation, and it was absolutely the right decision. That’s not to say I wasted my time doing those other classes, though! By this point I’ve assembled a long list of resources, ranging from “free” to “worth the money, and still way cheaper than grad school.” Whether you’re a Zoom webinar magpie like me, or you’re looking to fill a specific gap in your education, or you just need to find some professional development credits for your job that aren’t stiflingly boring, I hope you find something of use in this list!
The Texas Historical Commission has a list of free webinars from other organizations. The list is aimed chiefly at museum folks, but many of these webinars could be useful for archivists or anyone else dealing with physical collections.
OCLC’s WebJunction has on-demand videos and webinars that are free to all library staff and volunteers (their words, not mine; I have no clue how intense they are about checking that).
Academic libraries often have free virtual workshops, some live and some pre-recorded. Here are just a few examples…
UW-Madison also has self-paced “micro-courses” on a range of subjects, from DEI to research data management.
FutureLearn: The breadth of subjects represented here is vast, but here are a few that might be of interest to LIS folks.
SQL for Data Science (specialization with multiple courses)
Python for Everybody (specialization with multiple courses)
Instructional Design (list of individual courses on that subject)
General Assembly (discussed more below) will also occasionally have free individual workshops. Your best bet for catching those is to sign up for their mailing list.
CHEAP OR CHEAP-ISH ($30-$200)
The Northeastern Document Conservation Center has a wide array of workshops on super-specific subjects at low prices — again, useful for anybody who works with physical or digital collections. Some are above $100, but those are also usually multiple-session workshops. Generally a single-session workshop would run you between $45 and $95.
Grant writing courses can come pretty cheap as well. This online course through the University of Georgia is $159, comparable to the cost for a similar class at my local community college.
Preserve This may not have nearly the selection of Library Juice Academy (see below), but it’s worth highlighting regardless. They’re also hiring instructors for specific classes, so if you have subject matter expertise and want teaching experience, check it out.
Library Juice Academy has a ton of classes. Seriously. They normally run $175, which is okay for an individual class, but the cost of a certificate can add up.
A BIT PRICIER
American Association for State and Local History has online courses every semester, many on museums but again with some archival overlap. Courses usually run about $200 for members and $300 for non-members — which is quite the discount, but you’d need to actually spend the $30 to $72 to become a member first. These courses also fill up fast, meaning you should plan ahead if you want to take one.
Society of American Archivists, of course, has continuing ed classes, some live and some on-demand, and their certificate programs are pretty well-regarded. The price points can vary widely, though, ranging from $89 for a pre-recorded one-off class to the early-bird member price of $299 for an upcoming arrangement and description class. As with AASLH, membership is a hidden cost here. It’ll probably save you money in the long run if you take enough courses, but you should still be aware.
The iSchool at UW-Madison has LIS-specific continuing ed classes that seem to run between $250 and $325, with a 10% discount if you register early.
Amigos Library Services offers several microcredentials, including one on electronic resource management that comes strongly recommended by a friend of mine. There are several price points for members and early birds vs. non-members and… uh, late birds, I suppose, but the most you could pay for the whole ERM credential is $535. Meanwhile, the ERM class at IUPUI will cost me about two and a half times that much.
The Australian Society of Archivists, although obviously not US-based, has a course on indigenous record-keeping. Thus far, this is the only continuing-ed course on tribal libraries/archives/museums I’ve found (although WebJunction should be adding some more US-specific ones in 2022). The membership discount is hefty, but membership costs might be another story, and it’s also specific to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
General Assembly is one of those tech bootcamps. I think their main value to LIS students is in the occasional free workshops I mentioned, but if you’d rather focus on skilling up tech-wise and not worry as much about getting a Library Job™, you’ve got options.
BONUS: MUSEUMS AND CULTURAL HERITAGE!
I love museums. I’d happily work in a museum. But my informed-yet-ultimately-personal opinion is that if I’m going to get a master’s degree in a humanities subject, I’d much rather spend my time and money on an accredited professional degree that’s widely recognized abroad, and then maybe do a smaller museum-studies certificate program.
I share these links with some caution, because I haven’t done these programs myself or had time to vet them extensively. Regardless, though, even the most expensive of these programs is comparable to one semester of grad school — a smaller investment than a whole degree. If these seem up your alley, I’d encourage you to investigate them yourself.
University of Victoria
Cost: just over $3k CAD, so about $2.4k USD. It’s not clear from the website whether tuition differs for Canadian versus international students.
New York University
Cost: basically exactly $3k USD
Classes: 3 required, 1 optional symposium that I don’t think is running right now due to COVID
Cost: $3,780 without the symposium course, $4,480 with it
Editor’s note: Whitney Thompson (she/her) is a MLIS student at IUPUI (try saying that three times fast), focusing on digital curation. Her day job is as a product cataloger with the digital sheet music company Musicnotes, where she buries herself in spreadsheets and gets far too excited about metadata standards for classical music. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin with her spouse, two cats, a vintage keytar, and an extensive collection of pantsuits.