Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Thing 61. Online Professional Development for Library Staff

As libraries of all types face budget cuts that have an impact on hours, service, and collections, the ability for staff to attend professional development events out of the library may be reduced, too. However, in times of stress and retrenchment, continuing education is more important than ever. CE events can help libraries find new efficiencies, increase the ability of staff to understand and refine their responsibilities, as well as encourage staff continue to learn and grow as library employees. The investment a library makes in professional staff development is a morale booster because it recognizes that we value our employees and their ability to learn and contribute.

Thing 50 described how to keep up with the library world by creating a Personal Learning Network (PLN), managed with a customized homepage like iGoogle or Netvibes. Sending all your RSS & Twitter feeds to one spot is an efficient way to keep up with breaking news and new developments,  Add in podcast subscriptions, webinars, screencasts, & videos and you have a wide range of possibilities for free, never-leave-your-desk (or maybe your car) online learning.

Efficient aggregation of information is one thing, but where can we find the time for CE? Podcasts can be downloaded to a personal device--smart phone or mp3 player, for instance--and listened to during your commute, your daily walk, at the gym, doing dishes--just about anywhere. Webinars are often archived which makes it easy to watch/listen on your own schedule. Since the Internet is 24/7, there is no issue with others' schedule to watch YouTube or read blogs. Instead of Glee reruns, how about an informative YouTube video on Google search?

CE on library time may take some creativity, but it is doable with cooperation from administration and co-workers. How about informal brown bag lunches focused on a specific webinar or podcast. Watch/listen when you can, then have a discussion. Working out schedules so everyone gets a chance to do something CE for an hour or so a month means everyone benefits when we share what we learned. If you have creative ways you have integrated CE into your library, share them in the comments.

Here are some of our favorite ways to keep up:

Podcasts are like talk radio, but you get to choose the topic and commentator, rather than being stuck with what's on the radio! You can stream the content or . "Podcast" implies that the feed has a subscription via a feed. Most of these are updated regularly:
Find more podcasts here:
A webinar is a live meeting that takes place over the web. The meeting can be a presentation, discussion, demonstration or training session. Most webinars are archived, so if you can't watch it live, you can watch it when your schedule allows.

We hope you are taking advantage the the great webinars that Minitex offers on all thing library. Learn about ELM databases, readers advisory, and more. Past Minitex are archived here. Other sources of webinars:
  • InfoPeople is continuing library education sponsored by the California State Library 
  • TechSoup for libraries has live & archived sessions on many topics 
  • WebJunction Minnesota has many free courses, including those from U of North Texas Le@D that are approved for Minnesota Certification. Courses are free if you affiliate with WJMN (also free)
  • WebJunction Central also offers free webinars
A screencast is a digital video recording that captures actions taking place on a computer desktop. Screencasts, which often contain voice-over narration, are useful for demonstrating how to use specific operating systems, software applications or website features. These are quick, easy ways to learn something new. Minitex has created a series of screencasts on several topics from Greasemonkey to RSS feeds. You can browse other screencasts here.

Making a screencast either for public use or staff use is CE itself. The screencast maker will not only share what she has learned, she will learn a few things in the process of making the screencast. Here are some free resources for creating screencasts:
Where to begin with the availability of video on the Internet? YouTube has millions of videos of various utility. LibraryTube and TeacherTube try to focus on specific audiences. Vimeo and others have a wider range of videos. Here are some places to start:
It pays to invest in professional development. Without the investment, when the tempest has passed--and we certainly hope that happens sooner rather than later--staff is in the same place as before, facing new challenges, but "behind the times" in their ability to meet the challenges.

Ann Walker Smalley, Metronet
Image: 'Third Generation iPod nano'

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