Monday, June 18, 2012

Professional development and continuing education

Professional development remains a key priority for information professionals. However, obtaining continuing education is increasingly a personal responsibility, unsupported by employers. Vendors offer some free services to help customers learn about and effectively use their products. Many also provide more generalized professional development programs. These are, by no means, the only resources that librarians and information professionals tap to keep up with advances in their own field.

While librarians read journals related to their work (subscribing to ONLINE, for example), they also take advantage of the web and the plethora of resources available in multimedia format, such as videos and presentations available at SlideShare, Inc. ( For example, I learned how to exploit Netvibes ( in a PowerPoint presentation by someone who ended with a screen shot of the start page of the Shrewsbury and Telford (U.K.) health libraries.



Everyone learns differently. I find podcasts and webinars to be particularly helpful. I like being able to multitask and often time-shift, listening when I can rather than when meetings are held or sessions are conducted.

I could probably attend one web-based event a day--and I often find myself conflicted with two events held at the same hour. I've learned to ask which will be archived on the web for access by those who register, so even if I'm not sure that I will be able to attend an event, I register with the intent of listening or viewing it at a later date. I confess that does not always occur. (My apologies to web conference organizers for any difficulties that this may cause.)

In general, I have two categories of interests, very loosely based on work-related issues. They deal with library management, including the business skills required to run libraries, such as marketing via social networks, and information management (including website development and search optimization).

The second category can be considered part of "lifelong learning," an extension of my general interests in the world and my more formal liberal arts education. I look for organizations that offer high-quality series of webinars and podcasts, and I cast my net widely. The approach(es) I employ to keep abreast of learning opportunities, whether they are specific skill training or more generally educational, may be of help to readers of this column in developing personal information literacy and lifelong learning efforts of their own.


Social networking has proved a great boon to broadening my learning experiences. Individuals and organizations I follow on Twitter, as well as LinkedIn groups to which I belong, have helped expand the sources of my learning, as well as deepen it within a particular topic. I have TweetDeck set to track several topics that tend to shift as projects are completed and new ones take their place. At the moment, I'm tracking Knowledge Management (KM), Competitive Intelligence (CI), Urban Agriculture, and Thalassemia. I track these topics using other tools, but I continue to be amazed at the number of webinars and podcasts--not to mention articles and white papers--that I would not know about if not for using Twitter. (I'll acknowledge that not all are of high quality, but I can screen through the suggestions pretty quickly each morning.)


I am a bit more conflicted about the LinkedIn groups I belong to. Many of the Special Libraries Association (SLA) and American Library Association (ALA) units and special interest groups have shifted from discussion lists to their own LinkedIn groups. I question the value of networking among a group of individuals to which I already have access in other ways, although I recognize that some may prefer one vehicle over another for communication.

Several KM and CI LinkedIn groups have a range of individuals participating, from novice to expert, so that some of the discussions are not as appropriate for my work as they might be if I were more discriminating about the individuals in my network. (I am about to "unsubscribe" from a couple of these that are not really "right" for my work today. Just as we weed our library collections, cleaning up less than excellent tools is equally important today.)


Other groups, which address workforce development (training, motivating, morale boosting) and international development, appear more on-target for me. For example, the Society for International Development, Washington, D.C. Chapter ( has several work groups that have meetings you can join via the web. They are announced through their LinkedIn groups (Knowledge Management Workgroup) or individual lists (Development Information Workgroup at

Community TechKnowledge, Inc. presents a series of free webinars for not-for-profit organizations ( Recent subjects were community impact and outcomes reporting to grantmaking, impact tracking, community engagement, and volunteer management. Leadership training videos on Nonprofit Management, only 15 minutes long, are also accessible via the site (



Much of my work revolves around libraries, so I rely heavily on library associations for professional development, through print publications, online blogs, topic-specific wikis, discussions lists, and events, both physical and virtual. ALA has many subgroupings that offer learning to members, some of which allow nonmembers to participate at a nominal fee. For example, the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS) offers reasonably priced webinars for nonmembers ( Check the site for the range of offerings to see if there's something that would benefit you or someone on your staff. The webinar announcement in my inbox this week is for Steps in Digital Workflow, a 1-hour session priced at $49 for nonmembers; groups get a discount.


For the past several months, SLA divisions and chapters have been sponsoring an increased number of free webinars. Most recently, there were Rio Grande Chapter's Evolution of the Web: From Static to Semantic in 3 Big Steps; Illinois Chapter's Non-Traditional Library Jobs; Legal Division's Libraries & Knowledge Management: Taming the KM Monster; and CI's Using Win/Loss to Build Competitive Advantage.

State library associations may offer learning opportunities for librarians in their states, or elsewhere. The Georgia Library Association Carterette series of "how to" webinars are archived at index.php/Carterette_Series_Webinars_Archive. Recent topics include ebooks, Google+, and Podcasting in the Library. All are practical subjects designed for the novices among us. Presenters are Georgia librarians who've recently tried to use a new tool or do something at their library that had never been attempted. They share their stories, warts and all, so if you're looking for tips you can use, listen in.

Designed for the California library community, others can participate in its online training and webinars ( Past training materials and webinars are archived on the site. In fall 2011, Infopeople conducted two online courses: Creating Effective Materials for Your Library Community and Library Marketing and Promotion via Social Media.


When it comes to library consortia, few can beat the Amigos Library Services ( For example, Amigos held an all-day technology conference on Feb. 8, called Technology: Unexpected Consequences of Legislation and Policies in Libraries. I originally thought a whole day of watching PowerPoints and listening online would be terribly difficult to handle, but this was one of the best-managed online events in which I've ever participated. It was free of all technical glitches, and moderators added value to the lectures through the chat window at the right of the screen. All of the presentations were archived for attendees, so I can check what I missed in competing tracks and time slots.

LYRASIS offers fee-based professional development courses ( Recognizing that this column is designed to identify free resources, I note that these can be helpful in identifying "hot topics" and series of courses that relate to one another in support of library functions. Staff members can refer to these as they design their individual professional development plans and approach career pathing, understanding the skills they need to acquire to advance. For example, Reference and Related Courses in February 2012 included 20 Questions: Deluxe Edition, Foundations of Reference Service for Non Librarians, Patron Initiated Acquisitions, and Managing Student Assistants in Academic Libraries.


Many federal agencies and state libraries offer education and training to their staffs and others who might benefit. For example, a series of three symposia that was sponsored by the Library of Congress between October 2010 and October 2011, Preservation Roadmaps for the 21st Century, took place at the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., was broadcast live over the internet, and later archived at

The National Information Standards Organization (NISO) "identifies, develops, maintains, and publishes technical standards to manage information in our changing and ever-more digital environment. NISO standards apply both traditional and new technologies to the full range of information-related needs, including retrieval, re-purposing, storage, metadata, and preservation." Its webinars ( are pricier events than the others I've mentioned ($89 for NISO and NASIG (North American Serials Interest Group) members; $119 for nonmembers; with discounts for multiple webinars), but look at these upcoming events--"Making Better Decisions With Usage Statistics," "Content on the Go: Mobile Access to E-Resources," and "Beyond Publish or Perish: Alternative Metrics for Scholarship." It's cutting-edge information, and it's still less expensive than traveling to an onsite location.


Copyright Clearance Center ( offers education on copyright and licensing. The CCC's online events include webinars on "Copyright for the Proprietary Institution," "Copyright for the Academic Institution," and "Challenges of Copyright in the Global Environment." You can browse by topic (e.g., Beyond the book, Copyright in academia, Copyright in motion, Google settlement), type (e.g., podcast, video, webinar, workshop), or date (calendar).

OCLC announces its podcasts via an RSS feed. In February, the topic was "Your library at Webscale: How radical collaboration is redefining library management services" with George Silvis (University of Delaware) and Marshall Breeding (Vanderbilt University). Virtual reference is the upcoming focus, and registration is free (


DuraSpace is another to watch. You may be more familiar with its open source repository solutions, Fedora and DSpace, but it's the series of digital preservation webinars that I find most helpful (

LISEvents is a beta site for library-community conferences and events ( Filter the events to "online only/webinars" to eliminate those that are location-based. Some are free, such as "Big Talk From Small Libraries." Others are low-fee, such as $55 for "Engaging Students With Transliteracy, Technology and Teaching."


Commercial groups offer webinars on information technology topics. OCLC's WebJunction serves up live programs, aimed at library staff, conducted online via WebEx web conferencing (


For those whose organizations have purchased SharePoint and found the implementation "challenging," a number of entities offer webinars to help you tweak the product. Wall Street Network, Inc. had "Knowledge Management for SharePoint" ( NewsGator webinars, videos, and case studies often focus on community and SharePoint (

Turn to Clickz for marketing advice. While there are fees associated with its elearning courses concerning Search Engine Optimization, Email Strategy, Social Media, and Web Analytics, the webinars are free (


While TED Talks ( and Khan Academy ( attract much attention in the press, I began with the University of California-Berkeley. Marti Hearst's search engine course had some of the top names in search as guest lecturers--Sergey Brin, John Battelle, Peter Norvig, and Hal Varian--making it a terrific and exciting introduction to the subject matter. I enjoyed the use of videotaped lectures for learning. The podcasts for this (and other courses given by Hearst at the iSchool) are online (

Stanford University's School of Engineering offered three of its most popular computer science courses for free online in the fall of 2011--Machine Learning, Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, and Introduction to Databases--"launching an experiment that could transform the way online education is delivered." Each had a formal course syllabus, readings, a Screenside chat (YouTube video), and weekly exercises to complete, all emailed to my inbox. To get an inkling as to the course work, take a look at Introduction to Databases website (; additional courses will be available this year.


Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was one of the first to offer online courses (, but it's now one of many universities making a range of subject matter accessible to those who might not have been able to attend university, or didn't have a chance to take many courses outside their own major. I'm now reviewing some coursework and lectures from University of California-Irvine (

The increase in open courseware means that iTunes can be a resource for learning as well as music. The iTunes U app puts course materials on students' mobile devices. You can browse and download more than 500,000 free lectures, videos, books, and other resources on any topic an institution has decided to offer.

How popular are these courses? As an example, approximately 1800 "items" are downloaded from the University of Oxford on iTunes for a total of 130,000 times per week by individuals in 185 countries. Of these, 15% are downloaded by mobile users (including iPad and iPhone).

Some of my favorite series have been discontinued--Library 2.0 Gang; Longshots: Library-Related Commentary and Interviews; SirsiDynix--but others are always starting up. For example, while the Competitive Intelligence podcasts from August Jackson and Arik Johnson (Aurora WDC) are no longer offered, the third CI Life podcast from Sean Campbell and Steve Swigart of Cascade Insights has just appeared in my Playlist. I've just heard about Flapcast (, which allows you to access podcasts that "live in the cloud."

I'm also a sucker for improving education, so note the following:

* I often listen in on The Future of Education (

* If you're in need of modules to help you teach a subject (e.g., business ethics), try one of the 20,238 available from Connexions, a repository and collaborative platform of educational materials (

* My latest find for free textbooks to augment my learning is OpenStax College (; I'm reading Introduction to Sociology now, but then it's on to the sciences.

* Flat World Knowledge, Inc. also has college textbooks for free (

* If the college science texts are too advanced for you, try the high school texts available from FlexBooks (


I don't mean to exclude interesting reading material beyond what is delivered via RSS feed to my Google Reader, although I do sometimes get a bit behind and have to do a major catch-up on Mashable, Inc. or refer to archived emails from eMarketer, Inc.

I'll admit that I'm not on the leading edge with most gadgets, but I do like reading about them and seeing what's coming down the pike. So I subscribe to The New York Times RSS feeds (, including Bits Blog, Pogue's Posts, and Personal Tech, supplemented by Walt Mossberg and Robert Cringely, and watch BBC Click (, to name but a few of my valued resources and feeds.

I also have an extensive network of information professionals around the world who point me to resources they find helpful. Library school professors tell me about institutional repositories to which they contribute. (For example, I just learned that publications from 1987 to the present are available from the Institute for Informatics and Digital Innovation at

At the end of each year and the start of the next, a series of articles appear in journals, magazines, newspapers, and online websites, declaring "the best of ... " For example, on Dec. 21, 2011, Michelle Eggleston provided a "Top Ten Articles" for training at All are useful for librarians who want to improve their presentation skills.


Second Life is a free 3D virtual world where users can socialize, connect, and create using free voice and text chat ( Paulette Robinson, assistant dean for teaching, learning, and technology at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., is the founder of The Federal Consortium for Virtual Worlds, which organizes periodic meetings in Second Life ( It's a great way to attend a conference if you're a distance away from colleagues who are doing work similar to your own.

For those interested in information literacy, Sheila Webber's Information Literacy Weblog ( has a label dedicated to info lit events on Second Life. The latest event hosted by Sheffield University's iSchool featured Diane Nahl (University of Hawaii) in a discussion of a journal article, "Academic Library Administrators' Perceptions of Four Instructional Skills."

ACRL Science and Technology Section's Information Literacy Committee uses Tinychat Co. to discuss "building and maintaining liaison relationships between librarians and faculty" in its last Wednesday series ( Tinychat provides video chat rooms--no downloads required. At the appointed time, just go to the URL and join the conversation. If your interests include health information technology, go to the National eHealth Collaborative NeHC University ( to register for an upcoming seminar.


Other social networking tools are more nonpassive in nature, allowing participation in unconference sessions. Designed to foster learning, collaboration, and creativity, unconference participants decide the agenda and contribute to session development.

Don't forget that many of the conferences you do not or cannot attend in person now make speaker presentations (handouts and slides) and sometimes even video available to those who follow the links. For example, LILAC, the Librarians' Information Literacy Annual Conference, archived its 2011 sessions ( (The 2012 annual conference was held in April, so check the site for access to presentations.) In November 2011, a group gathered in Boston over breakfast to discuss "Social Media Success--Uncovering What Works." It was captured and shared by the local CBS station ( works). It's long, but worth every minute if you want some great tips.


Want to meet individuals with similar interests to your own in nonvirtual space, otherwise known as the "real world"? MeetUp's motto sums it up nicely: "Do something--Learn something--Share something--Change something" (

Prefer to remain in the virtual realm but still learn from your peers? Explore the groups P2PU ( TechSoup provides "technology products and information geared specifically to the unique challenges faced by nonprofits and libraries." Just now, TechSoup is running a Digital Storytelling Challenge ( Even if you're not going to enter the Challenge, it's worth watching the webinars around the topic ( tsdigs+recap/default.aspx).

It's helpful to move a bit out of your comfort zone, experimenting with new tools, so continue to bookmark resources of interest and sign up for alerts from organizations, even if you're not sure that you'll be able to make the event. Keeping track of "hot topics" can help you focus on the next move at your institution and give you an idea as to the "experts" to help you succeed. Experiencing this without tuition expenses, travel costs, or pricey continuing education courses--and delivered to you in a fashion that meshes with your learning style--is a boon.

Now that information professionals are likely to be on their own for professional development and continuing education, maximizing value while minimizing time and expenses is imperative.

Barbie E. Keiser ( is an information resources management (IRM) consultant located in the metro Washington, D.C. area.

Technology Conference: February 8th, 2012 (Online)

Conference Home Archives Schedule Sessions/Speakers

Times--all CST Session Presenter

9:00 am The Changing (or not) John Carlo Bertot
Information and
Telecommunications Policy
Landscape: Implications
for Libraries

10:00 am Digital Public Library of John Palfrey

Shaping and Responding Gloria Meraz
to Government Technology

Wifi Access in Libraries: Anne Prestamo
Issues and Policies

11:00 am Academic Libraries: Policy Julie Todaro
Initiatives Leading
Change in Access and

Overcoming the Challenges Rachel Vacek
to Creating a Single Online
User Experience

Libraries and Technology: Rhoda Goldberg,
It is the best of times; Michael Saperstein
it is the worst of times

12:00 pm Lunch

1:00 pm HathiTrust: Issues and Jeremy York
Challenges in Preserving
the Published Record

The Cloud: De-mist-ified Bryan Beaty,
Eddy Smith

Section 508 Policy, Bruce Bailey
Requirements and Refresh

2:00 pm Digital Content Frustration: Sarah Houghton
Effects of DRM, Copyright,
and Licensing

Evaluating Library Resources Nina McHale
for Accessibility

Internet Archive Edward Betts

3:00 pm Licensing and contract Anna Wyatt
issues in libraries

National Landscape (due to Corey Williams

Unleashing the power of James Werle
advanced R&E networks in
Keiser, Barbie E.

Source Citation
Keiser, Barbie E. "Professional development and continuing education." Online May-June 2012: 20+. Expanded Academic ASAP. Web. 18 June 2012.
Document URL

Gale Document Number: GALE|A288979712

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