Ever since I joined the school library world, I’ve been amazed at the ways in which seemingly similar professions (book publishers, booksellers, authors, English teachers, for example) know little about one another and maintain rather separate professional development lives.

In a past life, I occasionally attended the Association for Writers and Writing Programs annual conference (AWP). When I revisited this conference in my librarian role, I found stark differences. Where we celebrated new YA author panels, AWP had panels with authors defending their choice to publish in this area. Even vendors displayed a different side of themselves when surrounded by these literary academics. Then when I went to the Book Expo America (BEA) the following year I noticed that small publishing houses that had huge booths at AWP were hidden in remote aisles far from the glitz of larger houses. At ALA, a completely different view of topics, panels and vendors revealed themselves. The shifts intrigued me, and it got me to thinking…am I discovering all I can when sticking with my own profession’s resources?

Every month when VOYA, School Library Journal, YALS and Knowledge Quest come to my door, I eagerly scour their pages to discover new ideas and consider new areas of librarianship. But aside from ALA’s magazine, ‘ I rarely check in with those journals for Academic or Public librarians. Surely those could be of use to me too. While I’m at it, perhaps I should investigate professional journals for technology instructors, English teachers, college professors, salespersons. What new ideas and insights into trends and needs relevant to my teens am I missing by sticking with my librarian-focused texts?

Occasionally I’ve read issues of Publishers Weekly and the Chronicle of Higher Education, but it’s time to challenge all of us to read outside our professional box. Sure, we are librarians and need to read those journals in our specific fields, but for new ideas and successes to occur in our own fields, we need to look elsewhere too. We are in a field known for helping people find access to the resources they need to accomplish whatever their task may be.’  But we don’t always follow our own advice.

So ask yourself: Are you serving your own professional development with the same care and’ thoroughness’ you would provide another patron? If your answer is “Yes,” then tell us what non-teen library resources you turn to regularly so we can learn too. ‘ It’s time for all of us to add works from other professions into our professional development.

About Kate Covintree

Currently working as an Upper School librarian at an independent school in Rhode Island.

4 Thoughts on “30 Days of Innovation #6: Read outside the box

  1. I think that as librarians, we can’t limit what we read to only library materials. I think we *have to read books, journals, blogs… that may or may not relate to what we do. We never know what we’ll need to know as librarians! I read Education Week regularly when it comes into my media center. I also make time to read one or two articles from the magazines that come in, rotating each week which ones I read. This would include publications like Time, National Geographic, ESPN, Ebony and Details. Some are easier to dig into than others!

  2. Mairead Duffy on April 7, 2012 at 9:19 am said:

    I completely agree that we need to think and read outside of our profession or even our subset of the profession. In terms of thinking outside of the library world, we have to look at other industries and professions that have successfully evolved with the changing market place and have been able to change public opinions. I think Malcolm Gladwell’s books really helped me see how people and companies can effect innovative change.
    I also think that as teen librarians it is important to think outside the teen library world. Almost all the the candidates for the YALSA board, president and councilor positions spoke about this in their podcast interviews. Specifically, these candidates wanted to work more with the ALCS and the ACRL. I look forward to the ideas that may come from these alliances.

  3. Kate Covintree on April 7, 2012 at 2:28 pm said:

    Like Edi, I try to read articles in issues that arrive in my library, but I do wonder sometimes what else I am missing. Reading the magazines we receive is not the same as reading those resources designed for particular professions. Librarians can wear so many hats (especially those who work with teens) that almost any magazine reading can qualify as professional development. Still, what journals should I be trying to get my hands on?
    On the flip side, Mairead, I’d love it if there were more alliances on many library sides, not just with teen libraries getting outside their comfort zone. Our demographic may be smack in the middle of ACRL and ALCS, but it doesn’t mean they wouldn’t benefit from looking to each other as well. Just think of what ARCL can learn from AASL and vice versa. YALSA’s board may be getting the ball rolling, but I hope everyone joins in.

  4. Very much yes! I just went to AWP11 last month and was thinking of the same thing, comparing it in my mind with AASL11. This, of course, is also why I write monthly research roundups 😉

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