When I went to library school a few decades ago, we learned that in order to provide high-quality library service to youth it was imperative to read library professional literature and attend library related local, regional, state, and national conferences. Today, I’d say, that while it’s possible to provide good library services to teens by focusing one’s personal professional development on the library world, to provide great service to a wide-variety of teens from a wide-variety of demographics it’s imperative to move outside of the library silo. This idea is summed up really well in a recent Twitter exchange.

The conversation took place after @mlhartman attended a TedXEd event (#TEDxBvilleED) and was able to participate in presentations and conversations that included a variety of people involved in the education world. (I highly recommend reading the #TEDxBvilleED stream of Tweets as they are quite educational and inspiring.)

If you think about it, getting out of the library silo for professional development is really another way of learning about the community. If you are only hearing from the librarian perspective what is going on in your community, then you aren’t really engaging with the people that you need to serve. It’s the same thing with continuous learning and professional development. If you only talk with people just like you, then you aren’t learning what you need to know in order to serve those that have different ideas than you and your library friends and colleagues do.

It’s possible that part of the reason lots of librarians focus on library related professional development is that there is a comfort factor in reading library literature and going to library conferences. It’s a world that you (and I) know pretty well. It’s a world where you speak the same language as those presenting and writing. But, that’s actually why it’s important to move beyond and start seeking out opportunities that force you out of your learning comfort zone. And, I’d even suggest, that when you are uncomfortable learning entirely new things, ideas will be born that otherwise would never have surfaced.

Now, I’m not saying that you should give up library related professional development entirely, and you might actually want to start in your uncomfortable journey learning about library-related topics that you might think you don’t need to know about, or aren’t interested in. For example, if you tend to focus on YA literature enroll in a YALSA webinar on teens and tech. Or, if you have a very tech focused approach to teen services, register for the YALSA YA Lit Symposium or participate in a YALSA webinar that is YA lit focused.

Beyond that, seek out opportunities to connect digitally and face-to-face with those outside of your library community. Find a TedX event or take a class at a maker space in your area. Follow people and organizations on Twitter that have nothing to do with what you tend to focus on in your library services to teens. Read about educational trends that go beyond Common Core. Try a conference that is not sponsored by a library organization.

There are a lot of opportunities to learn about the best ways to serve teens in 2014 and beyond. Be creative and think outside of the library professional development box. By doing that you’ll expand your opportunities to provide great services to teens and their families in your community.

About Linda W Braun

Linda W Braun is a YALSA Past President, the YALSA CE Consultant, and a learning consultant/project management coordinator at LEO: Librarians & Educators Online.

3 Thoughts on “Getting Uncomfortable With Your Personal Professional Development Plan

  1. Thanks for posting about this, Linda! I want to mention another great “kind” of educator event for librarians to attend–Edcamps (http://edcamp.org/). I attended my first Edcamp, EdCamp MSP (http://www.edcampmsp.org/), this time last year and was blown away by how different a school day might look now, the amazingly tech-savvy things teachers and students are doing together, and how few of the attending teachers had connected to or contacted the public library nearest their school for any kind of relationship building, questions about compatibility (will your students’ school-issued iPads work with our free unsecured wifi?) etc. Libraries truly weren’t on many folks’ radar.

    I learned TONS at this entirely free event. Edcamps happen all over the country–just do an internet search to see if there are any in your area (unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a hub site/calendar)–and I highly recommend attending one, *especially* if you work with teens (most of the teachers at the one I attended served middle-to-highschoolers).

  2. Lisa Jordan on September 23, 2014 at 1:42 am said:

    Trying something new is so important for professional development! Although many librarians may have heard of it, (http://www.meetup.com/) is a great resource to start out with for more informal gatherings and learning opportunities on almost every topic imaginable.

  3. Yes! And, it can be a great way to build bridges and advocate for libraries and teen services, even within the same organization. A couple of years ago I was filling in as the central selector for Teen materials, and leading programming in the branches, and doing some administrative oversight. In the various professional development sessions for each topic I discovered connections between the three that I would have never imagined, and developed professional relationships with people who I would have never thought could help me before, but once I understood their work better, we had some great partnerships.

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