Updated: May 6, 2020
I think we would all agree that CPD (Continued Professional Development) is important but how do we learn about what it actually means and how do you go about finding out what you actually need?
When I think back to when I started work I realise that I have been very lucky with my own CPD journey. I have often been guided and given a clear path as to what I should be doing. As a library assistant way back in the 1980's I was told to apply and do the City and Guilds Library assistants course. At the time I remember thinking how nice it was to get out of the library to visit other libraries around the country and to get off the enquiry desk a few times a month. I don't think I made the connection with professional development at the time but it was. What I did not realise however was the important link to learning and developing, when it was something that really interests you. I had done ok at school but could not wait to leave and if you had asked that 16 yr old me if I would ever do any kind of studying again the answer most definitely would have been no.
Fast forward to me going back to work after having my family. It turns out that this was my time to really study properly for the first time and I have to say that even as hard as it was, this is where I found my love of learning. After getting my degree in Information and Library studies I started my first professional role for Schools' Library Service and this is where I really became aware of CPD for the first time. I was told that I was expected to attend a conference once a year. Which at the time caused no end of problems with a young family and busy husband but I went and learnt to enjoy them. Partly because it got me away from said young family and busy husband for a couple of days but also I began to find them less daunting and began to see some learning opportunities. We were however expected to come back and present our learning to our colleagues... Not something I was very keen to do. It felt it was like being asked to read a book for pleasure then write about it, which in itself took away all the pleasure from reading the book in the first place. I did not really understand the role of reflecting on my learning and I was more than happy if this part got forgotten; who was I to remind them?
What I did not appreciate at the time was without the feedback and evaluation CPD had no benefit. Unless I took the time to reflect on who I had met and what I had learnt, it was soon forgotten.
So apart from a conference once a year did I do anything for myself at the time? If I am really honest then no... Why would I? I was doing a good job, I was doing my annual CPD, no-one was questioning my learning and development so all was good. I would occasionally read something from the CILIP Update if it caught my attention but apart from that, there was nothing. Who has time for CPD outside of work? I certainly did not feel that I was missing out on anything so why give time to it and I know that I can't be the only person to feel this way.
I began to get interested in the possibility of changing things for the better for those that I was there to support. I began to understand that if I knew more about school libraries and what they could do for students and teachers that I could be providing a better service and feel more fulfilled in my role. If I understood more I could talk about it with confidence and this would/could make a difference to how I was perceived in schools. I wanted to be more than the 'library lady', I wanted to be accepted as an equal to the teaching staff but I had to believe that myself too.
I came across three things at the same time.
One was Chartership (again encouraged by where I worked). This journey which I embarked on reluctantly, became a real eye-opener to my own personal learning journey. This was where I learnt to critically evaluate what I was doing and is a skill that has stayed with me.
Another was beginning to really understand the merits of information literacy, which I profoundly believe is essential within education.
The third was blogging which allowed me to use my newly found skill of critical evaluation to its full effect.
Together they fired my interest in learning for my own development but also sharing my learning with others. Finding something that interests you is certainly the key to all of this. A recent conversation with Darryl Toerien, Head of Library and Archives at Oakham School, led me to understand something fundamental in how important CPD is for you. How can we be inspirational and support our students and teachers if we don't find what we are talking about interesting ourselves?
What I found was it was not a quick process, it is never finished and to be honest, one that I am still learning. My journey with CPD is ongoing as it should be for all of us. I like quick results and unfortunately, you don't get this from CPD. What I did get, however, is the passion of a subject and a love of learning. I am an impatient person and CPD takes time and effort which is why I find it hard. If no-one is telling me to do it I can easily fall into the trap of feeling that I know enough and I know that I am not alone in this. I have to say here that I would have actually found it beneficial if CILIP had voted in compulsory revalidation for Chartership/Fellowship as motivating myself to do it is hard... My fellowship is due for revalidation and I must get round to it (note to self!).
As I have had to find a way to motivate myself, you may have noticed I do that by putting myself out there. I don't like to let people down so my big step forward a few years ago was to provide online CPD for school library staff which gives suggestions for reading once a month. I find articles, blogs, TED talks, Podcasts or books that I think will be interesting a relevant and I then create some questions to get the conversation started. This means I have to read what I have suggested so it is for purely selfish reasons I am doing this. Thankfully people do join in which makes it enjoyable to do. Check out #LibraryStaffLoveLearning to find out more...
How can you start this journey?
This is a very personal journey so my tips for going forward are very general.
Understand your own interests relating to your own job and role. Learning more about something builds up your knowledge and expertise.
Find what excites you. Do this because you want to not because you feel you should.
Focus your reading around that subject... You don't need to read every article in the Information Professional just the ones that interest you.
Follow up suggested links and reading.
Find some online CPD that works for you...Webinars, Bookclubs, Forums, social media...
Ask yourself what you have learned... Good or bad! being critical is ok.
Write about what you have learnt... If/when you are ready, share your learning through blogging.
If you want to know more about blogging you might find this blog useful.
What can you do today?
If you are interested in general school library things then #LibaryStaffLoveLearning is a good place to start. In May we are looking at Copyright and in June we are focusing on Fake News and plan to look at Reading in September. Hopefully, there is something there for everyone and I add to it on a monthly basis.
#LibraryStaffLoveLearning free CPD in May. We are reading chapter 3 of Copyright and e-learning: A guide for practitioners which looks at Using Digital Media, Videos, Images, Sound and Software. Take a look and join in when you can
Check out The Fosil Group website and join the discussions on the forum. Learning from others on the same journey as you is an important part of CPD.
If you are interested in information literacy and Inquiry Learning then join me on my webinar on the 14th May called I work in a school library and am looking for inspiration and on the 20th May Digital Literacy and the School library I will be talking about how to bring information literacy to the heart of teaching and learning by unpacking IFLA school library guidelines and the FOSIL cycle
There is no-one telling you that you have to take part in any CPD. This really is about your own personal journey and your own need to professionally develop. If you choose not to do anything about it no-one will know apart from yourself, but just think about how much more exciting your role could be if you found the fire in your belly and could increase your knowledge and understanding of something you really love! I really hope you can find what you are looking for and I look forward to reading all of your blogs...