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Self-Motivated Professionals: Finding CPD Opportunities that Serve Your Goals

Updated: Apr 8

CPD (Continued Professional Development) is a term many people discuss when referring to training or learning something new. For many, it is a way to enhance their current work practices to progress within their chosen career. However, for school librarians, progression is often not available to them. They are usually the only librarian within their school and therefore there is nowhere for them to progress to. Does this mean then that professional development is not important? I would say no.


As we can see there are two sides to CPD, the first being to enhance current work practices which prevents potential stagnation by maintaining and improving their skill set and this is where I see CPD is not only important but essential. If a school librarian is just doing their job every day it is not enough, the world is moving fast around them, and they need to move with it. Not only for themselves but for the students they work with. 


My journey


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 assistant’s course. I don't think I made the connection with professional development at the time and certainly didn’t understand the important link to learning. I had done ok at school but could not wait to leave and if you had asked that 16-year-old me if I would ever do any kind of learning or 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 learn properly and I have to say that even as hard as it was, this is where I found my love of studying for a purpose. After getting my degree in Information and Library Studies I started my first professional role for Schools' Library Service in Guernsey, where I became aware of CPD for the first time. I was told that I was expected to attend a conference once a year. Which 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 and understand the learning opportunities. 


They expanded my horizons, I met interesting and engaging people and often brought ideas back to my workplace. 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 and then write about it, which took away all the pleasure. I didn't 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, sharing and evaluation this 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 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. There was little room to progress up the ladder and to be honest, I was happy where I was. I would occasionally read something from the CILIP professional magazine if it caught my attention but apart from that, 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. 


What changed?


I am not sure, to be honest, maybe I was ready to learn again after having done my degree, but 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 I could provide 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 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 understand the merits of inquiry learning through FOSIL (Framework Of Skills for Inquiry Learning), which I profoundly believe are essential skills 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 development but also allowed me to share my learning with others. Finding something that interested me was certainly the key to all of this. A conversation with Darryl Toerien, Head of Inquiry Learning at Blanchelande 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?” 


Ongoing CPD 


What I learnt was CPD is not a quick process, it is never finished and a journey that I am still on as it should be for all of us. I like quick results and unfortunately, you don't get this from CPD and I do find this 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. What I did get, however, is the passion of a subject and a love of learning. 


I had to find a way to motivate myself and 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 learning once a month. I find articles, blogs, TED talks, Podcasts, or books that I think will be interesting and relevant. I then create some questions to get the conversation started. This means I have to read what I have suggested so it makes me do it too. 


This has also led me to create a weekly newsletter called Three Thoughts for Your Week. This was created as I know and understand that school librarians don’t have a lot of time for CPD and I wanted to help make it easier. Every week I share three resources that I have found interesting. 


How can you start this journey?


This is a very personal journey so my tips for going forward are very general. 


  1. Understand your own interests relating to your own job and role. Learning more about something builds up your knowledge and expertise. 

  2. Find what excites you. Do this because you want to not because you feel you should. 

  3. Focus your reading on that subject... You don't need to read everything you can find, just the ones that interest you.

  4. Follow up on suggested links and reading.

  5. Find some online CPD that works for you...Webinars, Bookclubs, Forums, social media

  6. Listen to podcasts. 

  7. Ask yourself what you have learned... Good or bad! being critical is ok.

  8. Write about what you have learnt... If/when you are ready, share your learning through blogging. 


Blogging may not be for everyone but if you want to know more this blog might be useful. 


What can you do today?


I believe that CPD is critical to keep school librarians motivated and engaged. This is not only good for themselves, but a motivated librarian is important for the students and teachers they serve. Because of this I provide many different opportunities to learn more. 


If you are interested in general school library things then the learning hub is a good place to start as there are many discussions that you can jump into today including my article of the month. 


Check out my Engaging and Empowering School Libraries Podcast. We talk to lots of interesting people about school library-related topics. 


Join my Engaging and Empowering School Libraries membership. A place of shared learning and support. There is a 10% discount for anyone using Softllink. 


Check out The Fosil Group website and join the discussions on their forum. 


Join the School Library Association who provide many CPD opportunities. 


CILIP SLG have some great Key Issues resources that might peak your interest.  


Learning from others, on the same journey as you, is an important part of CPD. 


Finally


If no one telling you that you have to take part in any CPD you have to find it within yourself. It is about finding your interests 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 love! I hope you can find what you are looking for and I look forward to reading your blogs... 


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4 Comments


Ruth Maloney
Ruth Maloney
Apr 09

An interesting thing has happened to me this year. The change in my approach to CPD has been two fold. I am looking for opportunities to futher my career, to broaden my areas of knowledge and to become a better, more useful professional. This is really driven by personal career ambition, a recognition that I work in libraries as a career, not as a job and that I want to progress. My school is not going to be able to afford an assistant, or a team so while I stay there I am not going to gain experiences of those kinds but I can find all sorts of, usually free, cpd that is helpful in otherways. I started with a…

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Elizabeth
Elizabeth
Apr 12
Replying to

Thanks for your comment @Ruth Maloney, the difference you describe is all about recognising your own worth and keeping motivated which is hugely important. Having a plan going forward always helps with this. Is the school willing to pay for the five days of CPD or do you have to pay for it yourself? How is that managed?

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Elizabeth thank you for sharing your own experiences of how you found CPD helped you. To progress one has to be inspired, stay focussed and advance outside of work time limits however de-motivation sets in if what you constantly bring new to the table is not valued by administrators in school settings. Thank you also for constantly giving us new podcasts, uplifts and different practices around school libraries.

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Elizabeth
Elizabeth
Feb 09
Replying to

I agree Prity it is so difficult to stay motivated when you are constantly knocked back. I do hope that these blogs and podcasts get the attention of senior school leaders as this is where the learning needs to happen. I just hope that the school librarians are ready and motivated when this happens 😊.

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