CPD (Continued Professional Development) is a term that many people talk about 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 in their school and therefore there is nowhere for them to progress. 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 second 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.
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. 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 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 really 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 in Schools' Library Service, 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 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 own 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 did not really understand the role of reflecting on my learning and I was more than happy if this part got forgotten and 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, 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 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 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 in 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 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 own 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?”
What I learnt was CPD is not a quick process, it is never finished and to be honest, 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 created 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 Read Something, Listen to Something and Watch Something. 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 find three resources that I have found interesting and share them.
This is a very personal journey so my tips for going forward are very general and will vary for every self-motivated Professional.
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 on that subject... You don't need to read everything you can find, just the ones that interest you.
Follow up on suggested links and reading.
Find some online CPD that works for you...Webinars, Bookclubs, Forums, social media
Listen to podcasts.
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.
I mentioned blogging earlier and it may not be for everyone but if you want to know more this blog might be useful.
Finding CPD Opportunities that Serve Your Goals
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.
Check out The Fosil Group website and join the discussions on their forum.
Join the School Library Association who provide many CPD opportunities.
Free webinars from the School Library Service can be found here.
CILIP SLG has some great Key Issues resources that might pique your interest.
Learning from others on the same journey as you is an important part of CPD.
If there is no one telling you that you have to take part in any CPD you have to find it within yourself. It really is about finding your own personal 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 all of your blogs...