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Finding the Sweet Spot – professional learning

Posted by lpearle on 29 November 2012

As the year draws to a close many of us spend time evaluating what and how we’re doing. For me, it’s also a time to think about my professional development and what my Return on Investment is for each method.

There are a ton of library-related conferences out there for us to attend: EduCon, ALA Annual, ALA Midwinter, ALA’s divisional conferences (like AASL’s bienniel conference, or ACRL’s annual one, not to mention YALSA’s biennial Literature Symposium), SLJ’s Leadership Summit, ISTE, NCTE/ALAN, IBBY and many more, not to mention local and state organizations’ events.  I see some people constantly flitting from one to another and I wonder two things: don’t their home libraries miss them? and what are they actually getting from each event?

Yes, each has a different focus and attracts different people.  And obviously if you’re presenting you’ve got good reason to go.  But if you’re not presenting, are you actually learning new things, or is it more reiterating what you heard – albeit in slightly different words or format – in a previous session at a previous conference?  There’s definite value to the networking opportunities, and if you’re a solo librarian it’s incredibly validating and heartwarming to be with others you can talk to on a professional level.  But what is the ROI?

It’s not just about conferences – how many organizations, elists, publications, blogs, twitter feeds, etc. can you follow sensibly?  For me, it’s about finding the few people who are great aggregators and following them.  Otherwise I find that I’m ignoring too many tweets and posts, the really good stuff getting lost in the overwhelming flood of information.

The most difficult thing is when a new idea takes my fancy and I start looking everywhere for the best information on it.  It takes time to whittle down the new sources to the most critical ones, the ones that will really advance my knowledge rather than echo what other sources are saying.

In the next few weeks I’ll be planning my time at ALA Midwinter (for the YALSA Excellence in Non-Fiction Award) and starting to plan for ALA Annual (I’m presenting at a pre-conference).  My ALA membership is due and I’ll be thinking about which divisions best meet my needs.  Maybe I’ll think about heading to EduCon or Computers in Libraries or AASL’s conference in October.  It’s also time to weed my blogs, elists and twitter feeds, rethinking how much they contribute to my professional development.

What about you?  How do you keep current?  When do you weed out those memberships, conferences and information sources that just aren’t meeting your needs any longer?


2 Responses to “Finding the Sweet Spot – professional learning”

  1. Wendy said

    Interesting questions, Laura. I feel I have two rationales when I choose conferences — helping students and helping your school. I think I get more from AASL/ISTE/Educon about serving teachers and working as an instructional leader. For me, YALSA/ALAN are more about connecting students with books. I love both aspects of my job, and can’t privilege one about the other, so I spend lots of my own money growing in both directions. And I like to be gone a bit, because otherwise I think they can take us for granted. But I am feeling the overload of the RSS and twitter, and a year-end clean out there would be welcome.

  2. lpearle said

    Wendy, I agree with you about feeding the two sides! But you and I have both been to conferences where we’ve looked at the programs and thought, “I’ve done this already/heard this already/gone beyond this” so there’s little ROI in that regard.

    As for weeding the blogs and tweets, I wish there were some easy way to know that what’s in the feeds is The Best. The problem is, I find, that “best” is 1. subjective and 2. often a bit of the echo chamber at work. So if everyone says “follow [blogger/tweeter]” it’s possible that they are, in fact, best, but it’s also possible that they’re just good and someone else – someone not on the main radar – is actually going to be better *for me*. Sigh.

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