DIY Professional Development


A Guest Blog Post by Mary Kelly 

I am always looking for ways to improve my job performance.  Yeah, I know I need to be better organized and perhaps not have an anxiety attack every time something weirds me out. I also have trouble with details if I am interrupted from a task. (I have more faults I can list, but I don’t want to brag.) This is true for nearly every working person in the world. We all have faults. These are things all of us, as working people, will try to improve. These are work habits.  

Professional development is more a big picture view of your job and its place in the profession. Job performance is about managing your personal knowledge and skills. If we have learned anything during this pandemic, it is you need to be ready for anything. The more you keep developing and learning, this increasing knowledge forces you to consider alternative ideas and adapt to a changing environment. The more aggressive you are in developing your own skill set, the more adaptable and valuable you become to your organization.  

Everyone needs to make a conscious choice in professional development. Opportunities are everywhere, but too often we see employees avoiding or complaining about “extra work.” Many managers I know (and not just in libraries) are distressed when staff members lack the interest to improve their own skill set.  Conversely, managers, too, have a responsibility to provide opportunities, and most importantly, schedule time for employees to learn new skills. In addition, managers need to find ways to help employees put those skills to work for the organization. 

Chances are that a perfect blend of scheduling, training budgets, and managerial support will not exist.   In the time of COVID, this will probably be even more difficult. Strained budgets and staffing are going to make this even more challenging. Even in non COVID times, the reality is that no one is going to support your professional development but you. So how do you stay current, enthusiastic and pointed in the right direction? 

  • Get a library buddy or two and meet frequently to just chat. I know the pandemic does make this more difficult, but still try to connect. The best is to get someone, maybe you met at a conference, or from library school. Try to avoid someone in your own organization for this purpose. Make it mostly social. Think of this as your support group. Make sure everyone agrees to a cone of silence”, meaning that what is discussed is kept confidential. I have done this for years, and have appreciated when my band of fellow librarians act as a sounding board, or give me a reality check when needed.   
  • A group of library directors I know have a regular book club featuring leadership and managerial titles for discussion. This is especially helpful since directors don’t often get a chance to discuss management issues with peers. They kept the group small on purpose and had a similar confidentiality agreement in place. I have seen similar types of discussion groups in non-library organizations as well. This type of book club is a great way to learn in a supportive manner.  
  • Stick to reasonable goals. Maybe you want learn to use pivot tables or take a deep dive into some of the database products your library offersCommit to regular, but small, bits of time. Fifteen minutes a day is often more productive than many hours all at once.  
  • Understand yourself as a learner.  I need to practice multiple times every day until I “get it.”  I know others that make a training sheet to teach others after they have learned something. They do this to make sure that they really understand what they are doing. 

Remember, you work in a library, perhaps you can find something that would help you there. 


About the Author

Mary Kelly received an MLIS and an MBA from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. Mary’s day job is Digital Services and Emerging Technologies Librarian at the Plymouth District Library in Plymouth, Michigan where they use Innovative SkyRiver. When not serving her customers at the reference desk, she is often seen trying to wrestle e-books and the Internet into submission. She is passionate about collection quality, library managem