Thank you for joining me in my final post as thedeskset.org‘s guest blogger for July. It has been a wonderful honor to share some of my experiences and opinions about academic librarianship. In my previous posts, I have addressed the need to create and cultivate new relationships as a new librarian. In this final post, I want to address connectivity again, but in the form of remaining disciplinarily current.
We often discuss how imperative it is to cultivate our professional network, but it is just as important to stay connected to the trends, technologies, and intellectual questions that pervade the field of librarianship. Often as an academic librarian, one is expected to have a “mastery” of two disciplines- librarianship and a subject area.
This split responsibility illustrates the importance of having strategies to stay current for academic librarians. Often librarians invest a great deal in professional organizations and scholarly societies. These organizations serve as ways for librarians to tend to both the cultural trends of their profession as well as their professional networks. While these organizations can have great benefits, there are some inherent downsides to the model. Due to the fact that these events are generally held annually, a tremendous amount of information is covered and often concurrently. Often the skills one wants to learn and the trends you want to further explore often conflict.
In addition, because of their immense size, these events are typically very expensive. For librarians who have limited funding, attendance can leave little financial room for other professional development opportunities. I am not necessarily advocating that librarians should abandon ALA annual and other large programs, but rather that they should carefully weigh the advantages and disadvantages as they pursue venues to keep current. It is extremely important for librarians to network with other librarians and seek mentorship inside their profession, but it is just as important for librarians to remember the multidisciplinary nature of academic librarianship and address all aspects of their career. It is worth considering supplementing your library conferences with alternate subject conferences to enhance your portfolio of connections and subjects.
The consistent developments of new sub-disciplines, such as Digital Humanities, as well as the emergence of digital technologies across the social sciences have expanded the purview of researchers and by association the librarians that work with those disciplines. Depending upon your interests there are a number of ways to keep up to date with emerging developments.
Unconferences: With the skill development on offer, unconferences provide a great alternative to the traditional scholarly society and professional organization model. In addition, attending an unconference is usually an economical option as far as time and money.
Webinars: Professional organizations routinely organize such tools to help information professionals stay up to date with the current technology and techniques. Keep an eye out through your blog subscriptions or Listservs for what may be offered.
Blogs: I am probably not surprisingly a regular reader of thedeskset.org when I state that blogs are a good place to find advisement on career and discipline information. Professional, association, and institutionally maintained blogs, as well individually maintained blogs can be treasure troves of emerging trends and techniques. The authors of these documents are often experimenting with the tools and techniques themselves and could inspire you or help you to evaluate whether the trend is worth pursuing.
Listservs: Professional Listservs are a relatively low cost commitment but the possible rewards are immense. The ability to read conversations from other professionals, not limited by geography, who are seeking solutions and innovations may be a great way to stay current.
Meet-ups: Finally meet ups, serve as relatively informal ways to meet new colleagues and to discuss new topics in a face to face environment. Of all the methods that I have addressed in this post, meet ups have been the one that I have leveraged least effectively. I look forward to attempting to more successfully using this tool in the future.
Keeping up to date with all aspects of your mandate as an academic librarian is an extremely important aspect of your career. The shifting nature of librarianship and the universal academic shift to multidisciplinarity makes it essential for us not to neglect the varied nature of our positions. Considering the challenges that many may experience in funding, there are additional low cost ways to stay current in within your disciplines. Thank you again for your time and to thedeskset.org for this opportunty. All the best to you in your future endeavors.