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Would You Hire You?: Continuing Education for the Information Professional. (the Sidebar)

Magazine article Searcher

Would You Hire You?: Continuing Education for the Information Professional. (the Sidebar)

Article excerpt

The interview of your life. Things are going very well, you have built a genuine rapport with the interviewers, everyone is smiling. Then come the closing questions: "How do you continue your education?" "What have you learned lately that has helped you in your job?"

Continuing education, telecourses, online classes, distance education, lifelong learning, professional development. Must we all become professional students? Or, as my Dad quipped, are we "'perpetual students' until you learn to make money by going to school!"?. We all know we need to get better at what we do and prepare for what we will do in the future. Employers expect that when new librarians come on board, they will hit the ground running. This new millennium demands not just "instant expertise," but constantly acquired expertise.

Most of us in the information business have learned a tremendous amount since leaving library school. And a great deal, we learned on the job. At a SCOUG Retreat years ago, we once played a parlor game where each of us had to complete the sentence, "You know you're a dinosaur if...." Some finished the sentence with words like "...if your first computer was an 8-bit CP/M machine," or "...if you still can remember UNIX computer commands." Ahem, I date myself. In those days, you learned what you needed on the job, when you needed to use it. Someone (a supervisor or mentor) stood over your shoulder and taught you what you needed to know. Some years back, people began to try asking listserv discussion groups, "How do I...?"

Today it's different. Today's information professionals are expected to know much more about computers, the Web, the business environment, the educational technology advances and options, wireless LANs, Web de sign, team-based and project management, online options to hardcopy collections for space reduction in libraries, legal implications of library policies -- the list goes on. Today's professionals must constantly learn the next new thing needed by libraries and information centers -- today, if not yesterday.

You can't plan for what you don't know, but if you don't plan for change, it will blindside you. Change will happen. Your library will be very different in a year or two, perhaps 3 months from now. How different is up to you and your ability to learn, plan, implement, and sell the changes to your users. Someone once said, "Not all change is for the better, but all good changes should be planned," and the corollary, "Not all change is good, but all good changes are either planned or painful." Or something like that. You must become a change agent with a clear vision of the future; you must advocate the new programs and services to your clientele.

So, even if you are at the top of your field, you can't rest on your laurels, unless you want to risk that you, or your patrons, your collection, or your services get left behind in today's and tomorrow's competitive environment.

Look at the job ads on the professional Web sites, local newspapers, the Chronicle of Higher Education, etc. Read them to find out what competencies, abilities, aptitudes, communication skills, experience, and education employers require for the positions to which you aspire. Then acquire them!

We all must improve our skills and competencies. But how? What skills and competencies will we need? Would it help if you had a list? Well, several library associations have created lists of the competencies expected of their professionals.

What Individuals Should Do

Take advantage of continuing education programs provided by professional associations. National associations in your field of expertise are nice for the newsletters, e-mail discussions and other continuing education options, but don't forget local and state associations with conferences that are closer to home and more affordable. Join special divisions, round tables, and interest groups to network and exchange ideas. …

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