The NMRT Endnotes Committee is pleased to announce the publication of the June 2016 issue of Endnotes: The Journal of the New Members Round Table. The new issue is freely available on the NMRT website:
Endnotes: The Journal of the New Members Round Table is a peer-reviewed, scholarly journal that addresses issues faced by new librarians. Endnotes accepts research and practitioner-based articles, and its aim is to work with new authors to produce quality scholarly articles. Each issue also includes reviews of books published in the previous year.
I’d like to thank all of the Endnotes contributors, as well as the committee members whose hard work made this issue possible.
Zara T. Wilkinson
Endnotes Chair, 2015-2016
By Maggie Cusick
New Members Round Table – Online Discussion Forum Committee
Some entering library school know exactly what type of work they would like to do and can tailor their coursework program to best prepare them for success in a given setting. Some come in with only an idea of what they think they would like to do and learn more about the field and their interests during library school. In either case, once we are out in the working world, we may find that there are skills or a knowledge base that we wished we had been exposed to at an earlier point. Due to the reality of the job market, our own changing and evolving interests, and a broadening understanding of the possibilities and opportunities offered by library work, we find we want and need to keep learning and growing. For example, one may be interested in public service in an academic environment, but did not have an opportunity to gain much or any instruction experience up to this point. Or, one is a cataloger but wants to learn about government documents or rare book cataloging.
Once one is out of library school, it can seem challenging to find time and resources for continuing education, especially for gaining special skills. The topic of the month for the New Members Round Table Online Discussion Forum Committee for May 2016 was just that: tips and recommendations for gaining additional or specialized skills after library school. What do you do when you feel you either “missed something” in library school or did not have an opportunity to gain these skills but still want them? What is the most effective way to gain them? Internships? Classes and workshops? Finding ways to work with colleagues at your current place of work to gain insight and skills? Volunteering?
We had a lively discussion that touched on engagement with professional organizations, workshops, webinars, volunteering, internships, part-time employment, and continuing education courses offered through a variety of institutions both onsite and online
Professional Organizations: One contributor noted that she works an overnight shift and therefore is not able to help her colleagues with their work such as instruction sessions. One strategy that she has used is to become involved in professional organizations such as NMRT and LLAMA through ALA. For example, she has signed up to be a mentee through LLAMA and has joined the editorial board of the Journal of New Librarianship. ALA has a variety of mentor/mentee programs, including ones for conferences. I had the pleasure of having mentors for my first trip to ALA Annual as well as my first trip to RBMS. Having this individual to whom I could turn with questions and concerns about the conference made it a less intimidating experience. ALA and its divisions connect us in the profession on a large scale so that we can share resources, ideas, and experiences.
Continuing Education Courses, Workshops and Webinars: There are many sources for continuing education classes, workshops, and webinars – both offered online and onsite. Onsite examples provided by participants included: courses offered through their Alma Mater (also available online), courses through institutes like Rare Book School, and workshops offered onsite at conferences. Examples of sources for online professional development courses included Library Juice Academy, TechSoup, and ALA divisions such as LITA and RUSA.
A discussion participant made the excellent point that it is important to learn about the course structure to determine whether there will be hands-on exercises, discussion, or lectures. If experiential learning is your goal, you will want to make sure the class will be able to provide that for you. It is one thing to read about a topic, it is another to be able to demo or practice a skill.
Volunteering, Internships, and Part-Time Employment: The need to do experiential and hands-on learning in some cases, leads me to the last category of professional development opportunities discussed: volunteering, internships, and part-time employment when possible. Spending time with other professionals doing the kind of work you are interested in pursing is valuable. You can learn whether you would like to be in a particular setting. You can determine at this stage what gaps you may have that you did not know about, or what skills you already have that could be strengthened.
One of our discussion participants described her experience interning in a special collections library. While she ultimately determined this was not that path she wanted to take, she gained some other skills working with databases that have served her well since. I too, did some interning after library school. I did an internship where I did copy cataloging. It was a collection I was interested in, but I found that technical services was not my path.
This same discussion participant also noted the value of looking into community college libraries or local universities for experience in an academic context. She specifically suggested part-time adjust positions. She had had experience doing this. In this context, she was able to apply and expand upon her time teaching computer classes at a public library to her work in this two-year college instruction setting.
In summarizing all of these ideas from NMRT members, it looks overwhelming. A strategy for me that has worked has been to look at it from this question of “what piece of information or skill am I missing?” and look for opportunities that could help fill that specific gap. Also, it can be fruitful to think outside of the options noted. For example, taking a language class could be beneficial or a bookbinding class at an art studio – it all depends on what gap you are trying to fill. Of course, one class, workshop, or webinar will not be able to fully flesh out our knowledge or skill base. We build on skills and experiences over time as the needs of the field evolve.