'Burgeoning' by Robert S. Donovan via Flickr

The readings for this, our last week of class, center on online professional development opportunities. It’s fitting — and, I suspect, no coincidence — that we’re thinking and talking about this topic just after completing a week of webinars designed to present an opportunity to consider new library programs, services, philosophies, and trends.

As others have said, one of the great things about this class is the chance to run what amounts to a series of mini-conferences for preprofessional librarians and information workers — we learn by doing, and from each other. That’s easily been one of my favorite aspects of this semester.

Our collection of webinars has been no different — topics ranged from assistive technologies to open-access publishing to library outreach for young professionals. My group’s presentation looked at the concept of libraries as incubators — for business entrepreneurs, artists, and underserved populations who need a home base for starting a cottage industry or connecting with technologies. You can check out our online handout to read more about some of the organizations we talked about.

While I have mixed feelings about the webinar as a medium — it can be hard to pay attention to the various elements, from chatting to listening, to watching or visiting websites; and I often find the lack of nonverbal communication disorienting as a teacher — I was pleased to see that our topic sparked some good discussion around the question, “If we expand libraries’ missions in this way, at what point do we stop being libraries and start becoming something else?”

In a way, I think this is one of the questions we’ve been wrestling with all semester and really, since I began graduate school last fall. No doubt, we’ll still be talking about it inside and out of class in the months and years to come, but I’m grateful for the conversation. If anything, the more I learn about libraries as institutions traveling through time and tradition, I’m impressed by their great capacity to adapt and surprise.

Getting back to this week’s readings on professional development for teachers and librarians, I see several of the “Learning 2.0” ideas playing out in our webinar experiences, namely:

  • Flexibility and choice: We chose topics we had some investment in, and were eager to learn more about, and then got to share our findings, trying on the role of expert, at least a little bit.
  • Camaraderie: I imagine that most (all?) of us had never presented a webinar before on a library development topic, and were generally unfamiliar with the medium itself before getting started, so I appreciated the experience of playing (and failing — hello, technical difficulties) as a team.
  • Everyone can be an expert at something: Again, the chance to divide and conquer — each team presenting on a different and engaging topic — is an efficient and gratifying model for professional development. I wonder if any libraries have held a webinar conference to share expertise among staff members in this way, while also taking advantage of the convenience of online tools that let you participate from home or office if you had an extra half-hour to spare.

Finally, this will be my last post for SI 643, but you’ll still find me here, talking about libraries, technology, and teaching, as I look forward to a summer of projects at my job, and another year of school to follow that. Till then, many thanks to my smart, funny classmates for reading and commenting! I look forward to many more conversations.