A while back I was talking with some librarians about the recent problems at the Urbana Free Library, concerning the weeding of a major portion of the collection. I was surprised that no one in my group had heard about this as it dominated my newsfeed, Twitter and Facebook. A few of these librarians responded that they “didn’t pay much attention to that kind of stuff.” I was a bit surprised. How does one perform effectively in the information profession without paying attention to information?
People often talk about professional development as if that was limited to attending the occasional library conference or glancing at Library Journal. I am here to tell you, that won’t cut it in library world. An information professional pays serious attention to library current events, best practices, and technology. Of course this sounds daunting. When I say “pay attention,” I don’t mean you have to be an expert, but you have to be aware of the issues, events and landscape of modern library practice.
Reading professional literature should be a daily job function. I am using the term “professional literature” broadly. I don’t mean just the latest issue of Library Journal, but also librarian blogs, technology information, pop culture and even general news. Think how many times you have had to help people find tax forms, file for unemployment or troubleshoot some technology. Our job is helping people navigate the vast world of information. (I hope all of you are bracing for the Affordable Care Act questions coming our way!)
Library news is also a big deal. Even if you are not expert on matters of millages and operations, you better be aware of how your library is funded and any of the big issues at stake in your community. Pay particular attention to how some libraries are handling “problems”. You don’t want to be a news story because you handled summer reading badly.
Staying plugged in to your network of professional librarian friends is also career smart. A good network of librarians has a LOT of information. Pooling knowledge, experience and ideas can help you avoid starting from square one and avoiding mistakes. Stay on top of the profession! Insist it be a regular part of your day. Your librarian network can also help you in finding expert information. If you are having a problem, I doubt you are the only one.
Bottom line, pay attention to your profession and your community. Your future success depends on it.