Reaching traditionally marginalized or underserved communities is overwhelming. We don’t want to make this work look easy; it truly isn’t. However, we believe library staff at any level can do it with the right tools and support. This year, we’re bridging the gap between tangible resources and getting started. Today, we’ll focus on building professional connections.
Embrace Professional Development
Professional development is a great way to share collective knowledge. Every idea might not work for you, but this is a great way to brainstorm. Instead of reinventing the wheel, why not look for one that fits your library? Here are some great resources:
- ALSC webinars. ALSC offers regular webinars and online courses, many of which are free for members. Choose an interesting topic, then dive in.
- Library organizations. Many states have professional library associations. Their networking opportunities, webinars, listservs, and more all let you connect more widely.
- Resource sharing groups. The Rhode Island Sensory Story Time Support Group is a great example of librarians empowering each other. Also, look at early childhood coalitions, policy councils, or informal grassroots meetings in your area.
- Community organizations. Remember, you don’t have to be an expert. Look for local organizations with expertise. Then, reach out to see their training options. For example, the Librarian’s Guide to Homelessness is an excellent resource for reaching patrons experiencing homelessness.
Consider Different Approaches
Not all libraries have the budget or staff for large-scale opportunities. With that in mind, be creative about engaging with other professionals. Here are a few suggestions:
- In-person events. Conferences are just one option. Look at training offered by library systems, school districts, or cities. What about local organizations? Also, partnering with other area libraries can increase in-person opportunities.
- Online opportunities. Besides webinars, look at online courses, trainings, conferences, and meetings. Did you know most ALSC committee meetings are open to any member? Consider both real-time and archived options.
- Shared staff knowledge. Look for ways to share your knowledge. This can be anything from informal resource sharing to classes born of your expertise. Think about staff skills and talents, then build training from there. Also, survey staff to find out their training needs.
- Professional discussions. Many local, state, and national organizations have email listservs or online discussion groups. Join a few. Then, ask questions and engage. Even with a busy schedule, you can make connections and find new ideas.
Study Best Practices
There’s much to be learned from the experiences of others. Which each community is unique, you may get new ideas and inspiration. Here are ways to learn more:
- Read widely. Whether it’s an article published in Children and Libraries, a new book, or a blog post, explore professional publications. Chances are, you’ll find others with similar interests. Also consider publications from state and local organizations.
- Contact other libraries. Have you been inspired by a presentation, article, or website? Reach out! Usually others are more than willing to share their experiences and support you.
- Visit other libraries. Visit locations with programs, services, or spaces you’re curious about. You’ll likely be able to talk with staff, but also see technical aspects first-hand. Be mindful of their unique limitations and expectations before visiting.
- Be creative. You may not have much time or resources, but you can find opportunities. Consider multiple avenues, whether it’s online, archived, or in-person.
- Engage. Whether it’s brainstorming or locating resources, keep reaching out. Have a great idea of your own? Share it and see where then conversation goes.
- Start small. Be mindful of your budget and schedule. Small steps over time still add up to amazing results. Keep trying to find what works best for you.
Making your first professional connection is intimidating, but there’s a great community waiting. Your voice is important, too. We’d love your ideas. Feel free to comment below to start the conversation. Together, we can navigate the overwhelming moments.
For More Information
Jaime Eastman is a Public Services Librarian, Senior at the Plano Public Library. She can be found making painstaking progress on her cross stitch sunset, taking walks when the Texas weather cooperates, or anticipating her next travel plans. She is looking forward to connecting with ALSC members this year.
This post addressed Core Competency VII. Professionalism and Professional Development.