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How to Advocate for Professional Development Support

Professional development is essential for library workers, no matter where we are in our careers. While there are sometimes professional development opportunities through your library, often opportunities must be sought out. Professional development also requires resources including time, space, supervisory support, and money. Some supervisors and libraries have built in systems with dedicated resources, but this is not the case across the board. Additionally, you may find that resources and support may fluctuate because of changes in library leadership, funding, staffing, etc.

That’s why it’s important to be your own advocate when it comes to finding professional development opportunities and seeking out resources to support your participation in those opportunities. Here are a few ways you can make your case to your supervisor and library that can be utilized at different times in your career. 

Ask at the Interview – You know that part at the end of the interview when they ask if you have any questions? That’s the perfect time to say something like, “I’m committed to learning and growing as a professional, so I’m curious what kinds of resources and financial support you provide to your employees.” Or “I’m currently serving on the ALSC Membership Committee. Part of that work is connecting with members in person at the ALA Annual Conference. Would your library provide financial support for this and future committee work and/or conference attendance?” 

Negotiate  – You’ve been offered the job! Hooray! Now’s the time to not only negotiate your pay (check out this great video by Lauren Rosenthal), but professional development support as well. Ask for something specific, such as paying for ALA/ALSC membership dues, a stipend to attend a particular conference(s) on work time, a set amount allocated to you to spend on webinars/virtual opportunities, or support to continue your ALSC committee work. The more specific your ask (see “Make Your Case” below), the more likely the hiring manager will be able to get library leadership to sign off on your request. Just like negotiating your pay you may not get what you ask for, but at the very least you will be demonstrating your commitment to continuous growth. 

Goals – If you already have a library position, advocate for professional development support by asking to tie it to your yearly goals. Different supervisors and libraries have different ways of evaluating employees, but most will have some sort of yearly check in. (If that’s not the case where you work, ask your supervisor if you can schedule a check in with them to talk about goals.) Prepare your ideas and thoughts to “Make Your Case” (see below) ahead of time and don’t forget to mention that professional development is one of the ALSC Core Competencies.

Make Your Case – It’s not enough to say, “This opportunity looks really cool! You should let me do it!” Strengthen your case by listing specific ways you and your library will benefit from your participation, as well as lay out the estimated resources needed. Here are a few examples. 

I am requesting funding and support to register and attend the ALSC webinar: Are We Ready for This? What the Movement to Legislate “Science of Reading” in Classrooms Means for Children’s Use of Libraries. This webinar is scheduled for Thursday, April 14th, 12-1 pm. The cost is $79. I am interested in attending this webinar to learn more about how our library can support children, families, and educators in our community. Additionally, I plan to apply information from this webinar to help me better select beginning readers for our collection. 

I am requesting support to accept an appointment for a 2 year term (July, 2020 – June, 2022) on the ALSC Membership Committee. The charge for this committee includes opportunities for me to build my professional network and stretch my leadership and project management skills. All committee work is virtual, and I estimate 3-4 hours of project work and meetings per month on work time. 

I am requesting funding and support to attend the upcoming ALA Annual Conference. As a member of the ALSC Membership Committee, I am helping to organize conference networking opportunities. Visiting vendor and publisher booths at the exhibit hall will allow me to learn about upcoming publications and products. In addition, the connections I make at the conference will expand my network of professionals that I can reach out to when developing new services and programs. The conference will be held in Washington D.C. from June 23-28, 2022. I estimate travel, lodging, registration fees, and per diem will be approximately $2,000. 

What other successes or challenges have you encountered while advocating for professional development support? Share in the comments below. 

Currently a co-chair for the ALSC Membership Committee, Amy Seto Forrester is a youth services supervisor at Eugene Public Library (OR). She’s especially dedicated to services and collections for developing readers. Questions about these opportunities or other ways to get involved with ALSC? Email Amy:

This blog post relates to ALSC Core Competencies of: VII. Professionalism and Professional Development.

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