Blogger Jaime Eastman

Boost Your Career: Professional Development Tips for Library Staff

Two hands shaking overlaid with the words learning, knowledge, experience, competence, skills, ability, training, and growth

Does your job require regular professional development or continuing education? Often, this means mandatory training facilitated by your employer. It covers important topics and may provide useful tools and resources. But what about development that’s just for you?

Make It About You

Yes, I’m suggesting you do some professional development just for you. What if you could explore topics just because they resonate, not because someone said you had to? I firmly believe choosing development opportunities that excite you should be an option. I’ll also admit that might not be your reality right now. Let’s talk about ways to add professional development that really resonates. What sparks your joy?

Professional development recommendations: A bulletin board featuring book covers for The Book of Boundaries by Melissa Urban, Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin, and Big Feelings by Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy.

Read and Explore

Reading greatly broadens your perspective and gathers knowledge, ideas, and expertise. First, look for skills to gain, explore, or improve. Next, make a short list of options. It’s okay to review and revise as you go. Finally, pick one to start, whether on your own or with a friend. Give yourself time to explore fully, especially if there are exercises or reflective content. Don’t forget about podcasts and audiobooks!

Try These

Professional development recommendations: A bulletin board with the logos for the Texas Library Association, ALA eLearning, and LinkedIn Learning.

Complete a Course

Whether in person or online, options abound to explore ideas in smaller batches. As above, identify skills or themes. Then, look at available options, choosing what resonates. Consider not only your interests but also your capacity. In addition, consider connecting with instructors or other learners for additional networking and resources.

Try These

  • LinkedIn Learning or Udemy: Both platforms offer self-paced, online learning with video tutorials and extra exercises. Many libraries offer free access.
  • ALA eLearning: This site includes all the information you need about available opportunities. Did you know some are free? Browse by subject, cost, or event format, or search the catalog for relevant options.
  • State library associations: Many host regular live and on-demand continuing education. Most likely, you’ll find a combination of free and cost-based options.
Professional development recommendations: A bulletin board featuring logos for the City of Plano (Texas), LinkedIn, and Mental Health First Aid from the National Council for Mental Wellbeing.

Think Outside the Box

While library-specific opportunities are great, there are also numerous options with relevant library applications. Think about transferable skills like conflict mediation, communication, or leadership. Look for non-traditional opportunities through your city, local groups, or national organizations with applicable resources.

Try These

  • City-sponsored classes: My city offers a variety of free classes and training. It’s a great way to build both skills and connections across departments.
  • Mental Health First Aid: While not specific to libraries, this training has great information not only about community resources but also about meeting people where they are.
  • LinkedIn Live: Follow those with relevant skills or expertise, then check out their upcoming events or archives. Often, networking platforms host events, conversations, or webinars.
Professional development recommendations: A bulletin board featuring a Texas Library Journal cover, the TALL Texans logo, and the Family Place Libraries logo.

Attend an Event

Seminars and conferences aren’t accessible for everyone. However, if you do have the time and resources, they can be great opportunities. Further, virtual, exhibits-only, and single-day attendance may provide lower-cost options. You can also facilitate panels, host posters, or volunteer, which lets you interact with attendees. Maximize your experience by attending a variety of sessions. In addition, be okay with leaving if they don’t resonate.

Try These

  • TALL Texans Leadership Development Institute: This intensive onsite for Texas librarians explores leadership and key library issues. A competitive application process ensures cohorts with an intentional mix of positions and library types.
  • Family Place Training Institute: This initiative-specific training provides a variety of resources, development, and professional connections. Participants not only see the program in action but also brainstorm resources and applications for their libraries.
  • State library conferences: I’ve attended the Texas Library Association annual conference as both an attendee and speaker. Because it rotates through major cities, it often requires less travel logistics.
Professional development recommendations: A bulletin board featuring an image of two figures talking, a mother and child reading together, and the Association for Library Service to Children logo.

Embrace Mentorship

Last month, I dove into mentorship, one of my favorite professional development opportunities. It doesn’t have to cost anything besides time and energy. Even working closely with someone on a project presents learning opportunities. Moreover, you can find additional inspiration for professional development next steps.

Try These

  • Conversations: A great leader once advised me to talk with those I respect. It’s especially helpful when you’re struggling with ideas or decisions.
  • Storytime training: Storytime sparks joy for me. We train through a formal mentorship process, where new presenters pair with seasoned staff. I’ve not only worked with new presenters but also facilitated mentor/mentee pairings.
  • ALSC Committees: I’ve served on two ALSC committees and the Board, forming connections in the ALSC community and growing with amazing people. In many ways, it kick-started my work with ALSC today.

What’s your favorite tip for professional development?

(All images created using graphics freely available from Pixabay and Canva.)


The author poses with the Texas Rangers 2023 World Series Champions newspaper front page

Jaime Eastman is a senior Public Services Librarian and Early Learning Coordinator at the Harrington Library, one of the Plano (Texas) Public Library locations. She’s currently serving as a member of the ALSC Board of Directors. Jaime is also working on at least two ambitious cross stitch projects, dreaming of future travel plans, and reading far too many books at once. As a child, she wanted to grow up to be an author. Writing for the blog and publishing with Children and Libraries feel like a good start, and she regrets nothing about her adult decision to be a librarian doing storytimes who didn’t have to grow up too much.


This post addresses ALSC Core Competency #7: Professionalism and Professional Development.

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  1. Pingback: Unlocking Career Growth: How to Overcome Career Stagnation and Get Unstuck – 21st CENTURY INFORMATION & LIBRARIES NETWORK (Infolibnet)

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