Professional Development on a Shoestring

Every once in a while my Facebook feed starts to fill up with posts from my colleagues around the country. They post pictures of crowded conference halls and write about inspiring speakers.  Of course, like many two-year college librarians, I always have to live vicariously through my friends because time and money prevent me from being able to attend as many professional development events as I would like.  Despite this, I have managed to find ways to be active professionally on a shoestring budget.  Here are my tips:

  • Consider attending a virtual conference

Both ALA and ACRL offer virtual conference options that are significantly cheaper than traveling to the physical conference.  Additionally, these events can be accessed at your convenience which is great when finding time to attend conferences is a problem. Even if you cannot afford a virtual conference, you can still catch up on trends in the field. The ACRL posts the conference proceedings online in .pdf format. 2011 can be found here and 2013 can be found here.  This year I printed the conference papers that were most relevant to my field and put them in a binder so I can read them during down times at the desk.

  • Make the most of your memberships

Keeping current with ALA membership can be expensive, but if you utilize it correctly it’s worth the money.  Join the appropriate sections and roundtables, but don’t just pay the dues and be done. There are lots of ways to become active. Many committees allow virtual participation, so don’t be afraid to volunteer.  Don’t know how to find out which groups are accepting applications when?  Follow the appropriate listservs and look for volunteer requests. Listservs are also great for finding out about other virtual professional development opportunities.   Most importantly, be creative! Do you have an idea but nobody to collaborate with? Post to a listserv and you might be able to find some colleagues with the same interests who want to work on a project with you.

  • Don’t forget about your local library organizations. 

In addition to being active in national organizations consider joining a state library association.  Travel to state conferences is often more manageable than traveling to one of the national conferences and it gives you the opportunity to network with people who are geographically close to you.

  • Participate in Virtual Mentoring programs

If you have a few years of experience, volunteer to be somebody’s mentor.  Oftentimes there are more people seeking mentoring than there are volunteers to mentor them, so your help can be much needed.  Some examples of available programs: The IS section of ACRL is  accepting  mentor and mentee applications  until August 26th. ALA Connect has an informal mentoring program, and if you want to really get out there, The International Librarian Network has a  mentoring program as well and they are currently accepting applications for a new round of partnerships until August 28th.

  • Search out opportunities within your organization

Last year I asked our Associate Dean if I could present a faculty in-service on the topic of information literacy.  I was able to put together a great presentation, and our faculty got to learn more about how librarians can really help students.  There are always opportunities out there; sometimes you just have to create them.  Other ideas could include putting together staff orientations, facilitating workshops on relevant topics, and even putting together information for the tour guides.

  • Utilize existing resources like WebJunction

Many states have resources that are shared, so it can be useful to find out what is available where you live. If you live in a state that has access to WebJunction look at the course catalog. Although many of the webinars and courses are aimed  toward public libraries and librarians, there is relevant training that might be useful to community college librarians as well. Which states partner with WebJunction? Librarians in Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Washington should be able to access WebJunction resources.  Even if you cannot use WebJunction, many states have resources available.

So now that you know what you can do, what is the next step? Do it! And then make sure to keep a list of all of your professional development activities.  Being able to quickly summarize what you have been doing to stay current in the field can help you move to the next level.  It doesn’t matter if you are up for a promotion at your current institution, or want to start searching for a new opportunity; Keeping track of what you have accomplished can help you reach this goal.


One thought on “Professional Development on a Shoestring

  1. This was very helpful, thank you! I’ve been getting involved at the state and regional level recently, and I find those organizations are much less overwhelming to serve than ALA. The networking opportunities there are also valuable because I am much more likely to actually work with the colleagues I meet, as opposed to a national organization.


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