May 01 2004
As an information professional, I believe strongly that I have a great deal to learn from others’ experiences - and in return, I can share my experiences with others. The fact that information professionals are by nature and by training more willing to share than those in other fields enriches our profession. As individuals, we cannot possibly know everything there is to know about every situation we will face. But, as we collaborate with each other, we can accomplish much more collectively.
I am the Head of Systems and Technology at the Novi Public Library in Novi, Michigan. We are a Class V public library, serving a community of about 50,000 in southeastern Michigan. We are also a member of a large consortium, sharing materials and ideas with over 50 other community libraries. At my library, our staff members do our best to work as a team and help each other out whenever we can. But there is a large library world outside the doors of the Novi Public Library, and I depend on the perspectives and insights of many others to help me grow in my career.
I have been lucky. From the very beginning of my career, I have been encouraged to collaborate with others. My library finds value in my participation on local committees. I attend monthly meetings, and my administration allows me to take time outside of the library building to further my own development. With my administrators’ support, I have been able to collaborate with others in my area, who teach me valuable lessons that I can bring back and implement in my own library. After all, the work I do in collaboration with others will ultimately come back to further efforts within my own library. Having the support of my library administrators motivates me to maintain continuing education as an important part of my job responsibilities.
In my efforts to learn from others, I regularly read e-mail postings on discussion lists. I also read professional journals, and I check web sites, made easier more recently through RSS syndication. When time and money allow, I attend workshops and conferences to hear about topics most applicable to my work. And, I participate on local and statewide committees to network with other library professionals in my area.
Remember that this spirit of cooperation works both ways. Information organizations often depend on the efforts of volunteers! As you learn from others, you should also consider sharing with others. You learn from others who are just like you - people whose work in information organizations have provided them with insights and experiences. You also have insights and experiences that are worth sharing, and your willingness to give back will further the learning of others like you.
In my efforts to share my experiences, I post responses and suggestions to e-mailed questions that I have some knowledge or experience with. I have published a few articles in professional journals. I have presented at workshops and conferences, and participate on local and statewide committees to lead and sponsor opportunities for all library professionals in my area.
Collaborating with others is so easy! It does not require a great deal of time or money; however, it does require that you make lifelong learning a priority in your career. At a basic level, you can learn from and share with others by participating on e-mail discussion lists. There are hundreds of electronic discussion lists in existence where you can communicate with others about library issues, library development, and information technology. You can find a list online at: http://liblists.wrlc.org.
Beyond e-mail, you will find that publishing articles and presenting at conferences and workshops will provide you with many opportunities to share with others. In addition, these opportunities will benefit you directly. Sometimes you may be paid for your article or presentation. Sometimes you may attend a conference or workshop for free (without having to pay the registration fee and/or for accommodations). In fact, this may be a great opportunity to attend conferences or workshops that you cannot afford to attend otherwise! Almost always, you will get some exposure, which works to your benefit in further developing your professional network of contacts.
Recently, I had the opportunity to present at the Computers in Libraries annual conference. Every year, I have pored over the conference program, knowing that I could never ask my library to send me to a costly national conference. However, when I was selected to present, the conference sponsor helped to alleviate some of the costs, which then made my attendance more manageable. At the conference, I had some amazing opportunities to meet some “big name” presenters and learn from “the best” in library technology. I also met some new folks from my own state, which has provided me with some additional local contacts. Attending and presenting at the conference required a commitment of both time and money, but I learned more in those three days than I could have ever dreamed of learning otherwise.
Another great way to find valuable opportunities is to participate in professional organizations or local consortia. Volunteering for this extra work will require some of your limited time, but the rewards are unmatched. You will likely work on projects that you could not accomplish alone. You may get a chance to lead a project or a group. You will meet others who share your desire to bring quality information services to your users, and can depend on this network of colleagues as you venture into new waters. You can support each other through difficult situations and projects - whether by providing concrete advice or by simply e-mailing moral support. Regardless, you will not be alone during future career challenges, because you will have your network of colleagues to turn to.
I recognize that many information professionals are not as fortunate as I. Some libraries spend less time and money on continuing education opportunities. You can start small, perhaps by participating on an e-mail discussion list or looking for a local committee that might need a volunteer for a short-term project. Some organizations sponsor free workshops that you might be able to attend. Do what you can - every little bit provides value to you and to those you share with.
Share and share alike. This is how our information profession will succeed, now and into the future.
Karen Ventura is a librarian who loves technology and is always looking for opportunities to learn something new and share what she knows with others. Contact her anytime at email@example.com.