Wednesday 28 March 2012

Professional Development on Your Time & Dime: Free (or almost free!) Online PD

I have to admit that I like being a student. Unlike some librarians I know, I enjoyed doing my graduate work in library science. In fact, I’ll just come out and say it: I loved library school!

Photo CC by msulibrary1
This means that, to me, professional development isn’t a chore. It’s an opportunity to learn and an opportunity to socialise. Luckily, there are tons of PD opportunities; everything from face-to-face, hang-out-afterward-and-meet-new-library-professionals (just like ALIA Sydney’s upcoming event,  Innovations in the library and beyond) to a long list of online PD resources.

And, because I like learning, I try to stay current in library trends and I’m constantly looking for resources that can help me learn something new. For free. On my own time. While lounging on the balcony on a sunny Sydney Sunday.

To the end, I’ve put together a list of Free (or almost free) Online Professional Development Resources. Some of them are from the major library associations, some are from smaller library organisations, some are a bit off the beaten path, and some are just lists from other sources.

I’ve sourced them from my own research but I’ve also relied heavily on my Twitter friends and on my colleagues from the ili-i listserv (the ALA’s Information Literacy Instruction listserv). So most of these are resources that your fellow library colleagues are using!

So please, have a look, click around, and give them a try! This short list is by no means exhaustive (I prefer things that I or other people like), so if I’m missing a resource that you love—or something you use all the time—please add it in the comment section!

The Majors

No matter what your personal opinion is regarding the American Library Association, you have to admit that they’ve put together an impressive array of live webinars, on-demand webcasts, and online courses. At prices ranging from free to $28 USD, that’s a bargain! And they cover everything from collection management and service delivery, to a host of offerings from individual ALA Units (think school libraries, public libraries, IT, diversity, etc.). If you haven’t had a look in a while, give it another shot!

While ALIA does provide some top-quality professional development training, they tend to be more along the lines of continuing education—in terms of both cost ($100-$400) and duration (up to 6 weeks). If you’re looking for some quick PD resources, try their PD Postings (only select availability if you aren’t an ALIA member). Each month, PD Posting provides a two-page spread of what you should be learning that month—from webinars to readings to short-term learning projects. If you’re really keen, join their PD Scheme and gain Certified Practitioner status.

If you haven’t been paying attention to WebJunction, you should be! An online learning community for library staff, WebJunction provides a host of professional development opportunities for library staff, including free live and recorded webinars, subject-based skill development (through documents, news and related links), and, if you’re lucky enough to be from a partner State Library organisation (in the US), over 350 self-paced courses. Need to upskill with little money, time or fuss? Definitely start your PD search here.

The Minors

By minor, I don’t mean unimportant, as Ref Ex clearly demonstrates. Recommended by a Twitter and ALIA colleague @VaVeros, Ref Ex provides self-paced training to improve reference and information services skills. It’s great if you’re new to reference work (hello reference desk!) or you just need a quick refresher.

While many library schools around the world have some great PD resources, I have to hand it to Simmons for their quality over quantity. While their resources are pricey (up to $300), it’s more continuing education than simple PD, as there are several self-paced, 6-week workshops. However, the presenters are experienced, well-known American instructors (LJ Movers & Shakers!). I’m really itching to set aside 6 weeks to do the Instruction Librarian Boot Camp, or maybe the Developing Content for Online Learning course. I also stumbled upon their How-to Guides, and I have to say, if you have a burning question about something techy in your office, have a look. From RSS feeds to basic HTML or from XML to MS Office, Simmons provides some easy and fun little guides.

Brought to you by the “trusted experts at the American Library Association,” Booklist Online provides free webinars about upcoming books across the literary spectrum. Normally hosted by a Booklist editor, the presenters are from the publishing industry. If you are in collection development—or in reader’s advisory—these will keep you updated on the newest book offerings! Have a look at their extensive Webinar Archive.

The List Makers

Another great recommendation from an ili-i colleague, life-long learner Margaret Driscoll provides the PD list to end all lists! Flip through this blog with a seemingly endless list of PD resources for library professionals from a variety of organisations, in a variety of formats. Some are free webinars, others are $50 online workshops and a few are $100+ online courses. You’ll want to bookmark or RSS this one to keep up to date on upcoming low-cost PD.

While this blog entry is a bit old, the podcasts and audio shows he mentions are worthwhile to check out. King is the Digital Branch & Services Manager of Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library—and is well-known in library social media circles!

And a bit off the beaten path

This is my current favourite source for “knowledge creation and dissemination in the digital age.” While not directed solely towards library professionals (it’s part of the Harvard Law School), the videos and podcasts feature top-notch researchers who explore online topics that are very important to libraries. I thoroughly enjoyed "Quality Control," a podcast discussing recent research into how young people can find truth amidst online garbage, about finding and evaluating quality information online.

An amazing free resource recommended by an ili-i library colleague, Mantra is a self-paced course on research data management. Although created for postgraduate students and early career researchers, library staff in research settings will find it an invaluable resource for managing data in the social sciences.

This ALA provides some exciting live and recorded webinars for professionals in the Adult and Community Education fields. Although not targeted towards librarians, this is a personal favourite because it targets the communities I serve as a User Education Librarian. With a focus on how to teach and engage with adult learners, ALA highlights some top-notch adult educators with innovative teaching strategies.

- Jeff
Jeff Cruz
Events Officer, ALIA Sydney Committee
Follow me on Twitter at @jncruz

Disclaimer: All of the information and views expressed are solely my own, and do not reflect those of my employer or any other organisation.


  1. ACRL College Libaries Section Professional Development Section

    While this blog focuses on professinal development opportunities for university and college library professionals in the Northeast USA, there are several virtual gems amongst the in-person conferences. From a colleague on the ili-l listerv.

  2. New Librarians Global Connection: Best practices, Models and Recommendations

    This series of FREE quarterly webinars is especially useful to library students and new librarians. They focus on issues of interest to new librarians, models of library associations and library schools working with new professionas, and groups by and for librarians. Presented by the IFLA Continuing Professional Development and Workplace Learning and IFLA New Professionals Special Interest Group in partnership with ALA. Check out other upcoming IFLA Events .

  3. Tasha Bergson-Michelson

    A self-professed librarian and search geek, Ms Berson-Michelson has worked for Google and constantly posts about free webinars for research. Recommended by an ili-l colleague.

  4. Library 2.0: The future of libraries in the digital age

    A huge social network dedicated to anything Library 2.0. They host an amazing online conference with presenters from around the world (Library 2.012 is 3-5 Oct 2012). They also have a great set of forums, events and a blog--all information is created for and by library professionals. If you didn't get a chance to virtually attend the last Conference, have a look at the Library 2.011 Conference Archive, where they have pretty much every single presentation available to view. It's amazing!