College & Research Libraries News

Promoting professional development: A local approach

By Ilene F. Rockman

Coordinator of Reference Services California Polytechnic State University

Continuing your education without leaving your campus.

The professional development of librarians is increasing in importance as librarians once hired for their bibliographic competencies are now expected to engage in scholarly pursuits to gain reappointment, tenure, and/or promotion.

Libraries have interpreted professional development activities broadly to include active involvementin professional association work; presentation of papers; publication of books, articles, reviews, abstracts, and bibliographies; grant writing; consulting; research and study leaves; staff exchanges; and other contributions which enable one to perform at a higher level of proficiency.1

As library budgets face increased competition for funds to support these activities, and evaluation criteria do not diminish their importance, library faculty members may wish to take greater responsibility for mounting local programs which foster a collegial approach to professional development. This is especially critical in the small or mediumsized academic library2.

The programs developed by Cal Poly’s Kennedy Library over the past three years may serve to inspire other libraries in their attempts to encourage, promote, and support the continuing education needs of their library faculties.

In 1985 the 21-member library faculty created a Professional Development Committee (PDC) within the structure of the Librarians’ Council. The Council adopted this action based upon the philosophy that professional growth and development activities:

• strengthen a librarians’ knowledge and abilities;

• contribute to the effectiveness of an individual’s performance and to the achievement of personal and professional goals;

• are vital to the continuation of a quality academic environment which depends upon intellectually active librarians;

• are essential to the provision of quality library service;

• are supportive of the library’s role on campus;

• are a shared responsibility between an individual engaging in appropriate activities, and the university providing appropriate time and resources;

• stimulate librarians to challenge themselves.

Although the library already had previously established a staff development committee, its activities were broadly based (for example, stress reduction programs, CPR training) and outside the scope of professional concerns. Therefore, a three-person Professional Development Committee (PDC) was created under the auspices of the Librarians’ Council to address the particular needs of librarians.

Successful programs

During its initial year in 1986, the PDC focused on two objectives: 1) to create and distribute a newsletter of upcoming meetings and calls for papers, and 2) to organize a workshop on writing articles for publication.

The newsletter was produced using Nutshell database management software, with customized printouts made available upon request. Content was chronologically arranged with salient information (date, title, location, contact person) culled from numerous brochures and flyers sent to committee members. It was 12 pages in length, distributed to all librarians, and an immediate hit.

The publication workshop that year featured four librarians who volunteered to share their recent experiences. Each spoke for 10 minutes on personal approaches to writing (motivation, overcoming psychological barriers, moving from manuscript to finished product), and answered questions from the audience. Their collective experiences included writing a bibliographic essay, collaborating to write a survey-based research article, writing adescriptive article, and writing a subject-oriented article. Each presenter also contributed to the content of an annotated bibliography dis tributed at the workshop that included articles and books on the mechanics of writing, conducting research, and submitting articles for publication.

After this successful workshop, the committee decided to enlist the support of campus audiovisual personnel for a 1987 workshop the following year. “Utilizing Audiovisual Production Support” featured the university’s senior photographer, graphic designer, and video producer. Each described services available to conference presenters to enhance the delivery of papers by employing highresolution slides or overheads, or incorporating a video presentation with computer animation and special effects. As desktop publishing was just beginning to emerge on the campus that year, the workshop proved to be timely and informative.

The 1987-1988 academic year opened with the workshop, “Preparation for Sabbatical and Difference-in-Pay Leaves” presented by two recent recipients, two peer review committee members, and a representative from the campus personnel office. This nuts-and-bolts workshop was videotaped for future reference, and proved to be helpful to a librarian who applied for, and was awarded, a sabbatical the following year.

The remainder of1988 was devoted to a series of lunchtime “Research At High Noon” forums held in the library staff room. These sessions served as a vehicle for librarians to share informally either recent research projects or conference presentations. Six volunteers (including the dean of library services) discussed such diverse topics as relationships between academic libraries and computer centers, teleconferencing, depository agreements in the archival setting, literature searching at 2400 baud, browsing patterns of library use, fiction approval plans, and English literature selection.

Current PDC workshops are being developed on the topics of library planning and management in anticipation of an off-campus library faculty retreat next year.

There is no doubt that budget constraints may continue to restrict the amount of library support which can be provided for continuing education and professional development opportunities for librarians. Nonetheless, one library has shown that by librarians taking responsibility, pooling local talents, motivating each other, and investing in a collaborative approach to professional development, successful and innovative programs can result.


  1. Professional Development in ARL Libraries,Spec Kit #86 (Washington, D.C.: Office of Management Services, Association of Research Libraries, 1982).
  2. Susan A. Stussy, “A Need for the Professional Development of Academic Libraries,” Catholic Library World 59 (September/October 1987): 82-84.
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