Documenting your learning

Used with permission - Guudmorning - FlickrThe tagline of my blog is ‘perspectives of a newbie to the library world’ and so today I thought I’d share with you something that I believe is useful for those new to the profession and maybe even for those who have been in the profession for awhile but want to keep track of their CPD.

I have just completed a Jobbridge internship and I am one of the lucky people who had a very positive experience and gained a lot from the 6 months I spent working as a library intern. One of the things I wanted to share about my experience that I think is useful for anyone starting out is the process of keeping a learning log.

As part of the internship we were required to have weekly meetings with our mentor and keep a note of everything we were learning in a monthly learning log. I found this process very helpful and rewarding and it will be something that I hope to continue into the next part of my career.

For the internship the learning log asked the following:

  1. What are the key skills/learning areas you developed this month?
  2. How will you be able to apply what you have learnt?
  3. What areas would you like to develop?

I found that this process was very rewarding for several reasons, the most important being that when it came to writing up my CV I had all the relevant experience and training already written down. This meant the CV was easier to compile and it was less likely that I would forget or omit anything important.

The section that required us to think about the ways we can apply what we learnt helped to identify transferable skills and aspects of the job that you might otherwise overlook. It also got me thinking creatively about how I could apply my skills in various roles and this will be extremely useful when it comes to answering interview questions.

I also enjoyed reflecting on the areas I wanted to develop because these sections make it easy for me to identify areas for CPD so that I can focus my learning in the areas I feel are important or interesting. Also, because I had a very supportive mentor I was allowed to develop my skills in areas that weren’t necessarily part of my original job spec (e.g. I received training in the use of CALM software and in how to catalogue to archival standards because I asked my mentor if this would be possible).

For those doing Jobbridge the LAI offers accreditation (see here) and this requires a 2 page reflective report. Having learning logs available to you will certainly help in writing up this type of report.

In fact, learning logs and keeping an up to date log of your CPD will be very useful should you wish to apply for Associateship or Fellowship of LAI further down the line.

I would encourage people interested in doing something like this to be quite reflective during the process rather than just listing very simple factual information. While it is useful to have a list of skills it is even more useful to put thought into how you can use these skills in different ways and perhaps evaluate your learning to acknowledge what was useful and what wasn’t, or perhaps how you could improve your learning. There is the possibility that this might help you to identify a useful MOOC or other course that will fill a gap in your knowledge.

CPD diagramFor those beginning an internship or CPD it might even be a good idea to write down what you think you will learn before you begin and compare this to the outcomes at the end.

As I have said I was very lucky with my internship and actually had another great internship experience before this one, both experiences were made great by fantastic mentors who were willing to provide me with training in areas I wanted. In other words it wasn’t a one way street.  By having a good idea from the outset about what you think you are going to gain from the internship this might give you more confidence to discuss your ideas and what you want to gain from the internship with the host organisation. The point of an internship should be to gain experience and to learn and if this isn’t happening for you then you should definitely consider other options.

I was delighted to see CPD certificates being given to attendees of the recent A&SL Annual Seminar and I think this will also help to encourage me to put together a file that keeps track of my learning and CPD. Keeping track of everything you do makes it easier to apply for jobs (and prep for interviews), be confident that you are keeping up to date, to be creative in your thinking and see patterns and trends that might be developing either in terms of your own interests or in terms of what is happening in the profession.

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Interest in Continuing Professional Development and Lifelong Learning

As the MLIS classes draw to a close I am becoming more and more interested in how I will continue my education. I believe an interest in CPD and lifelong learning is something which is essential for an information professional. I am very enthusiastic about my personal career development and my Issues in Professional Practice module has highlighted the importance of a Professional Learning Network (PLN) and this is something I will continue as I travel down my career path.

There are several things that I have done this year that highlight my interest in continuing to develop my skills and understanding of the profession.

1. Networking – I have been very pro-active in the development of my PLN, I have been to as many conferences as I could, I have joined the Library Association of Ireland to stay updated and informed, I partake in discussions on Twitter, both organised (e.g. #irelibchat) and spontaneous.

2. Researching options for courses I could take in the future. For example, I have an interest in Rare Books and would love to take the Short Course available from Aberystwyth. See here for more details. I would also like to take a course in Web Publishing at some point in the future, though it has to be said I am very happy with the skills I’ve gained in relation to using open source systems like WordPress or Omeka.

3. I think my blog highlights my interest in the profession and the ways in which it is changing. I am very aware that that I could be doing very different things over the course of my career and I believe my willingness to accept this and my willingness to adapt are very important. CPD is not something I view as optional, to me it is necessary to ensure I am able to do the best I can in whatever role I might find myself.

4. I think my enthusiasm for CPD is more than just something that can be seen as something within my own professional development. I have taken a Information Professional as Teacher and Collaborator module in order to ensure that I have the teaching skills necessary to help others on their journey through CPD.

I believe these points highlight my determination not to stop learning just because I finish college. Lifelong learning has always been a career necessity for me and I truly believe I have found the perfect career path to achieve satisfaction in relation to this.