The Endless ‘What Next?’ Or Tales in Continuing Professional Development

One of the things about being a librarian or generally working in a sector where you are teaching/supporting people is that you never seem to be done with the feelings that there is tonnes and tonnes of knowledge that you are missing out/need to be better at your job/need to GET a job.  This may sound like I am complaining but I am not. I think it’s really exciting to be in a profession that is changing rapidly and allows you to specialise in some many different ways from being a teaching subject librarian, to working with coding & metadata, to Special Collections, to schools etc. There are so many ways to develop that making a decision about what the ‘next step’ is feels overwhelming.

I had always wanted to be a Special Collections/Rare Books librarian, partly because that’s what lots of librarians say. There’s a somewhat romantic image around it; it’s ‘proper’ librarianship in wood panelled rooms, carefully conserving and granting access to precious and rare works. Of course this is just a stereotype ‘Rare books’ and ‘special collections’ roles can mean many many different things from my own fantasy of looking after and digitising medieval manuscripts to looking after the archive of academics or any kind of collection that isn’t made up of easily replaceable paperbacks and textbooks. The Special Collections at Middlesex,where I currently work, include the Hornsey Archive complete with posters, leaflets and footage of the sit-in from the 60s to our fashion archive of dresses and shoes. Nevertheless as a medievalist I do cling to the idea of working with manuscripts – something that is much easier said than done! I applied for several jobs at Special Collections Libraries during my year of job hunting and had some near misses and very helpful feedback but I am not quite there. To try and achieve a role in this sector in the future, still a major dream of mine, I have been studying Latin in my own time ‘Caecilius est in horto, Metella sedet in atria’ etc etc. I already have reasonably good French which I am trying to keep up but getting a good standard of Latin will really help with this career path. So this is area of interest number one. I also used to volunteer, doing conservation and digitisation of rare items but I no longer have the time, which sometimes worries me. I also try to keep up with Rare Book news and I keep considering doing some of these rare books distance courses at Aberystwyth to prove my dedication. But this is tricky when I work full time and would also like to sleep and see people occasionally!

My boss, however, has suggested that I undertake either CILIP Chartership and/or a PGCERT in Higher Education Teaching to support my development in my current role. He is keener on the PGCert. We do a lot of teaching at Middlesex and I can already see how a better understanding of pedagogy and class control might make me feel less like I am half threatening and half pleading with the students to listen to me! More seriously, there is so much interesting that is going on with ‘gamification’ of Information Literacy training and using more interactive software like Socrative or ISpring Presenter that doing the PGCert sounds fascinating and useful and has the bonus of being paid for by my employer. If I ever were to go back to academia (another cherished notion) having a better understanding of teaching might be extremely useful.

BUT, then again, should I instead be concentrating on Chartership. It is the next accredited stage in Librarianship so it feels like a logical step. I am a librarian primarily not a teacher and I worry focussing too much on teaching or a very competitive sub-sectpr of librarianship might narrow my options in the long run. Chartership, in contrast, is firmly rooted in Librarianship skills and would hopefully encourage me to get more involved in the profession as a whole. I am not really a conference goer or a networker and doing more of that has the potential to be very beneficial. I certainly can’t do work for Chartership, a PGCert and study a language all at once, thoughI am hoping to keep two of these things going. Just as soon as I decide which path, which options is best for what I want to do now and next. It’s a wonderful tricky place to be. Any advice from other librarians? Is Chartership great or something you can do whenever? And how useful or even transferable would a teaching qualification be? I just cannot decide. I can’t really complain though! It’s a fascinating series of options.

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2 comments

  1. If you want to teach in academia, the PGC is becoming a standard, and brings with it fellowship of the Higher Education Academy. It also means you’ll be receiving the same basic training new lecturers do, and, if it’s done through your employer, you’ll also meet lots of new lecturers, which will be useful networking.

    For rare books, Latin is a great option. I don’t think you need to take more long courses. Instead I’d advise one day courses and visits organised by RBSCG and HLF, volunteering with Special Collections at your work, and getting to know more people in the area.

    Also, how terrific that your employer is willing to invest in you by paying for a meaningful qualification. I’d say that unless the PGC doesn’t interest you, grab the opportunity with both hands, while the money is available!

  2. Ha, I thought I had answer your comment but apparently not :(. I definitely want to do the PGCert. It sounds interesting and huge useful. I hope it will help me be more inspired and less nervous when teaching. Also that it will help with class control which is a real issue! But ultimately I want to be in Special Collections (or doing a phd…) so I guess it’s a case of trying to develop and progress while keeping my options open. So easy I am sure. What do you think of chartership by the way? I feel very uncertain about the value of it. I am very lucky with my employers though. I cannot speak highly enough of how supportive they have been

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