My ALA experience was so packed with meetings this year that I only got to one session— Professional Development Around the World. This one was a high priority for me, combining my deep interest in how libraries operate around the world and my interest in lifelong learning for library staff.
Through the admirable efforts of organizations like Read Global, Lubuto, and others, developing countries are tasting the fruits of what a library can do for their communities. But providing the buildings and the materials is only the first step toward assuring enduring, quality service.
I would ask any library worker who frets about continuing education in our system to stop and think about the enormity of having to start from absolute scratch. The Read Global program in Nepal offers 21-day seminars for library staff that begin with a module on “what is a library?” before moving on to the more technical subjects of cataloging, book repair, or reference. The program also includes training for the villagers on how to use a library and for community leaders on how to steward the library. Oh, the things we take for granted.
A group of this year’s Emerging Leaders undertook to provide access to free, online professional development opportunities through its IRRT Free Links project. Using a wiki in combination with del.icio.us feeds, the group aggregated an impressive array of links to free online technology resources that “will help international librarians stay current with library information and trends in the United States and elsewhere.” Since most of the resources are in English, this list is just as useful for training needs here in North America. I only wonder if the group will ever open up the wiki permissions to allow others to add resources.
Another perspective from the opposite side of the globe resonated more with the training challenges we face here. Dr. Gillian Hallam, from very developed, even cutting-edge Australia, posed the provocative question, “Professional development: whose responsibility is it?” The answer is that responsibility is shared: managers, trainers, and professional associations all play a role, but it is the individual who has the “obligation to yourself to keep up-to-date, develop new skills, knowledge and confidence to ensure you have a successful and rewarding career.” The Australian Library and Information Association has implemented a 3-year professional development scheme with an accompanying career development kit to facilitate learning. So far, the voluntary participation is running at about 8%. Makes me wonder what the motivation/participation ratio would look like between library staff in developing versus developed countries.