It is clear that like it or not, ready or not, the world of information is changing. And to maintain the value, focus and reason for libraries the way we provide information is evolving, which leads us to this inevitable idea: Librarians must also evolve in our obtaining information and continuously learn for our personal growth. When I began Library School and again in this course, the hardest concept for me to embrace was the concept of “Continuous Learning” or professional development. At first glance Infinite Learning: Professional Learning Experiences seemed like some sort of unending punishment.
One reason is that it was HARD for me to go back to grad school. There were nights when I was struggling to remember how to log on to Canvas, submit an assignment, or convert a document into a PDF. My brain was firmly in the “Mom Zone” and I can tell you every last thing you would ever need to know about making your own organic baby food or how to choose a pediatric dentist but going back to school was stretching my mind rapidly and in uncomfortable ways. Throw in a global pandemic and it felt terrifically unfair that as soon as I would master a skill, I learned that the ALA chose Education and Continuous Learning as one of five key action areas adopted to fulfill its mission of promoting the highest quality library and information services for all people. Couldn’t I just learn most of the stuff really well and just stop?
The second reason I felt resistant to embrace the philosophy of continuous learning is that in my heart of hearts I am kind of a “no” person. Not a negative person but a hesitant and perpetually cautious one. My favorite part of comedian Amy Poehler’s book “Yes, Please” was reading about the improv concept of “Yes, and…” A Forbes article describes, that in improv circles, the idea of “yes, and” is that an actor is always acknowledging what’s happening in an existing scene before adding something to it. Basically, a willingness to accept what is happening and energetically contribute and try to build the scene. I could see in stark relief how much better “Yes, and” is than “No. Can we not”! Later, I read Tina Fey’s book, Bossypants, and she also encourages the use of ” Yes, and”.
“As an improviser, I always find it jarring when I meet someone in real life whose first answer is no. ‘No, we can’t do that.’ ‘No, that’s not in the budget.’ ‘No, I will not hold your hand for a dollar.’ What kind of way is that to live? … Now, obviously in real life you’re not always going to agree with everything everyone says. But the Rule of Agreement reminds you to ‘respect what your partner has created’ and to at least start from an open-minded place. Start with a YES and see where that takes you.” Tina Fey
After it became a little easier for me to master the technological vagaries of the academic life, I began to feel less resistant to the idea of continual learning. Ten Fast Company article related that there are different types of learners , I would probably be a surface learner, and the Australian Librarian PLE article also reinforced that idea. To encourage different types of learners and motivations are also different. The last year has dramatically illustrated our children are growing up as digital natives, and it can feel shocking to hear kids speaking casually to our household AI or log on and trouble shoot their zoom classrooms faster than we can. If we are to be useful teachers and mentors than we too must embrace and see as quotidian omnipresent technology and learning about it.
Now I am an advocate of this principle and when we begin to learn about the emotional labor that librarians do in their daily work, we must consider the concept of vocational awe that often accompanies our ideals of the profession. Some of the ways that we can address and avoid the professional burn out is to continue to learn and discuss new ways of interacting and working. This cannot be successful if we are not willing to learn. I also recognize how important it is to keep learning so that we can assist our patrons in using equipment, digital technology, and new programs. The concept of the 23 mobile things and its global offshoots is so fascinating, because it breaks down the learning into manageable parts and feels within reach. Developing a “Culture of learning” (Heart of Librarianship) personally as well as institutionally, makes it less of an onerous task and focuses on a realm full of possibility.
To work in institutions of knowledge and serve as conduits of information then we may embark on as Stephens writes, a “research journey—to collect, analyze, and publish illuminate new knowledge as part of our practice of librarianship” and promote a culture in ourselves and our libraries that support that. I now am excited about the idea of seeking professional learning experiences and this year have tried to say Yes, more than no, and averaged one webinar a week about something I have never learned about before. And if I have problems, I just ask my 6-year-old to be my tech support.
- Bowers, H. (2017). 23 Things – 10 Years Later
- Simon, K. (2020). “Emotional Labor, Stressors, and Librarians Who Work with the Public”
- Velasquez-Potts, M (2019). Imagine Otherwise: Fobazi Ettarh on the Limits of Vocational Awe
- 23 Things for Professional Develpment (2013)
- Stephens, M. (2016). The Research Journey
- Stephens, M. (2016). “Learning to Learn” in The Heart of Librarianship, p. 140