Wednesday 28 August 2013

CPD for Free!

I'm currently putting together my Chartership portfolio which has meant that I've spent a lot of time looking at my professional development activities. Whilst I understand that formal programmes like this aren't for everyone, I still think it's really important to keep up to date with the profession and try to fill in any gaps you might have in your knowledge.

Whilst all this sounds wonderful it can end up costing money. Courses and conference attendance don't come cheap and at the moment both employers and employees are feeling the strain. However there are a lot of ways of doing CPD for free or minimal cost. Whilst the list below focuses on online tools I've tried to include some offline tips as well. If you're unfamiliar with social media tools then this could be one area to develop! 

What is CPD?
Career and professional development is a way to fill gaps in your knowledge and give you experience of aspects of the profession you may not be part of in your current role. The important thing to remember is that it should be structured in some way. I know that at one point I used to go to any conference or workshop I could but not only was this extremely exhausting, I didn't think I was getting as much out of it as I could. Chartership has helped me to narrow my focus to specific areas that I want to develop and given me targeted ways of doing this.

Targeted CPD will obviously come in handy for situations like job interviews as you will be able to demonstrate your knowledge of the profession, but carefully chosen CPD activities can also be an excellent way of maintaining your personal motivation. No matter how much you love your job, doing the same thing day in and day out for years can wear you down.  Well planned CPD can help to keep you moving forward as a professional and increase your self esteem at the same time. Just remember to make sure that you are concentrating on developing the areas important to you.

Twitter is probably the online tool that I use most for my personal CPD. I often find out about news and events by having a quick scan through my feed. You can use #hashtags to follow specific conferences or events which isn't quite as good as being there but is better than nothing. You don't have to tweet anything yourself to benefit, you can just create an account and lurk. If you're new to Twitter I would suggest finding a list of library people that someone has set up and following that. You will probably then find that you're network will grow organically. And if you do decide to start posting then great! People on Twitter are a friendly bunch who are always happy to help.

Another way to follow conferences is to see if the presentations are made available on SlideShare or Prezi. There is often a short delay between the papers being delivered and the slides being made available but these sites are really valuable tools. They allow you to follow along with the presentation (albeit without the audio) and see the same slides that attendees saw. For more information on SlideShare see this excellent post from LibFocus.

23Things programmes
These are online programmes which started out providing a week-by-week introduction to a range of social media tools. Other people have taken this format and used it to cover new areas such as the CPD23 programme which I was part of. It's best to join a programme when it's actively running but sometimes real life gets in the way. Luckily most programmes leave their posts up so you can follow along as you like.

Or Massive Online Open Courses are one of the newer methods of CPD but they are gaining a loyal following. They are essentially online versions of taught courses that you can follow along with, usually with instructor support. Many also have a supportive user group which you can join to share thoughts and ideas about the course. Two recent library examples have been the New Librarianship Masterclass and the Hyperlinked Library MOOC. It's worth remembering that you don't have to participate in library specific MOOCs. Coursera has a range of courses which cover different areas such as accounting and technology which could help to fill a skill gap. It's worth remembering though that these courses DO require a commitment and you might want to think carefully and do your research before signing up.

These are a great way to attend presentations without leaving the comfort of the sofa. You can even attend in your pyjamas if you like (just make sure the webinar doesn't involve web cams!). I find webinars particularly useful as I can fit them in around my schedule. Some are paid for when live but often become free after a short period of time. If you're interested in webinars I would recommend keeping an eye on this list which showcases the best free webinars for librarians.

Zite is a site which helps to pull together content from around the web on topics of interest to you. It presents the content in a magazine type format which is easy to read. You can select the topics that it covers and add new ones as you go along. This type of site is useful as the information comes to you. Reading about a topic is a form of CPD which is often neglected but it's very valuable. Zite is only one example of this type of service (I'm only highlighting it since it's the one I use regularly). This site gives an overview of similar sites which you might want to experiment with.

Professional reading
As mentioned above, reading is something which often gets overlooked. Of course their are journals which you can access through your library or sometimes the Internet. There are also professional publications such as CILIP Update or the newsletters of the various special interest groups of CILIP (although you may have to a member to get full access). You could also arrange an interlibrary loan of any library specific books which are of interest to you. I would recommend taking a look at the Facet Publishing website to see what's out there. Why not try to form a small collection at your workplace? You might even persuade the boss to take it out of the budget!

Organised online chats
There are several online chats on various topics which can be a great way of doing some organised reading. Two that I know about are the Information Literacy Journal Club and the Library Leadership Reading Group but I'm sure there are many others out there. If there isn't one that suits your needs then why not consider starting one yourself?

Watching television
Seriously! There are many documentaries and informational programmes out there which you can make use of. One that I watch regularly is Click which covers the latest technological developments in an easily digestible format. One of the best things about television is that there are so many ways to watch it - you don't have to schedule your life around it any more. I'm sure people serious about CPD could spare the odd half-hour in front of the box (or DVR or tablet!)

Getting involved
Though not always strictly free (both in terms of time and money), getting involved is a great way to gain skills that you might not get in the workplace. Serving on a committee is a great way to show teamwork skills. If you take up an officer position such as treasurer this can help to give you financial experience, something which many job adverts ask for. Your involvement doesn't have to be library related though. I know many people who volunteer for Brownies and Guides and develop their organisational and teamwork skills that way. It's worth having a think about anything you currently do that might fit into this category or maybe something you've always wanted to get involved with. 

So now what?
It's important to remember to record your experiences in some way, even if just for yourself. Try keeping a Word or Excel document detailing what you did and what you got out of it. You could even blog about it (although you can make this private if you don't want to share it with anyone). If you keep a record of what your doing and why this will help when that job interview comes up or you have your annual review at work.

My best tip for recording your CPD is to use the 'Three Whats' method of reflection. Ask the questions what?, so what? and now what? You don't have to write an essay, just a short response to each question. This will help you to focus on the reasons why you did something and what you got out of it. More information about reflective practice can be found here.

 If anyone has any other tips on free CPD that they would like to share then feel free to use the comments section below. I'm always on the lookout for more ways to improve my CPD without depleting my bank balance!

photo credit: heath_bar via photopin cc

photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

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