US Public Librarians & PLEs


Perceptions and Effectiveness of US Public Library Staff Professional Development

The primary purpose of this study was to investigate the preferences and perceptions of professional development (PD) activities for public library staff. The survey instrument was distributed to public librarians and paraprofessionals in all 50 states. Beyond the challenges of time and money, a picture emerged from the data of what might best serve the needs of librarians and paraprofessionals for PD. Staff want to feel encouraged and supported about learning for their jobs. The chance to network and meet in groups is preferred by most respondents with short webinars and online learning filling in the gaps, especially if content goes beyond the usual introductory level. From these findings, it is possible to suggest three “action plans” for improving PD for public library professionals and paraprofessionals. These plans include: developing structured and supported PD programs as part of public library administration, promoting a culture of learning throughout the institution, and participating in and contributing to state and regional opportunities for PD of public library staff.

In a recent survey, I asked public library staff from all types of libraries across the United States to imagine what their perfect professional development (PD) learning experience would look like if neither money nor time were an issue. It’s a wide open and a bit messy question, but the 350-plus analyzed responses tell a fascinating story. Perhaps these ideas might inspire changes to your library’s learning opportunities for staffers. Library associations (national, state, regional) might be interested in this data as well.

Read the write up ‘Personal, Actionable, Accessible‘ in my column Office Hours in the Library Journal.

My recent research on the perceptions of professional learning experiences (PLE) by U.S. public librarians supports this and an ongoing project with colleagues in Australia is yielding similar results. With data from two studies in hand, I presented a session at the American Library Association (ALA) annual conference in New Orleans this past June. We flipped the session, sponsored by the Public Library Association, on its head: most of it was a facilitated discussion. To ensure that everyone felt safe and could share, I told ALA I did not want the session recorded.

Read the write up ‘PLEs @ ALA‘ in my column Office Hours in the Library Journal.

Read more and find the slides for the presentation here.