LIS Professional Development during a Pandemic

As a recent MLIS graduate, I wanted to share library-related professional development opportunities that have helped me stay current during the pandemic, while job searching, or while working in a library or similar setting. The resources I mention here include current, past and ongoing events and panels, including author talks (majority are free to attend) for library and information science students and professionals, in order to continue to develop and expand on their skills, knowledge and expertise. I also included some of my go-to library resources for things like program ideas, booklists, and inspiration: e.g. organizations’ websites and blogs. For ease of access, there is an expanded list with links and blurbs to most of what I mention below, in the form of an interactive collection on Padlet.

Blogs and Websites: Librarians, Libraries, and LIS Organizations

Teen Librarian Toolbox is an amazing School Library Journal blog. It is a useful resource for students, staff and professionals alike, created by Karen Jensen and curated/maintained by her along with other librarians, LIS professionals, and even teens. There are booklists and reviews, PD resources, ideas for teen/middle grade programming, and so much more. The Professional section of the blog includes PD resources, Teen Services 101, webinars, etc. I discovered TLT in graduate school and referred to it often for program ideas and book reviews while working as a library assistant in Teen Services.

A recent screenshot of the Teen Librarian Toolbox homepage

I may be biased, but a couple other blogs worth following were created by professors I had while pursuing my MLIS degree. Namely, Joyce Valenza’s SLJ blog, The Neverending Search, featuring Dr. Valenza’s regular posts that focus on school librarianship, which is full of resources for using web apps and tools, remote teaching tricks, and more. Jennifer LaGarde’s website, Library Girl, features her blog posts with YA and children’s book lists, commentary on education and librarianship, and other library- and book-related goodness. LaGarde links to some of her past talks, resources related to her book Fact vs. Fiction, coauthored with Darren Hudgins, and BreakoutEDU resources.

Other librarian/LIS blogs/Organizations to check out (more linked via Padlet):

  • Cicely the Great: Cicely Lewis, founder of the Read Woke movement. Lewis was a classroom teacher for over ten years and is now a leader in Literacy and Information Technology.
  • Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBDLF): A nonprofit organization “dedicated to the protection of the First Amendment rights of the comics art form and its community of retailers, creators, publishers, librarians, and readers.” Their website also includes many webinars, as well as resources for readers, teachers and librarians.
  • Critical Librarianship (#critlib): According to their website, “A movement of library workers dedicated to bringing social justice principles into our work in libraries. We aim to engage in discussion about critical perspectives on library practice. Recognizing that we all work under regimes of white supremacy, capitalism, and a range of structural inequalities, how can our work as librarians intervene in and disrupt those systems?” Most discussions take place on Twitter, via #critlib, and are also archived on their website.
  • The Daring Librarian: Gwyneth A. Jones is the Future Ready Teacher Librarian & Ed Tech Leader at Murray Hill Middle School in Howard County, Maryland.
  • We Need Diverse Books: A nonprofit organization of children’s book lovers that advocates essential changes in the publishing industry, with the aim of helping produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people, according to their website.
From the Community Tools section of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s (CBLDF) website, a page focusing on suggesting graphic novels and comics for librarians. The site includes countless resources for educators and librarians.

Panels and Webinars

Tuning in to virtual events, whether live or recorded, for professional development in the field is always a best practice. But having the opportunity to attend virtual programs that are not normally free, would ordinarily require travel, etc., has been rewarding and uplifting for me, during this complicated and stressful time for many of us. It is both a way to stay connected and grounded, interact with others in an online space, and to learn new skills, topics and stay current.

As an introvert (are you surprised?) an added bonus for me is being able to take a break, pause, and recharge between sessions if they are older or live but being recorded. Not being in a large, cramped space to listen to hours of presentations and socializing with strangers, as with a traditional conference is nice, too. Don’t get me wrong, I do miss library-related conferences and other events and the opportunity to learn and network, but the pressure is off in some ways, and I like to consider that a definite plus for the time being.

One virtual event I’ve been catching up on lately that will be available to watch online through October is the annual SLJ Teen Live! and this is my first time tuning in. There is a great balance between what I consider more “practical” and library-focused events and genre/author panels. The talk on Virtual Events featuring YA author Kelly Yang, NYC School Librarian Jillian Ehlers, YA Librarian Damla Bek, and moderated by Teen and Outreach Librarian, Regina Townsend, was something I found incredibly relevant and timely. It is for anyone who works with or is interested in working with youth in libraries, but is definitely still applicable for other librarians and library staff. It was fun, educational and included examples of programming by the librarians and authors involved. Other noteworthy webinars from this event included one that focused on immigrant experiences in YA novels, “Reclaiming the American Experience,” and another panel called “BeTween: Books for Young Teens,” in which authors discussed their books for readers in between the middle and early high school readers.

Another great and free virtual event was Library Journal’s Fall Day of Dialog on Friday, September 25. And yes, you can still register for this event, since it will be available to view through December 2020. The full program is viewable from the event page, which includes booth chats with vendors and authors, and author panels focusing on genres from literary fiction, to thrillers, sci-fi/fantasy and historical, as well as nonfiction topics. The talk on centering Black Nonfiction, which was phenomenal, is an example of the latter. Library Con Live! sponsored by Library Journal and School Library Journal, and Banned Books Week events, are just some of what to look forward to this fall and winter.

Register for Banned Books Week webinars focusing on issues and topics related to comics and graphic novels, happening from September 28 to October 3, 2020.

Books, Books, Books: Author Talks and Panels

Author talks and panels of interest are among some of my favorite events I have attended virtually since the spring. At that time, some was to fulfill coursework requirements, but I also felt encouraged to continue professional development that aligned with my interests beyond graduate school. Now, I can proudly say watching so many of these talks from events like Book Conline and San Diego Comic Con (NYCC is coming up soon!) during the pandemic has been a truly uplifting experience, both as an aspiring librarian and lover of books and many things book-related.

Sometimes, I attend panels to learn more: in terms of books, more about the latest own voice novels by LGBTQ+ authors, books about the immigrant and Black experiences in the United States, as some examples. I also try to make a point of attending things I may not normally have an interest in or know much about, but want to expand my own awareness while keeping current, which is also a great reason to attend. This year, I found out more about ALA’s Graphic Novels and Comics Round Table and their #LibcomixOnline initiative, which you can also follow along with on Twitter. I really enjoy following their panels and webinars specific to comics, including artists and writers, and even topics related to comics I had not previously been aware of, like Graphic Medicine.

A recording of this panel is available via YouTube, via the NYCC YouTube channel or by clicking the linked photo above.

The LibraryReads in conversation panel, “Actively Anti-Racist Readers’ Advisory” was an educational and entertaining panel that featured the best of both worlds: there was much discussion about books in various genres like romance, horror and sci-fi, as well as tips and overall ways of going about diversity audits in libraries. LibraryReads also has a great backlog of past webinars and courses on their website and YouTube, which I linked to in the Padlet resources.

At this year’s National Book Festival, which spanned September 25-27, hearing Q&A sessions from comics writers like Gene Luen Yang and Jerry Craft, YA authors like Jason Reynolds, Sabaa Tahir, M.T. Anderson and Nic Stone, among many others, was really great to attend virtually. The festival is still free to register at the link below (you can also click the photo), with the sessions being recorded. Videos are featured in collection on the Library of Congress’s YouTube channel as well as the festival portal on different stages and by topics/age groups, as well.

The event featured sessions related to working at LoC and other specialized areas of librarianship (e.g. serials and collections, science, business, and more), and partnerships and talks with other organizations. Beyond fiction, there were also talks with authors writing in other genres and nonfiction topics for all age groups. I was both surprised and pleased by the Q&A questions from participants, ranging from librarians and library workers, to fans and students that enriched the experience and made it feel that much more like a shared community online.

So much of what I discussed are free to attend panels, events and webinars, for which live events often have interactive components (chats, Q&A sections, etc.), which can be helpful and fun. For more info on events and additional resources, be sure to refer to the Padlet I created, which collects what I talked about in this post all in one place. Hopefully some of what I discussed will be of use now or in the future – these times are certainly not easy, but determination to continue improving our practices and learning new things is always important, and feeling a sense of connection is essential. Happy viewing!


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