Making the Most of It: Professional Development Between Jobs

Robin Brown is not one to let an opportunity slip past her. In addition to experience working as an editor, a librarian, and recently earning a master’s in history (with a history of technology slant – how cool is that?) she is now pinch-hitting at an academic library after a full-time position evaporated. In a comment to a previous post here, she had some ideas that were so inspirational and timely that I asked her to write a guest post. Thanks for sharing these strategies, Robin, and let’s see how others answer the two questions she poses. – Barbara Fister

Professional Development Between Jobs

by Robin Brown

I am an experienced academic reference and instruction librarian. I was released during a round of funding cuts on December 31. The first 5 months were easy because I needed to finish my history degree, including a thesis. Now that I have my second Masters, it gets a lot harder to stay on task. What follows are some ideas I’ve generated to keep moving forward while the job market warms up.

Publish. I’m fortunate that I have just finished several months of full time research, during which I made contacts that have led naturally to some publishing opportunities. I’m working on two different articles that are more less derived from my thesis. I’d like to have at least one ready in time for ALA. Continuing to write is not only about qualifying for a tenure track position, but also persisting in my self identification with the academic community.

Service. I connected with the Director of the New Jersey Historical Commission through my research. He has offered me a chance to do some research and grant writing on a volunteer basis. I am on the Professional Development Committee for NJLA. I also give service within my community. This is about keeping my people skills sharp and learning to do new things.

Keep reading. Two tangents in this category. One is to read library blogs whenever I have a minute, looking for new trends. Because one of my concentrations is in public affairs, I also read news sites regularly. The other tangent is the old fashioned stack of books that accumulated while I was in the end stages of my thesis. I read mostly history and public affairs. It’s actually been kind of weird to once again have permission to read widely. Years ago I read Reading and the Reference Librarian: The Importance to Library Service of Staff Reading Habits and it changed my whole approach to this area of public service.

Tinker. I am geeky enough that I like to play with new computer toys. I believe it is critical for libraries to continue to master technological trends if they are to stay relevant. High on my tinker list is screencasting software. One of my questions to the community is … what would you tinker with if you had the time?

Conferences. I went to NJLA the day after I turned in my thesis! Besides the way cool timing, it was a great opportunity to hear about what’s going on. I think the highlight for me was Marie Radford’s presentation on the Reference Revolution. I am going to ALA. I’m really looking forward to it as a wonderful opportunity to see friends I made in Anaheim last year, and some great opportunities to continue to learn.

1. Have I missed anything?
2. What would you do if you had the time?

Author: Barbara Fister

I'm an academic librarian at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. Like all librarians at our small, liberal arts institution I am involved in reference, collection development, and shared management of the library. My area of specialization is instruction, with research interests also in media literacy, popular literacy, publishing, and assessment.

3 thoughts on “Making the Most of It: Professional Development Between Jobs”

  1. Robin,

    I am in a similar situation. I am in the final stages of writing my thesis (in Library Science). History of technology is cool…

    I have a lot of chewing to do. Did some work in Knowledge Management & have a long long list of reading stuff. There never has been time to correlate theory and practice in Knowledge Management.

    Robin, are you forgetting work-life balance? I would love to catch up with my love for music. Give my eyes some rest. Also some Yoga.

    Enjoy the time between jobs!

    Hyderabad, India

  2. Robin,

    Thanks for your insights. I am an aspiring academic librarian, fresh out of library school & trying my best to “make the most of it” during this economic downtime.

    I am trying my best by reading numerous library (and other) blogs while writing my own. In addition, I’m trying to build my network with informational interviews. So far, that’s been a great learning experience. I should put more focus on the service and “real” publishing end of things though…

    Funny that you mention screencasting software, because I just blogged about my own tinkering with Jing. I’ve found that I have to search for free/ open access alternatives to the fancy software that employed professionals would have access to. It’s been fun so far!

    Best of luck to you,

  3. Robin, those all sound like great strategies. When I was on the job hunt I really valued the opportunity to attend conferences — it helped me stay focused and feel connected. And having a few articles written will definitely make your vita stand out.

    Funny that you and Monica both mention screencasting — that’s #1 on my list for any time I run into this summer, too! We’re also considering converting our subject guides into wikis at my library, so if I had time I’d look/play around with wiki software a bit more.

    Good luck with your job search!

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