Professional Development: Practical strategies for looking after your PD

The ILN Blog has been taken over by the team from the QUT Information Studies Group to guest curate a discussion topic on Professional Development. Today’s post is by Sue Hutley, the Director of Library Services at QUT Library: 

Professional development: it’s my responsibility.  Lots of people say that, but what might it look like in practical terms?

In this post, I’d like to give you a few practical strategies for how you might go about owning your PD.

Develop a wish list

Do you have a wish list? Of conferences and professional development activities that you’d like to go to, if you had enough money, time, support?   You might say I’ll never get to go to that expensive conference or course,” but you are more likely to get what you want if you know what you want. What if an opportunity to apply for funding came up? Would you know what you would apply for? If you have a wish list, you can show it to your manager as part of your performance planning and say, “in case you have the budget”. Don’t just include the expensive activities. You could have a list that includes low cost, medium cost, high cost and free activities.

For each activity, record information like

  • dates
  • a statement about why you want to attend
  • link to the associated website
  • date the call for papers closes
  • date that you’ll undertake the activity
  • early bird registration cut off
  • cost

Here are some ideas for upcoming events in Australia and online that you might consider adding to your wish list:

I’d love to hear from readers from around the world. What events or activities are on your PD wish list for the next few years?

Start a professional development savings jar

Now you’ve got a wish list, how about thinking about self funding or partly self funding an activity on your list? Do you have a professional development savings jar? The usual savings habit of putting the cost of one cup of coffee away each week might get you some of the way to funding yourself for an event you want to get to.  In fact, I’m going to challenge a few of you to the PD Jar challenge.  What if we saved cash into a jar until the end of 2016? Where will it take us next year?

For inspiration, check out Pinterest. Are you up for the challenge? Let me know in the comments!

PD Jar

Modified version of ‘Add your own text’ by Pictures of Money is licensed under CC By 2.0

Find or write a rubric

When searching for content for my New Librarians Symposium 7 Workshop in 2015, I came across the ACRL Rubrics for Professional Development published in the book Assessing Liaison Librarians. I’m sure that there are others out there for different sectors.  I think these are valuable tools for folks who might say “I’d like to be a scholarly publishing librarian one day”, or “I’d like to get a new job in an academic library, but I don’t know where to start with choosing what PD I need to do to get there”. You can use a rubric to help you structure your PD to get to where you to be.  What about creating your own PD Rubric?  There are a number of “Create your own Rubric” sites available. This blog post provides a run down of a few options. You could use the ACRL as examples, and create your own for your sector and share them with your colleagues. Do you know of any good ones from different sectors?

e.g. here’s an interesting Teacher Librarian example. Share a link to them in the comments here.

You can also now undertake an assessment of your skills using the ALIA sector specific Professional Development PD Scheme specialisations. ALIA will be continuing to develop checklists for various sectors.


Volunteering is another way to enhance your professional development.  It can really fast track your skills and knowledge development in areas outside your current position. It takes commitment.  I’ve often said to many people “Under-promise and over-deliver” and if you really can’t commit to the time to being a volunteer, at this time in your life, that’s ok.  It’s better to commit to something and do it well, rather than always having an excuse. I like how Kate Davis in this blog post mentioned a colleague that self-identified that it was “Not their season” to volunteer.  But if it’s not your season, that doesn’t mean that you can’t be a supporter from the sidelines.  If you are a manager, think about how you can support your staff to volunteer in professional committee positions, or to host events at your library or institution. If you are a colleague, support those within your workplace that can volunteer.  Don’t bag them out when they leave work early to attend a committee meeting, don’t scoff at the small events that they are hosting.  Be supportive.  Also, don’t be a “Should-er”: “Your committee should do this and that” are not helpful comments.  If you can’t organise something yourself, don’t expect others to do it for you.  Wait until it is ‘your season’ to volunteer and give it your best effort.

Here are some of my suggestions for creative volunteering jobs that I think library-types could get involved with in your local regions (yes, even in country areas):

  • Become a coding mentor for a program like Coder Dojo (yes, you might have to learn it yourself then!)
  • Volunteer your librarian skills at StartUp and HackAThon Weekends – be the “Librarian in Residence” at your local startup or data hack gathering
  • Volunteer on virtual committees, for example, for online conferences (it doesn’t matter where you live, just as long as you have a reasonably good internet connection)
  • Be a volunteer “Library-Type” at the local workshop café or Men’s Shed, and offer to run some information-related workshops
  • Volunteer for an ALIA Group or Conference Committee
  • Volunteer for a local community group

Beyond building your CV

There are also many and varied PD activities that you might undertake, but not necessarily put on your resume. There are services you might pay for, like coaching or personalised career planning. Activities like image and wardrobe overhauls could help you present yourself more professionally. You could participate in a 360 degree feedback survey to help get an understanding of how you are performing and where you need to develop. Don’t just think about building up a bank of things on your CV, but also think about things you can do behind the scenes to improve and develop.


Posted in Discussion topics, Round 2016A and tagged , .


  1. Hi Sue

    Thank you for your PD advice. Certainly got me thinking about ways to continue my PD. I agree volunteering is great way to help the community and increase your professional development.

    Kind regards Jenny

  2. I think we also need to supplement external PD with project based learning at work. There are so many opportunities to develop that are more accessible (can cost less) than traditional PD options. Of course, you need managers and leaders willing to let their staff experiment (and sometimes fail).

    • Yes, so true. The need to think outside the square is important for PD options and though they may not always work (i.e. fail), the journey can be a great ‘teacher’ for everyone involved.

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