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Finding time for CPD

This article was first published in CILIP Update, November 2013.

Back when I was still a new professional, I wrote and spoke on the topic of “CPD on a shoestring” – how to keep up your continuing professional development without any money for training. In my youthful naivety, what I failed to appreciate at the time was the further problems encountered once you move into more senior roles with more responsibility: namely, how to keep up your CPD when also have no time for training!

This is a problem I think most librarians will sympathise with. There are those who seem to live and breathe librarianship, filling their entire evenings and weekends as well as their work time with constant CPD. There is nothing wrong with this for a period – and I did it for a while myself – but it’s not for everyone, and I think it is unsustainable in the long run. This is particularly the case once you move up in your career and have more demands on your work time. It’s also an unfair burden on those who have children, or other commitments outside of work.

However, I do still believe it is incredibly important to keep your skills and knowledge up-to-date. Part of demonstrating your value is being able to show that you are committed to your career and to enhancing your skillset. Besides, taking time out from the daily grind to develop and reflect can be hugely beneficial to your motivation and enthusiasm for the job.

So how do you do CPD with no time and no money? Well…

Remember it doesn’t need to be complicated

CPD doesn’t have to mean attending conferences and training courses, going on visits to other workplaces, or other costly and time-consuming pursuits. Those things are all great if you can manage them, but “doing CPD” can be as simple as browsing through professional journals or blog posts on your commute, or setting aside ten minutes at the end of a Friday to make some notes on what you achieved and learned that week.

Build a learning network

Finding time for CPD is much easier if you have people you can work on it with! Social media is great for this, particularly if you are geographically remote or the only information professional in your workplace. Twitter chats, where people come together on Twitter at a specified time to discuss a previously agreed topic using a hashtag (such as #uklibchat and #slatalk) allow you to share ideas with other information professionals around the world. If you are lucky enough to have supportive colleagues or fellow information professionals locally, try arranging informal meet-ups to discuss what you’re all working on and share ideas.

Record what you’ve done and learned

I’m still a great advocate of blogging as a CPD tool, even though my own blog has been a bit quiet of late! If you don’t have the time or inclination to set up your own blog, there are some great group blogs and others that accept guest posts, such as the UKLibChat blog and the LIS New Professionals Network. At time of writing, there are also plans afoot for a new online space for information professionals – certainly worth keeping an eye on!

[Note: at the time I wrote this column they were indeed just plans, but the site is of course now live and already well-populated with interesting perspectives on the profession!]

If you don’t fancy blogging, I would still recommend keeping some kind of diary of what you’ve done and what you learned from it – if nothing else, it’s a motivational tool for those times when you don’t feel like you’re getting anywhere. Use whatever suits you for this – whether that be online tools like Evernote, or just a good old-fashioned notebook and pen!

Make time for what’s important

Finally, it’s helpful to look at what you are actually spending your time on and make sure you’re making time for CPD. Everyone has days when all you want to do on getting home from work is collapse on the couch and binge-watch your box set of Buffy the Vampire Slayer DVDs (or is that just me?), but fitting in just ten minutes a day or an hour every couple of days on some kind of CPD activity can really add up. Generally, if something is important to you, then you’ll find time to do it. CPD certainly should be important, so take a look at how you are spending your time and see what you can fit around it. Ultimately CPD is a personal matter – you get out what you put in, and it’s up to you what that is.

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