Career Strategies for Librarians
Self-LT&D: Positioning Yourself for Advancement
by Matthew David
For the last six months I have been working on a model for succession planning in Library Science.
However, unlike other succession planning models, this is meant to be utilized primarily by the
individual, rather than the library as a whole. While the model is intended for paraprofessionals, it may
also be useful to recent graduates who have not yet gotten in the swing of professional development and
In this article I hope to introduce the model in its most basic components. Please forgive the generic and
sometimes technical writing: I am still “recovering” from writing my master’s thesis on this subject. My
experience using this model has been much more exciting and fulfilling than it may appear below.
Three employee needs
There are four components to overall improvement as an employee: learning, training, development, and
education. Education can here be associated with the pursuit of an MLIS. This model focuses on the
other three components, which require more investigation and definition. The model is called self-LT&D,
which stands for Self- Learning, Training and Development. Development can be plainly defined as
career development. Training can be defined as the acquisition and honing of core competencies or
core skills. Learning, a bit sketchier, has to do with adopting continuing education habits, or “seeing the
big picture” as pinpointed by many of the professionals I have interviewed on this topic. Seeing the “big
picture” means understanding how the library works as a whole, not just how your particular job
functions within your department.
In the tradition of most published training programs, the self-LT&D model has five steps: set goal(s),
plan to achieve goal(s), implement the plan, review, and set new goal(s).
A goal can be anything from learning general “professional” habits to gaining on-the-job training in
supervising employees, or even figuring out how to negotiate your salary. Base the goal on one of your
needs for improvement which is not already being effectively satisfied by employer-provided LT&D.
Gathering information is easy. There are oodles of resources including print resources, online
resources and your fellow librarians. The challenge is to use accurate judgment when picking and
choosing the articles, books, websites, blogs, videos, audio tapes/CDs and potential mentors most
suited to your need. Once you have compiled the information, create a basic plan to learn it.
There are various tools available for implementing your plan. Usually, a daily journal is adequate for
charting your progress and keeping the plan in check with your need. Other tools are reading and
analysis, conducting information interviews with the experts on your topic, attending
workshops/conferences, meeting with a mentor, writing a trade paper or article on your research, and
filling out workbooks and tests if you can find them.
There are many review/evaluation tools out there. I recommend Pierce and Powell's Focused Self-
Appraisal which looks at past work performance, professional strengths, underdeveloped skills, future
challenges, and prospects for collaboration (Allan 1999, 153). If this does not suffice, you may wish to
use the formal annual appraisal form from your workplace, since that is probably the evaluation tool you
are most familiar with.
Setting new goals is of course the last crucial step, especially since continuing education is so highly
valued by the leaders and managers of this profession. However, setting smaller new goals can really
be done in any step of this process. The reality is that as you immerse yourself in LT&D, you will
probably be pushed by yourself and others to investigate and learn about other things. Related (smaller)
goals can be incorporated into your current plan. Unrelated (larger) goals can be put aside for when you
are finished with this one.
How to apply the model
The model can be used in various capacities. In the spirit of succession planning, its most pragmatic
use is that of positioning yourself for advancement and/or promotion. I contend that this is more
proactive than simply seeking out a way to advance quickly, which can be frustratingly difficult in a flat
organization, as some libraries are. Positioning yourself for advancement and/or promotion requires
developing insight into the area you are focused on. It also has a way of making you visible to your
administrators or other hiring forces within your field. A well-conducted information interview of a hiring
supervisor will make that person remember you when he/she is next seeking someone to fill a position.
Regardless, your undertaking should better qualify you for the position or job responsibilities you are
after. In the process, you will probably develop the “big picture” attitude that many professionals define
as the difference between a professional and a paraprofessional approach to library and information
science work. Eventually, these self-LT&D efforts will also look very nice in your professional portfolio,
especially if you archive the photographs, flyers and writing samples from your experiences.
Allan, Barbara. Developing information and library staff through work-based learning: 101 activities.
London: Library Association Publishing, 1999.
About the Author:
Matthew David has an M.S in Public Services from DePaul University. He will present his thesis research
on "Self- Learning, Training and Development (self-LT&D) for Library Support Staff" at the Illinois
Association of College and Research Libraries (IACRL) annual conference in March of 2004, and also at
the Reaching Forward Conference of Library Assistants in April of 2004. He currently works at the
DePaul Library in Acquisitions and he lives in Palatine, Illinois with his wife of 3 years. Visit his website
Article published Jan 2004
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