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Five Sources for Free, Online Professional Development Materials

by on October 29, 2015

Professional development is essential in a constantly changing and evolving field, but it can be a daunting and expensive thing to pursue. Webinars are one way to engage in professional development that is convenient and often free.

A webinar is an online seminar which usually lasts about one hour and includes both slides and a spoken presentation. They are first broadcast live so the audience can ask questions and are then generally archived online for later viewing. Everything from program ideas to descriptions of new technologies is available in webinar form.

While many online learning opportunities charge fees to participate, there are a number of vendors, Library Science programs, and professional organizations that also produce free content. Here are five sources for free professional development webinars. Browse their archived content or sign up for email newsletters so you will be notified when new events are scheduled.

  1. OCLC’s WebJunction
    1. The Online Computer Library Center’s WebJunction learning portal contains over 100 webinars and text-based educational modules that teach skills like management, conflict resolution, marketing, and social media. A free account is all that’s required to view the courses. Completion certificates are also available free of charge.
  2. Vendors
    1. Vendors like Demco and Booklist produce webinars that combine coverage of innovative ideas and trends with plugs for their products and services. If one keeps the source and potential biases of the content in mind, there is cutting edge information to be learned from these vendor webinars. The content is also diverse, with presentations that highlight new programming ideas like Booklist’s Makerspaces, Hacking Fashion, and e-Textiles plus others that tackle wayfinding and branding.
  3. Other Professionals and Institutions
    1. Other libraries are can be great sources of content. Your state library association likely produces online learning modules of interest to librarians working in your state. Some states, like Colorado and New Jersey, even make this information freely available to out-of-state librarians. Similarly, public library systems, like Topeka and Nebraska, also post free content on Youtube. Only some of this content is useful to a broad audience of library professionals because it is often mixed with videos aimed at patrons or tutorials only applicable to a local ILS. However, content created by your colleagues can help you take the pulse of the profession in addition to being informative. Videos like Getting More $$ from Your Book Sales OR Is This Old Book Valuable? reflect the pressing concerns of librarians on the ground.
  4. Library Science Programs
    1. Many university programs post educational videos and recordings of conferences and speakers on YouTube. This is especially true of schools with strong online and distance education programs such as San Jose State University. This content is produced with students in mind, but is available to anyone needing career advice or interested in academic trends within the profession.
  5. Professional Associations
    1. PLA and other library associations make producing professional development materials a priority. However, not all of this content is free. Subscribe to newsletters to find out about free events as they happen. PLA also archives their content, both paid and free. One benefit of PLA’s webinars is that they are geared specifically toward public librarians with topics like how to best serve homeless patrons.

Sure, there’s no trading the networking opportunities and energizing atmosphere of a conference, but the web offers many free ways to learn about emerging trends and acquire new skills. Leaning on professional organizations, tapping the vendors you already use, and seeking out content produced by your colleagues, can make professional development one of the easiest and most enjoyable parts of the workweek.


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