Should the ALIA PD scheme be compulsory?

In my various channels of ALIA Board of Directors election (vote now!) campaigning I had a few people (@katiedavis, @librarianhoi and John Chisholm) ask me about the ALIA Professional Development Scheme – whether I think it should be compulsory, whether the Certified Practitioner status means anything, etc.

I’m fairly conflicted about this one. If you want me to say “If elected to the Board I’ll do x, y and z” then you may be disappointed – but I’m not against the idea.

Here’s what I do know and believe about the scheme: I’ve been enrolled for several years, and have found it easy to both record my activities and to meet the annual points required to obtain the CP status (in fact in one year I exceeded the three year points goal in six months – I reckon I should have gotten CP+ status for that, but whatever, I’m moving on). I like being able to demonstrate that I believe that my skills need constant updating, and that I have done that.

However I’m not sure it’s made a difference to anyone. And there’s the rub – I don’t think it’s ever given me an advantage in a job interview situation, nor has it helped me come performance review time as my employers haven’t wanted external tracking of my professional development. And so at times I find myself asking, like Hoi, “so what?”

On one hand I’m in favour of a compulsory PD scheme because I think that we (ALIA and the profession at large) should be doing everything we can to encourage our colleagues to update their professional knowledge. If one more person tells me that libraries have changed a lot I might tear my hair out, but in this case it’s relevant. It’s not okay to work in a library nowadays and only know what you needed to know twenty years ago when you got your first job.

But then I ask myself, isn’t that the job of that person’s manager? Shouldn’t our workplaces take at least some of the responsibility for encouraging professional development? I’m all for personal responsibility for PD, but it doesn’t rest entirely on my shoulders.

Also, if we do move to compulsory PD, that’s going to require a big support structure. I’ve had a quick look at what LIANZA does, and it wouldn’t be a small change from where we are now. For ALIA to move to this model would require significant investment, both financially and by members donating their time. If ALIA demands that you do PD, ALIA needs to provide wider access to PD and it needs to evaluate that PD. Given all the other things ALIA can be doing with that money and volunteer energy, should this be top of our list? What if, instead of trying to make PD compulsory, we just supported members by delivering really good PD opportunities?

I’m undecided. I’d really love someone to bring an argument to me that helped me decide on this one. So, if I’m elected to the Board, I will receive with great interest any submissions, proposals, or even just ranting emails on this matter.


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  1. ALIA’s financial sustainability | Alyson in Libraryland - March 12, 2013

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