The Value of Professional Development

As a career changer, I’ve been intent on gaining as much knowledge as possible about librarianship and have sought out opportunities to do so. I’m fortunate to have been selected as both an American Library Association Spectrum Scholar and Association of Research Libraries Diversity Scholar in the Kaleidoscope Program. These scholarship programs provided the opportunity to build community with library students of color. Although we haven’t been able to meet in person and most likely won’t be able to, their words in our zoom meetings have been invaluable. Our meetings leave me feeling confident, knowing that I’m not alone in this new endeavor.

Even before being awarded these scholarships I joined professional organizations to acquaint myself with people in the library and information science community. I’ve taken advantage of the generous funding from Simmons and low student membership rates to join the American Library Association, Rhode Island Library Association, Special Libraries Association, and the International Sports Heritage Association, among others. Just the emails from these organizations give me the insight that I was looking for. Attending the various webinars and social hours has helped me focus on which areas of librarianship that I want to pursue.

When the world was open, I relished the opportunity to travel to conferences. I’m grateful that the College Crusade funded my travel to multiple conferences nationwide. In my first year at the Crusade, I had the opportunity to attend the Gear Up Conference in Washington D.C. As someone new to the college access field, it was great to learn about how college access professionals were reaching their students and what programs they were implementing. I’m looking forward to attending conferences post covid and I’m grateful to have been awarded the James Matarazzo Conference Scholarship from the Special Libraries Association-New England to attend SLA’s conference in Charlotte, NC next year.

In addition to joining these organizations, I’ve found value in stepping into leadership positions. At Simmons, I currently serve as the secretary of the Special Libraries Association. In this role, I connect Simmons students with opportunities in special librarianship. I have also taken on leadership positions in the Cornucopia of Rhode Island-a section of the Rhode Island Library Association that supports librarians of color. This past fall, I led planning of their annual conference which brought American Library Association executive director Tracie Hall to Rhode Island-virtually. Hall is the 10th executive director and the first female African American executive director in ALA’s history. She is also among the first cohort of ALA’s Spectrum Scholars. She discussed how information access is a social justice and public health issue. Meeting her and partaking in her presentation was definitely a fangirl moment for me. Representation matters and seeing her in this position helped me envision what is possible for me. I recently became the vice chair of the Cornucopia of Rhode Island and I’m looking forward to the opportunities that lie ahead for this organization.

My membership in social service organizations prepared me well to take on leadership positions in these professional organizations. Over the years my membership in Alpha Kappa Alpha and the Daughters of the American Revolution have allowed me to build my capacity for new endeavors. I’m currently the regent (president) of my DAR chapter and serve as the chair of two state level committees (American Indians and DAR Magazine). I also previously served as my chapter’s registrar and recording secretary. In Alpha Kappa Alpha, I’ve served in a number of leadership roles including secretary, Ivy Leaf Reporter, Vice Chairman of the North Atlantic Regional Conference Souvenir Journal committee, regional committee member (Archives), and chapter committee co-chair. These positions have challenged me in many ways and have shown me what I’m capable of. I often lean on the lessons learned in these organizations in my professional life.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight the role that mentors have played in my professional development. Whether they came into my life organically or through a structured mentorship program, I’m so grateful to those that have taken me under their wings. These mentors have served as role models and have guided my path. I know that I can lean on them to give me the unfiltered advice that I need and sometimes don’t want to hear. Monique A.J. Smith first challenged me when I interned for her at the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association in my junior year. Nearly 10 years later, she is still challenging me. She has shown me how to build community and to support others. At the Crusade, Chanda Womack kept me on my toes and is forever boss lady goals. Her tireless crusade for communities in need, specifically those of color does not go unnoticed. She has shown me that there is always more that can be done to support others. My sorority sister Ida D. McGhee MLS is a force to be reckoned with in librarianship. Wherever she has gone, she has sought to build the librarian community of color-founding the Cornucopia of Rhode Island here in RI. She has been extremely supportive of my transition to librarianship and has connected me with other librarians of color.

In this COVID-19 pandemic environment it is easier now more than ever to access professional development opportunities. The number of webinars available is almost overwhelming. I’ve been able to also attend many virtual conferences that have either been free or available at a nominal cost. The only downside that I’ve found to attending these virtual conferences is the lack of ability to connect with people. I don’t hesitate to reach out to people for an informational interview via LinkedIn. These discussions help inform the path that I want to take. The varied professional development opportunities highlighted here in no way encompass all of the things that have aided my professional success. I’m open to experiences that allow me to grow.

“In this world you're either growing or you're dying so get in motion and grow.” ― Lou Holtz