Updates from the Virtual Land of Professional Development
by Jamie Lin/
November 04, 2021
In this article:
In the summer and fall of 2020, during so many other “unprecedented” happenings, including the first online conferences such as our own Atla Annual 2020, many free, educational webinars were scheduled throughout our profession. People were looking for connection, distraction, and some semblance of normal during the seemingly endless weeks filled with words such as “quarantine” and “lockdown,” as well as massive social unrest and a politically divided population in the United States. Topics relating to diversity, inclusion, and equity were especially popular, arising from the desire to continue discussing social inequities which had been highlighted during the widespread protests of the Black Lives Matter movement. In fact, an early online event, the Denver Public Library’s “Advancing Racial Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace Symposium,” still stands out as a stellar example of what an online conference should include. The organizers of that event recognized early on the importance of addressing the whole person, not just our professional personas.
In early 2021, a second popular theme of self-care emerged, and DEI topics shifted to include discussions about critical race theory as well as conversations around workplace culture and the retention of BIPOC library professionals. ASERL, one of Atla’s partner organizations in the Professional Development Alliance (PDA), is notable for its extensive and popular DEI programming, which garnered the highest interest, by far, of any of the other programs among the PDA. Registrations reached over a thousand participants for some DEI-related events.
Atla’s relationship with the PDA, which began in September 2020, immediately offered its members access to a wider range of professional development opportunities. It also provided each participating organization with regular opportunities to meet and discuss trends in our larger profession, and to share data related to webinar topics of interest, registration numbers, and attendance.
An analysis of PDA and Atla webinar registrations and attendance data, as well as anecdotal stories shared during PDA meetings, indicate that webinar registrations over the last year continue to remain higher than pre-pandemic levels. However, live attendance, which peaked at around 60% in the first half of 2021, dropped quite a bit during the following months. A recent webinar hosted by Atla received only 30% live attendance. Additionally, though some institutions report higher numbers of people watching recordings, the video recording views for Atla’s webinars remain extremely low, highlighting an opportunity to find new ways to promote recorded content.
However, live attendance, which peaked at around 60% in the first half of 2021, dropped quite a bit during the following months.
The pattern of high registrations and low attendance probably comes as no surprise to anyone who finds themselves stretched to capacity right now, with jobs demanding all their time, managing the physical return to workplaces while still maintaining some level of social distancing and online services, as well as the constant struggle with low motivation and energy due to sustained stressors and uncertainties in society. We’re on the brink of so much new and so much unknown. Things feel a bit shaky.
Two tweets, in different conversations which came across my social media feed recently, capture the current state of webinar-format professional development:
These two tweets reflect the dilemma of professional development programming. While there is still (arguably more than ever) a need to connect with people, the hour-long standard webinar where someone talks to a passive audience is not the solution needed for our current situation.
But we still want to connect with each other. How we can do that, and how we think creatively about what professional development looks like in our near future, is an ongoing experiment, a work in progress
We’ve all changed during the last year and a half. Everyone’s priorities have changed. Time and energy are limited. But we still want to connect with each other. How we can do that, and how we think creatively about what professional development looks like in our near future, is an ongoing experiment, a work in progress. For Atla’s Professional Development Committee, it’s an experiment we’re willing to take on.
Last year, Atla’s Professional Development Committee (PDC) shifted its programming to Conversation Groups and also experimented with an Elevator Speech format. The PDC plans to continue these Conversation Groups throughout the coming year. These meetings are generally not recorded and are intended for active, live discussion on a specific topic. The first Conversation Group planned for this year will address OCLC’s WMS and is scheduled for December 16. Sign up here.
While the committee’s plans also include single-presenter webinars and panel discussions on library-specific topics, the PDC is intent to continue providing opportunities for Atla members to gather together. There will be mostly monthly social hours in Remo, the popular platform used during Atla Annual 2021 for social hours. The first is scheduled for Friday, October 29, from 4-5 p.m. Central, with the next two scheduled for December 3 and January 21. Sign up here.
Recognizing the importance of both formal and informal professional networks in the development of our career paths, the PDC will also be taking on the creation of a formal Mentoring program this year. The program is intended to be two-pronged ― for students and new professionals to connect with established professionals, as well as new Directors to connect with experienced mentors.
We want to hear from you! What format for professional development programs and events are you most likely to attend? Please rank these options in the order of most likely to least likely.
View Live Results Below
If you have additional comments or questions, please reach out to us and let us know.
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