Professional Development and Learning: An Interview with Christine Bolivar, Project Coordinator for the Developing Leaders in California Libraries (USA)

In this interview, I speak with Christine Bolivar on professional development opportunities and learning approaches. Christine Bolivar is the Project Coordinator for the Developing Leaders in California Libraries in the United States. Beyond project management, she has experience in libraries and information organizations including public libraries, academic libraries, museums and art galleries. Christine is a true believer in lifelong learning and collaboration. Currently, Christine serves on the California Library Association’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Interest Group and the American Library Association’s EDI Assembly.

Ray: Thank you for taking the time to chat with us! Can you briefly tell us about your work and interest in supporting professional development?

Christine: Currently, I am the Project Coordinator for the California Library Association’s Developing Leaders in California Libraries (DLCL) project (a LSTA funded project administered by the California State Librarian). The project is broken into three parts. The first, offers cohort members a variety of training workshops in leadership skills to help them discover, develop and refine their strengths in these areas. It also provides a network building platform for cohort members. The second is called the Leadership Challenge, in which participants work in groups to research challenges in the library profession and present solutions. And the third is a series of conversations with library leaders about their journey from their early careers to where they are now, called My Leadership Journey (which recordings can be found on our website, https://claleadership.org/.)

Through the DLCL project, I get to connect with a lot of smart, talented, creative library professionals and connect them with resources and training opportunities to support their professional growth. So not only do their supervisors believe in them, we do too.

I’m a true believer in professional development just as I believe in supporting life long learners. Professional development allows staff (at all levels) to get more involved, it creates opportunities for engagement and it shows that your organization is invested in it’s team, the community/communities it serves and your profession.

Ray: What do you think are the challenges in engaging library staff in professional development activities?

Christine: Oh yes, challenges, the top item that comes to mind is work culture. It’s hard to get staff interested in professional development if you never asked or required them to participate in the past. Or if they have never experienced this type of work culture. Sometimes it’s hard to get staff on board if your leaders are not demonstrating the value and need of professional development themselves.

Ray: What are some trends or areas in LIS field do you see from your experiences coordinating professional development?

Christine: I think that really depends on who you are finding the training opportunities for and your organization’s vision. Right now, it’s really not the topics but more of the delivery of the topics. I’m also seeing a shift in who is being invited to participate in professional development activities. I think that there are a lot of efforts to opening professional development opportunities to non-degree holding LIS staff. Which is great for many reasons.

Ray: What resources or opportunities would you like to share to highlight the professional development activities for the LIS community?

Christine: There are a lot of LIS and non-profit associations out there that offer professional development opportunities including IFLA, the American Library Association and Webjunction. The pandemic has also pushed for many trainings to be delivered virtually which has created a little more accessibility. Here in California, US we have a number of grant supported opportunities that are free to our participants including California Libraries Learn and Developing Leaders in California Libraries. I would say that many associations host social media feeds where they publish articles and recordings for FREE.

But I would also like to emphasize the need to put the learning into practice. So really it is important that individuals get the opportunity to share, showcase and put into practice what they are learning. Ultimately that portion can be another learning opportunity in itself.

Ray: Anything else you’d like to share that we didn’t get to talk about?

Christine: I’m a huge fan of teamwork and collaboration. I really enjoy it when I see people reach out to others to work together and collaborate on projects and presentations. I think we are learning on how to do that more. Our current use of technology has really pushed for more platforms for collaboration. This gives more people the opportunity to participate and bring their voices to the table.

Besides that, thank you Ray for inviting me, I know you have contributed a lot to the LIS profession and it’s been an absolute pleasure to know you. Maybe someday we will work on something together in the future.

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