Q&A with Authors Linda Miles and Susanne Markgren on LIS Professional Development

CPDWL focuses on professional development in the field. We provide numerous resources, training materials and updates on the trends in continuing learning and professional development in the workplace. In this blog post, we speak with librarians Linda Miles and Susanne Markgren, authors of How to Thrive as a Library Professional: Achieving Success and Satisfaction (2019) about their book on professional development for librarianship, and their thoughts on professional development in the field.

Congratulations on this book! How did the book get started? 

There are really two things that came together to prompt us to take on this book project. The first is that we truly love what we do professionally. Our career satisfaction has increased incrementally as we have taken on new challenges, collaborated with colleagues, and found success. We have built thriving careers and we want to support others in that endeavor.

The second element is the work that we have done together, specifically. We have collaborated for many years, and those collaborations have all been about supporting the professional and career development of MLIS students and librarians at any stage in their careers. We’ve organized panels and workshops that covered navigating the job search and hiring process, the first days/weeks/months/years on the job, and building relationships and networks, among other topics. These have been presented under the auspices of institutional, regional, and national organizations. In addition, we have collaborated with others to support a mentoring initiative and a research and writing support group.

We’ve enjoyed hundreds of collegial relationships along the way and participated in thousands of conversations about becoming a professional and building a practice. To say that we are passionate about this work is an understatement.

How do you think librarians can use the book for professional development?

In this book we provide conceptual framing for six key career-development areas: vision, relationships, organizational culture, building productive habits, the use of narrative, mindfulness and self-compassion, and reflective practice. Throughout we provide framing, concrete examples, practical advice, reflective prompts, and exercises. One of the unique features of the book is our use of five “personas,” where we provide narrative examples from the worklife of professionals at varying stages of their careers and working in different sectors of librarianship. This enhances the reader’s ability to connect the framing, advice, and exercises we provide with their own lived experience and aspirations.

Although we initially envisioned this book serving individual graduate students and librarians (and it certainly does that!), each chapter is also valuable as a potential text for focused professional development. For example, our chapter on organizational culture has served as required reading for ACRL’s 12-week Fostering Change Cohort program. There are seven great topics to choose from in this book, but two of our chapters are freely available via the City University of New York’s institutional repository: Getting Your Bearings: Understanding Organizational Culture and Gathering and Lending Support: Relationships.

Where do you see PD changing in the field? 

In recent years, we’ve witnessed a growing demand for programming to assist people with some of the challenges and struggles they feel as they seek direction and meaning in the profession, adapt to new roles, go up for promotion or tenure, or simply work to find a job. Many of the concepts, exercises, and questions that are included in this book grew out of the collaborative programming we have developed.

We predict that there will continue to be an increasing need for different types and formats of professional development programming—in-person, hybrid, virtual, institutional, cross-institutional, interactive, reflective, continuous, etc.—and we hope to be a part of that effort. One of the formats we have been experimenting with recently is that of the “knowledge-share session,” whereby we briefly introduce and frame a particular topic, provide discussion prompts for small groups that each include veterans and newbies to the topic, and facilitate a reflective “share out” for the whole group at the end. We then follow up after the session by providing online access to our introductory framing and notes gathered from each of the discussion groups.

Thanks for speaking with us! What’s next?

We continue to conduct career-development programming for a variety of associations/conferences/events, many of which stem from, and support, chapters in our book. And, at the same time, we are in the process of conceptualizing two other book ideas, whose themes have arisen from workshops we’ve done. One of these is about informal leadership as a tool for professional and career development. We have contributed a chapter on informal leadership (freely available via institutional repository) to a 2023 anthology on mid-career librarianship. For the other topic we are playing around with, we conceive of professional reputation as something that is “constructed and contextual,” and will explore the “building blocks” that can support that construction, something we have begun to present on regionally and nationally.