PUBLIC LIBRARY STAFF
4 STEPS TO CREATE A LEARNING PATH
Follow these steps to create a Learning Path that will guide your efforts to learn and grow over the coming year.
1. Identify your learning priorities based on a thorough analysis.
Before you can choose which competencies to develop, you need a good understanding of your current abilities and an awareness of new and emerging demands on library service and library staff. Your most recent performance review is an excellent starting point, but it’s also important to consider your own sense of your strengths and room for improvement, as well as any informal feedback from co-workers, patrons and community partners. You might want to review your to-do list and reflect on whether any of your assignments require learning something new.
In addition to assessing your current performance, you need to factor in new demands placed on the library, coming from the library’s strategic plan, changes in library use patterns and/or social, technological or library service trends. In essence, you need to consider any and all changes that impact your role and responsibilities.
Finally, it is important to consider your own career aspirations. A desire on your part for more community involvement, for example, or a promotion with greater responsibility, should inform your choice of learning priorities.
Questions to ask yourself when assessing your learning priorities:
Based on all of the information available to me, what are my areas of strength?
Are there organizational priorities that benefit from any of my strengths? If so, do any of these strengths need further development?
Based on all of the information available to me, what gaps do I have in skills, abilities and knowledge?
Are there core competencies that I need to develop?
Does the library’s strategic plan require me to grow new skills, abilities or knowledge?
What other changes are underway that require me to develop and in what other ways do I need to develop?
For me to advance in my career, in keeping with my aspirations, what skills, abilities or knowledge should I be developing?
Of all of the changes in skills, abilities and knowledge I’ve identified, what are my learning priorities for the coming year?
2. Choose which competencies to develop by browsing the SOLS Competencies Index.
Having identified your learning priorities, you can now turn to the SOLS Competencies Index and look for competencies that match your learning priorities. The index is divided into five categories. Within each category, there are a number of skill sets, and within each skill set a number of competencies. The bullet points that follow each competency are intended to paint a picture of what that competency looks like in action. These points should provide important clues as to the nature of knowledge, skills and abilities that comprise competence in that particular area.
Remember the importance of focus and limit yourself to a reasonable number of competencies to be developed in the coming year. We recommend no more than four as this allows you to focus on one competency every three months. This time frame allows for experiential learning and the application of that learning.
Once you’ve chosen the competencies you wish to develop, you can cut and paste them directly into your learning path document. What your document looks like is up to you! The template provided is a suggested approach in Rich Text Format which makes it compatible with any word processing program. The template is a single page, representing the information gathering required for each competency you identify. Essentially, you choose how many such pages you need, depending on how many competencies, and together, these pages comprise your Learning Path. However, you might prefer to build your Learning Path in a different format, such as a spreadsheet, allowing you to show the timelines and shifting focus over the entire year.
Regardless of the format you choose, the template will help you identify the information you need to provide about each competency:
3. Find formal training and design informal learning opportunities for each competency.
The next step in the process is to build your Learning Path for the coming year by pulling together your learning activities for each competency, in whatever format you have chosen.
The Learning Path Template guides you to think about and identify what you will do to grow each competency, including:
- Formal training
- Who to ask for help
- Job-based assignment
It also asks you to state a Learning Outcome in your own words and then determine what signs or indicators will help you know if you’ve been successful in achieving that outcome.
Here’s a sample chart that’s been completed by someone who wants to develop in the area of marketing: Learning Path Marketing Sample
When pursuing formal training events, it is important to cast a wide net and consider webinars and online courses, as well as workshops, courses and conferences. If the training required is library-specific, then LearnHQ is an excellent starting place. It promotes the training offerings of Southern Ontario Library Service, Ontario Library Service - North, and the Ontario Library Association. Training events are organized by the 5 categories of competencies but they are also searchable. There are plans to add offerings by other organizations gradually to LearnHQ.
If the training you are looking for is not specific to libraries, such as learning about project management, or fundraising, for example, community colleges can serve as a good starting point. Another useful strategy for discovering good training is to ask people whose opinion you trust. Putting a request out on a discussion forum within a professional network often reaps positive results in the form of recommendations and suggestions.
When it comes to designing informal learning opportunities, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination. Start with the ideas provided in the section on Formal and Informal Learning (step 3 in link) and be creative. In consultation with your manager or supervisor, create assignments for yourself that will force you to learn what you need to learn. Also, don’t forget the enormous benefit of naming other people as part of your learning path. Is there someone in your organization who can coach or mentor you? Are there others with the same learning need? If so, call a meeting and suggest you become a learning community, poised to learn together and from each other.
4. Map it out over the next year in consultation with your manager or supervisor.
The final step in the process is to assign a time line and deadline to each competency you’ve identified. This is a crucial part of planning for your growth and development, ensuring that your learning intentions will not be forgotten. For development to happen, it needs to be planned for, and integrated into your work responsibilities. The best way to do this is to assign it a deadline and then make it part of your work plan. Whether or not you focus on one competency at a time is up to you and your manager or supervisor. Regardless, it is essential that you be both realistic and committed to your learning when you map out what you are prepared to do over the coming year.
Some flexibility will be required, especially when it comes to availing yourself of formal training, which may not be available when you want it to be. It is possible to be flexible and still hold yourself accountable to your Learning Path.
The format of your Learning Path is less important than your commitment to it. The template provided is suggested as one way of organizing all of the information in one place. At a quick glance you can see what competency you have committed to growing and how you plan to do so. Other formats may better meet your needs.