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Top Tips: Continued professional development

Continued professional development (CPD) is defined as intentional maintenance and development of the knowledge and skills needed to perform in a professional context (CPD Standards Office, 2015: online). Luke Stevens-Burt (CILIP Update, 2015: 39-40) says that developing a deeper understanding of CPD and getting the best from learning activities is essential in order to remain flexible and engaged in the ever-changing professional landscape. Here are NLPN’s top tips looking at how we identify areas for CPD, types of CPD, reflection and the importance of finding a balance.

Identifying areas for CPD:

Job descriptions are a good place to find areas for CPD, especially if you know the area you want to specialise in. They generally have staple requirements (soft skills) e.g. good communication, ability to work within teams etc. therefore these could be areas to work on first. You can then go about working through the other criteria (i.e. job-specific skills) to identify training opportunities.

Emerging trends – there is always a new trend around the corner in libraries and with these comes the opportunity to develop. An example of one is UX (user experience) which is now a job area so if you’re interesting in anthropology, the users’ journey and research this could be an area for you! With these new trends there are generally blog posts, books and events where you can learn more on the topic. Depending on your workplace you may be able to volunteer to work in or lead a project on this new trend.

CILIP’s Professional Knowledge and Skills Base (PKSB) – see the Qualifications section below for more information.

Personal Development Reviews (PDRs) or equivalent – similarly to the PKSB, work-based reviews provide you with an opportunity to identify areas that you would like to develop/strengthen.

Sources/types of CPD available:

CPD can be passive or active, it is all dependent on you. Passive CPD can include reading blog posts/tweets/articles, however if you put that information to use it then becomes active CPD. Active CPD also includes attending and engaging in events, organising events, tweeting, blogging, shadowing/mentoring.

Conferences: Conferences are often the first type of CPD that we think of. Conferences provide the opportunity to network both with individuals who might have similar experiences to you and those who have different experiences that can be insightful and useful (conferences often bring together different sectors within the library and information profession).

The main drawback to conferences is cost. However, there are a number of free conferences (and unconferences) such as ours, radical library camps, LIS DIS etc. as well as sponsorship opportunities for large conferences such as CILIP, LILAC, and SLA. See our top tips on bursaries for advice.

Training sessions: If there is an area you are interested in or have identified as a skills gap, training sessions are often a useful way of brushing up or learning new skills. Professional bodies such as CILIP regularly hold training throughout the year. In the north of England NoWAL and LIHNN (for those in the health sector) also provide training.

Qualifications: CILIP offers three levels of professional registration to all members: certification, chartership and fellowship. The process of working towards professional registration encourages critical reflection and evaluation, which assists in the development of skills. Candidates are required to complete two PKSB assessments at the start and end of the process in order to ascertain whether their original learning aims have been met. The PKSB has a number of categories listing skills which the candidate can choose to develop; these can provide inspiration or a starting point for your CPD.

Online: There are many ways to engage in CPD online e.g. via blogs, social media, webinars, MOOCs, Twitter chats* and mailing lists**.

Online CPD can be a great way to hear about the latest news, events and job opportunities within the profession***. If you are nervous about networking, social media can be a great place to start.

One-to-One: There are opportunities for one-to-one CPD through avenues such as job shadowing/mentoring and interviews (e.g. our blog often interviews people in the profession and Jo Wood hosts the Librarians with Lives podcast – each offer the chance to reflect on your current position). Through shadowing both the mentor and mentee develop; for one it allows time to reflect on their role and the skills involved, whilst the other gains an insight into a new area of work and can offer feedback from an impartial position.

Work based: Graduate traineeships and work placements provide the opportunity to develop practical skills and knowledge for those starting out.

Reading: CILIP Information Professional magazine and LIS journals are good sources for CPD. These can provide knowledge on areas new to you or enable you to carry out further research in order to implement similar steps in your own work.

Committees/networks: networks, whether formal or informal, are useful for making connections beyond the workplace and provide good opportunities for low cost professional development. Informal networking provides an opportunity to learn about what others are doing in their workplace and developments in other sectors/institutions (both positive and negative) which can inform your practice and spark new ideas (Pratchett, T. & Young G., 2016: 170-1). Formal networks include CILIP and their member networks and special interest groups (SIGs). Involvement in member networks and SIGs is voluntary and vacancies are advertised on their webpages. These groups offer a wide variety of roles from secretary to event organisers and provide a wide range of experience which may not be available in your current role. It is also worth looking out for student roles as these require less commitment than other roles, so are a good way of starting out in a committee.

Completing the circle

Reflection: reflecting on what you’ve learnt/your performance is required in CILIP’s professional registration and also in PDRs. Reflection on your practice allows you to:

  • analyse how you will use what you have learnt
  • analyse your role

Which then enables you to:

  • understand the context
  • understand how to make changes
  • think of next steps
  • think about how to resolve issues

Recording your CPD is required for professional registration and PDRs. It is useful to refer to when applying for bursaries/jobs as it can be used to provide evidence for certain criteria and to demonstrate your commitment to the profession. If you don’t have a template to use, there are lots online for you to choose from.

CPD record

Helen uses this template that LAI CDG linked to a few years ago.

Peers: sharing your CPD with peers via a blog or twitter can be a valuable way of reflecting and gaining feedback on what you have learnt. It can also help others, as shown above, to identify CPD opportunities.

Finding a balance

Although CPD will play an important role throughout your career it is important to maintain a work/life balance; this brilliant post on FLIP’s blog provides advice on how to do this. If you are new to CPD it is wise to be aware of your time commitments rather than over-committing yourself.

*Twitter chats: #uklibchat, #ukmedlibs, #critlib

** Mailing lists are used widely within LIS to share knowledge and ideas as well as job adverts, conference information etc. FLIP have created a how to guide on mailing lists which is very useful!

***Amy and Helen carried out research into the connection between social media and independent continuing professional development, focusing on new professionals within the UK and Ireland who graduated between 2010 and 2015. The publisher’s version can be found here and our final draft post-refereeing can be found here.


CPD Standards (2015) What is CPD? Available at: (Accessed on 24 July 2015).

Pratchett, T. & Young G., (2016) Practical Tips for Developing Your Staff. London: Facet Publishing.

Stevens-Burt L (2015) Demystifying CPD. CILIP Update June: 39-40.


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This entry was posted on February 19, 2018 by in Top Tips and tagged , , , .

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