Professional Development: Online, On Demand, On the Cheap

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” Perhaps I was born with these words flowing through my veins, because I have always reveled in learning new things. In fact, one of the things that I love about librarianship, and teen librarianship in particular, is how it forces me to keep learning. If I don’t keep up with trends in pop culture and teen books, it makes it harder to connect with my teen patrons. Likewise, if I don’t stay on top of our rapidly-changing world of library science, it won’t take long for me to become an obsolete professional. (Perish the thought!)

Librarianship, then, is the ideal career for me and others who want to be lifelong learners. After all, we have all the information in the world at our fingertips! What’s more, we work in one of the world’s greatest gift cultures–if you want to do something, odds are, someone has done the same thing or similar and will be happy to share their ideas. But what happens when we need to do professional development, but don’t have staff to cover our shifts while we travel, or funding to pay for a conference? Fortunately for us, the World Wide Web offers a plethora of possibilities to expand our professional knowledge, often for the low low price of absolutely nothing at all! If you’re looking to do some cheap professional development, or just need a little virtual group therapy for your #librarianproblems, here are a few places to start.

Facebook Groups:

From program inspiration to instant support for all your #librarianproblems, Facebook has a group for you. Try these:

  • Teen Think Tank is an Ohio-based group founded by librarians Steve Moser, Erin Gillespie, and Rikki Unterbrink. In addition to an active Facebook group, their twice-yearly conference is a day-long party full of inspiration, hands-on activities, and new ideas to try. If  you’re local to Ohio and can get away from your library for a day, spring the $20 to attend this conference. Otherwise, join them for free on Facebook and get all the benefits with no travel headaches!
  • Teen Librarians is a closed group, but very easy to join. As advertised, it’s a group of teen librarians at the ready to answer all your questions and share ideas in real time.
  • And, of course, join us in the Teen Services Underground Facebook group for tips, answers, and other librarian fun with the same fine folks who curate this blog!


Webinars are fantastic for a lot of reasons. First of all, most of them are free! Even if you can’t attend in real time, they get recorded and archived. If you’re registered, you’ll be notified when the archived broadcast becomes available and can listen whenever it’s convenient for you.

  • For great information about upcoming books, check out the webinars from Booklist and School Library Journal. They’re free, they’re archived for a year after the original broadcast, and if you need professional development credit for listening, they feature a downloadable certificate for each session you listen to.
  • Speaking of School Library Journal, their yearly SLJ Teen Live webinar, held in August, features popular authors, panels on various topics from upcoming books to ideas for using social media in your library, and even a virtual exhibit hall complete with giveaways! Register, attend what sessions you can, and catch the rest from the archive. It’s free, and like all School Library Journal webinars, you can download a participation certificate for professional development credit for every session you listen to. SLJ Teen Live has all the benefits of a conference, and you never have to leave your home or office!
  • If you’re a YALSA member, check out their free monthly webinars and on-demand webinars. Additionally, they offer a variety of short educational videos on YouTube, which you can access even if you’re not a member.


Podcasts are a great way to learn on the go. I love listening to them when I’m doing boring housework, or on long car trips. Check out:

  • Publisher’s Weekly‘s PW KidsCast, which features author interviews ranging from award winners to the latest debuts.
  • BookRiot’s All the Books!, highlighting new releases.
  • Banned Library for all things banned books and censorship. Be sure to check out all the resources available in their archives!
  • For nonfiction resources, especially history nonfiction, check out The Q Review Podcast from Quindaro Press, featuring author interviews and more.

“Real” Classes:

Want to take a real class with a real professor? There are inexpensive and free resources for you, too!

  • iTunes U is a free app and gives you access to college courses from all over the world. Learn about reading as a human right, find examples of library instruction from academic institutions worldwide, or study Shakespeare with an Oxford don–the possibilities are endless!
  • Coursera has many, many free Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). From them, you can brush up your resume and job-hunting skills, learn a foreign language, and more.
  • Smithsonian EdX has free MOOCs on everything from history to science to pop culture, including one on superheroes with lectures from Stan Lee. They even have several courses that are taught by the staff of the Library of Congress!

So, if you want to do some professional development, but don’t  have the time or money to go to a conference, don’t despair: there are plenty of free and inexpensive resources available! These are just a few of my favorite resources. If you don’t see yours on the list, please tell us about it in the comments!

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