Sylvia Vardell on Summer Planning: Self-Service In-Service, PD4Me


It’s time to wrap up the school year and look forward to summer. And summer means rest, relax, sit on the beach and read, and…plan for professional development! Building and expanding our professional skills might not be our first thought for summer, but summer is the perfect time to pause, reflect, and learn something new. Fortunately, there are more and more tools and opportunities to do just that and so many are free and readily accessible.

Professional Reading

We can start easily enough with reading a professional resource book that targets an interest area. Here are five recent titles on innovative practices that would be a great starting point:

  • Make, Learn, Succeed: Building a Culture of Creativity in Your School by Mark Gura
  • Teaching Outside the Lines: Developing Creativity in Every Learner by Doug Johnson
  • Differentiating for Success: How to Build Literacy Instruction for All Students by Nancy Witherell and Mary C. McMackin
  • Online Professional Development Through Virtual Learning Communities by Sonja Hollins-Alexander
  • Challenge-Based Learning in the School Library Makerspace by Colleen Graves, Aaron Graves & Diana L. Rendina

Time to Travel

If you like to travel like I do, perhaps you can catch a conference this summer. Professional conferences are a great way to travel AND learn, network with colleagues, attend sessions, and sleep in a hotel room and eat at nice restaurants! For example, I’ll be at the International Literacy Conference in Austin, TX, in July ( It features hundreds of sessions along with a massive exhibition of book publishers.

Or head to Michigan for the sixth nErDCampMI on July 9-10 with sessions led by experts, as well as led by educators themselves (

If you can’t leave town, go to Edutopia online (sponsored by the George Lucas Educational Foundation), which has a TON of help to offer including an amazing library of helpful videos (

Another form of armchair travel can be found in podcasts. Check out the podcasts at The Cornerstone For Teachers, where Angela Watson, an “educator and edupreneur,” shares practical and thought-provoking ideas for improving practice (

My last “travel” tip? Join “Future Ready Librarians” on Facebook for lots of great ideas from your fellow librarians all year long!


I’m also a big fan of webinars because you can watch and/or listen while you’re traveling or doing other things. I especially like to archive a presentation so I can review it at my leisure. And there are so many options for webinars for professional development on-the-go, particularly here at School Library Connection. There are webinars** and workshops focused on everything from informational literacy and inquiry-based learning to copyright and privacy to collection and program development. You can sign up here to join SLC for the next free webinar—The Perfect Equation for Summer Reading Success: School + Public Librarians—live on May 8th, or access one that’s been archived here. Promise yourself you’ll view at least ONE this summer!

Several other associations and organizations are also in the webinar business. Library Journal offers online mini-courses with titles such as, “Empowering Teens: Fostering the Next Generation of Advocates,” “Doubling Your Circ on a Dime,” “Engagement Marketing: Put Your Library’s Story to Work,” and “Fund Your Library: Tools and Tactics for Getting to Yes!”

The American Library Association provides a menu of 50+ online professional learning opportunities, such as an online Spanish literacy course for libraries ( Plus, they’re launching new “microlearning events” with one about “Blockchain Explained” coming in June. In addition, ALSC and YALSA and AASL also present regular webinar opportunities, including a chance to propose, develop, and deliver your own!

Booklist also has a variety of webinars, most recently, “Ready to Read! Board Books, Picture Books, & Middle Grade Novels” (

Other sources such as Library Juice Academy provide mini-courses (and certificates) on topics like “Using Intentional Planning to Choose Developmentally Appropriate and Diverse Books for Storytime” (

Research-Driven PD

In their 2017 research review on professional development for the Learning Policy Institute, Linda Darling-Hammond, Marla E. Hyler, and Madelyn Gardner identified several key variables of effective professional development (

  • It is content focused
  • It incorporates active learning
  • It supports collaboration
  • It uses models of effective practice
  • It provides coaching and expert support
  • It offers feedback and reflection
  • It is of sustained duration

As they examined “professional learning communities,” they also identified several implications for policy and practice. In particular, they recommend we:

  1. “Adopt standards for professional development to guide the design, evaluation, and funding of professional learning provided to educators.” The newly revised AASL Standards are particularly relevant for us here.
  2. “Provide technology-facilitated opportunities for professional learning and coaching… and provide opportunities for intradistrict and intraschool collaboration.”

These are two particular areas in which libraries and librarians can provide substantive support, but we may need to beef up our repertoire to step up and take advantage of these timely opportunities to lead, collaborate, and advocate.


So, as you prepare to rest this summer, consider a DIY professional opportunity that you might create for yourself. Commit to some professional reading along with your beach reading or guilty pleasure magazines. If you’re traveling, think about including a professional conference in your travel plans. Or if you are traveling for pleasure, visit a library in some far off location to inspire your thinking. When it comes to professional development, some of those meaningful opportunities for growth can come from things we do for ourselves. As Mark Twain noted, “Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.”

** Editor’s note: Don’t miss Gina Seymour’s free webinar “Maker’s with a Cause” on Tuesday, June 5, 4-5 pm Eastern Time. Register here. Can’t make it? The webinar will also be posted to our Community Page. One hour PD certification available.  

About the Author

Sylvia Vardell is Professor in the School of Library and Information Studies at Texas Woman’s University and teaches courses in literature for children and young adults. She has authored or co-authored more than 100 published articles, more than 25 book chapters, and given more than 150 presentations at national and international conferences. She is the author of Children’s Literature in Action: A Librarian’s Guide, Poetry Aloud Here!, The Poetry Teacher’s Book of Lists, Poetry People, co-edits The Poetry Friday Anthology series (with Janet Wong) and maintains the PoetryForChildren blog and poetry column for ALA’s Book Links magazine.

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