learning in the cloud

Where can I find free online courses on library management skills?

March 4, 2020
Clare Brown

What a difference a few months make! Earlier in the year I said that "the whole library and information world seems to be on social media - the controversies, the victories and challenges, as well as the normal day-to-day stories." COVID-19 means there is a new normal, which is anything but...

However Twitter is alive with library and information people working from home (living in the office?), and providing a valuable service to their users. (You champions!) As a result, it continues to be a great place to talk about library management skills. A tweet this morning said exactly what I was thinking:

#LibraryTwitter Do you have a folder of webinars ready for watching?

What followed was a list of useful sources for CPD.  A Twitter exchange sparked a discussion about how librarians can overcome access to training challenges, which has turned out to be pertinent to this current public health crisis. 

My friend and I agreed that continuing professional development (CPD) is essential to both you and your organisation. However, there are many legitimate reasons why you might be physically unable to attend talks, seminars, conferences, and other local and international networking events, including:

  • Organisational budget restrictions
  • Remote / flexible working - being “geographically challenged”!
  • Logistical difficulties of London-centric conferences
  • Time constraints, physical limitations etc 
  • And in the wake of coronavirus / COVID-19 concerns, travel restrictions

In order to keep up to date with what is new in the information world, one of my current awareness feeds is called Library & Information Events. It alerts me when quality, free, online opportunities for learning are announced - with emphasis on being both budget and location friendly. Here are some ideas I’d like to share with you:

Free - or with a few strings attached - courses

If you look hard enough, free courses are available through various organisations and vendors. We all know that there is ‘no such thing as a free lunch’ so in return for an interesting talk, you might be asked to give your personal details, as well as listening to a sales pitch. 

  • SCIP - the Strategic & Competitive Intelligence Professionals is a global community which offers webinars in return for some personal details (email, name etc). 
  • Lucidea provides library management systems, and as part of their marketing and outreach, they host some interesting webinars
  • Comitelli provides business intelligence, and like Lucidea host various webinars to talk about competitor analysis etc. The independent speakers are usually CI or business information experts.
  • Bloomberg Law is well known in the legal world and they offer interesting insights into topics such as tech and law. 
  • For hints and tips on marketing and content strategy, Hubspot Academy offers professionally put together free courses - complete with certificates of completion.

    What training issues are we facing now?

Professional Bodies and other collections

If you are fortunate enough to have the budgetary support of your employers, you might be able to join one or more of the various information industry organisations. Many of these professional bodies have recognised the importance of giving everyone access to online learning possibilities, so take advantage. There is occasionally a small surcharge for some webinars - especially if you're a non-member.

  • ALA has many divisions, each with a variety of webinars and eLearning opportunities. For instance the Association for Library Collections & Technical Services offers them for a fee for members and non-members. There is also a free YouTube channel where you can watch ALCTS videos. As does Association of College and Research Librarians (ARCL).  
  • AALL has a number of free events, including this on YouTube.
  • BIALL has been running events online, and recently had their first virtual conference
  • CILIP Webinar Recordings - they host a number of webinars and if you are unable to attend the live event then you can access the recordings and any supporting materials. Membership is required though some are open access
  • CLIG has been a real community for the legal information community. I've written up some of their discussions
  • The CPDWL section collaborates with the IFLA New Professionals SIG (NPSIG) and the American Library Association (ALA) to run a series of free webinars - and free mini conferences. 
  • From Libraries Ireland, this collection of useful online material might be worth checking out!
  • MMIT, the CILIP special interest group offers free webinars, even for non-members. Watch out on Twitter for updates and announcements.
  • SLA has an online learning programme with relevant topics - again membership is required. 
  • SLA-Europe occasionally runs a free Wednesday Webinar series and they are definitely worth watching out for. 

Charities and higher education collections

  • Charity Digital Exchange works towards digital awareness and access, and connects charities to digital experts. But if you are interested in digital strategy, cyber security, and AI, their podcasts are worth a listen.
  • EDUCAUSE is a recent discovery. It is a nonprofit association that helps higher education explore and share the challenges of IT
  • University Libraries online portals contain a wealth of library professional development. I’ve given GC Library Faculty as an example and it has links to free webinars which you might find useful. 
  • @Bibliobeth has created Educator PD - Home which is a great resource for librarians in the education sector! 

Other recommendations for free learning

Webinars are just one way of staying up to date. As you know there are podcasts, blog posts, social media groups - not to mention the occasional real life meet-ups.

Case Studies

Reading about other people's experiences of implementing work-related projects can be really helpful and it's free! There is a reason why it's hard to get case studies from people - it takes hard work and commitment. I've been busy revisiting some of our Vable current awareness case studies, and it occurred to me that there is a lot of valuable information in them. 


These are really great for capturing that networking vibe. You might not see the ‘whites of their eyes’ but when you have exchanged stories, it  builds trust, friendship, and professional camaraderie. If you want to go see how its done, #uklibchat recently hosted a ‘getting the library job(s)’ chat; collaboration in action. For more library chats on Twitter, check out this excellent blog post which organises the staggering number of webchats out there.


Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have revolutionised distance learning. They have been used by the library community as an education opportunity to reach a wider, geographically dispersed audience. Books, journals, blog posts, webinars have discussed MOOCs and their impact on library and information science skills.  Indeed, the topic was discussed using an Italian case study at IFLA CPDWL last year.

Research for this post took me to The Hyperlinked Library, which is an open, participatory institution that welcomes user input and creativity. It says it is built on human connections and conversations, and contains some useful resources. This is definitely something to investigate if you are looking to improve your library management skills - and you’re on a budget.

One information professional recommended MOOC provider Future Learn. It cover many different topics and partners with top universities and well known organisations. You never know, you may find a completely new career direction there!


I’ve already mentioned webinars on YouTube, however once you start looking there is a wealth of quality information on there. I’ve recently subscribed to the Programming Librarian for ideas. These videos can often inspire you to create your own ‘how to’ for end-users. 

Mini Conferences

We are almost accustomed to online conferences. Although they lack the networking, obligatory tea & biscuits, and social aspect of physically being there, the learning opportunities are valuable.

Personally I enjoyed the recent bite size BIALL conference where they delivered around 10 short papers over two days. The sessions lasted about an hour and a half, but these tasters gave the audience the key points. 

Watch the recording of Steve Lastres' webinar

These are just a few ideas from my events feed which I thought you might like to check out. I will start posting advance notification of free webinars and conferences on @tryVable! Once you start looking, you will realise that you have more opportunities than time! Although more time might have just become available. 

Please stay safe and if you want to have a natter with us, get in touch! Self isolation can be stressful, no matter what your personality type.

What are your recommendations for must-attend online information events?