Reflecting on the ACLIP Portfolio

Now that I have submitted my ACLIP portfolio*, I think it is time to offer some reflections on the process. In short, I have found it a very rewarding, if at times challenging, undertaking. It sometimes felt like it would never end, but the outcomes have been more than worth it – even if, strange as this may sound, I do not pass.

I have to admit that I initially found the process to be something of a struggle. While in retrospect the guidelines are clear enough, I spent much of the first 6-months after registering for the ACLIP “lost and alone on a darkened street”. Partly this was purely an issue of confidence, but it was also about a perceived lack of clarity about what those regulations were asking of me. Specifically, it wasn’t clear to me whether I was supposed to be showing evidence of things I had done, or evidence of things I was going to do in the name of self-improvement. This complication arose, I realise now, out of the superficial similarity between the ACLIP and an in-house portfolio completed by staff in my library service; the latter is very much a “show what you have done” activity, with very little emphasis on reflection.

And it was the focus on reflective writing in the ACLIP that ultimately threw me, insofar as it was not being a way of writing I was hitherto familiar with. Once I realised the point of reflective writing – an analytical look back through the rear view mirror of experience – the project somewhat fell into place. It became clear to me that the point was to combine the two approaches I had been unable to choose between; that is, to – yes, show what I had done, while then offering an ‘audit’ of that work, a tally of my strength and weaknesses in that area. As there were always likely to be weaknesses – or, at least, points for potential improvement in the planning and delivery of a task – there would always be ways to bring about the strengthening of my skills in the sphere at question. The reflective process would then call for an identification of that way to improvement, followed inevitably by the improvement itself. Action->Reflection->Identification->Improvement.

Once I had found the “straightforward path” through “the forest dark” I was able to launch myself into the gathering of evidence and the reflective process. And the more I worked on this process, the easier it was to see my own experience within the guidelines and framework laid before me. Because until that point I had also struggled with the translation between the things I had done in my working life, and those actions shown in the sample portfolios given to candidates. I was looking at it too literally; expecting to have to find exact replicas of the evidence collected by those other candidates, as if those who had successfully completed the process had done so because they had given the right answers. It was only once I plunged into the thicket of evidence-gathering and reflection that I truly came to see that each portfolio is a unique representation of the individual standing behind it. As with fingerprints, no two portfolios would be the same. Mine should reflect me, just as Candidate A’s portfolio reflected Candidate A.

So, as well as evidencing my own actions, I also found myself having to fill in gaps in my evidence by finding my own path to requisite needed experiences. This had its own positive effect: I became obliged to involve myself in activities that, to that point, I may well have shunned through lack of confidence – joining the committee of the local CILIP branch, starting the CPD23 programme, registering on MOOCs, accepting offers of external training, and so on. It was a cycle of positive reinforcement; the more I did, the more confidence I gained, and the more I found to do – tutorials, wider reading, joining groups, online chats, blogging and tweeting.

Of course, one of the unintended consequences of completing the ACLIP portfolio was that I did not always find the time to complete – or, even start – every interesting programme I found along the way. This was a lack I felt strongly, but which I should now be able to reconcile given the extra time I now find on my side having submitted the portfolio. In particular, I would very much like to blog more about my experiences and my opinions of library and information services (especially completing the long-projected Part II of this piece), and tweet more – join more timetabled Twitter chats (#uklibchat, for example) – and start/finish more tutorials. More of everything, really.

But, as with the portfolio itself, I have come to realise that continuing professional development is exactly that – a continuous cycle: Identification of methods to improve->Actioning those methods->Reflecting on those methods. And, again, the more I do, the more confidence I gain and the more I find I want do to improve – with a clear focus on activities that stretch and challenge me, those where I can learn new skills for use. And for this clear purpose: my eyes are fixed firmly on two further prizes – promotion and Chartership.

To sum up – Reflection: it just goes on and on and on and on.

*to be clear, I submitted the portfolio under the pre-PKSB guidelines.

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