Q: What are online portfolios? Why should I care about them? And, how do I get one?

Q: What are online portfolios? Why should I care about them? And, how do I get one?

Q: What are online portfolios? Why should I care about them? And, how do I get one?

TA: As someone in an academic library who works with recruitment and filling librarian positions, and who works with MLS students during their time in school and during their job hunt, I know what I like to see in an online portfolio and I know what I recommend to students and early career librarians. Also, I hear from former students about what they keep in their online portfolios and experience they’ve gained and want to share with others. Recently, I posed a few questions to a group of previous students about online portfolios. I wanted to know if they had one, what they chose to include (and conversely, what they chose to leave out), and finally, what they would recommend to others starting this process.

Several people commented on the components of an online portfolio. Portfolios were viewed as an extension of a candidate’s cover letter and resume, and are a good way to demonstrate technical competencies in web design and coding. The most common sections included in an online portfolio were work history, education, research interests, selected projects, and contact information. Some candidates also chose to list their MLS/MIS courses on the online portfolio, and included only “selected” relevant courses on their resume.

A few things to avoid include being overly personal with the information shared as part of your portfolio. This is a professional marketing tool, so please don’t tell me about your recent Vegas trip and certainly don’t include photos of the event — What happens in Vegas really should stay in Vegas! Also, from what I’ve seen and heard from others, the best design is clean and simple. Keep it neat and professional, and think of it as an effective communication tool that extends the power of your cover letter and resume.

Other avenues to building a professional online presence include blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other online networking tools. One word of warning… be sure to maintain some distance between the online personal you, and the online professional you. You should consider locking down privacy settings on social networking sites like Facebook so that only friends can see your personal information. Keep private information private, and make it easy for potential employers and professional colleagues to find your professional information on the web.

SM: Like the students that Tiffany spoke with, I think of an online portfolio as an extension of one’s resume and as another place to share professional information in order to promote one’s skills and competencies. I also think of it as a place where I can provide more details about specific aspects of my work experience and my education history and as a repository that allows me to store my professional documents in one offsite location (i.e., not my personal or work computer) making them more accessible me and to those who may want to view them.

Years ago, after learning HTML, I put my resume on a web page with a few hyperlinks and naively called it an “online portfolio.” I currently have a super condensed version of my CV on my institution’s website. These, in reality, are just resumes on a web page. The online portfolio is, and should be, so much more than this. A traditional portfolio looks a bit like this, a multi-pocket folder filled with all your professional documents. Think of an online portfolio as exactly the same, just online. It is a place that allows you to present and organize your materials in a manner and style that suits your needs, a place that makes sharing your materials much easier, and a place that allows for more freedom and creativity than the formal structure of the cover letter and resume.

An online portfolio is a good investment for librarians who are actively looking for employment and for contentedly employed librarians who just want a space of their own that they have complete control over, outside of their institution’s web server. I strongly believe that professionals who have acquired materials over the years should be maintaining some kind of ongoing professional file and updating their resumes on a regular basis regardless of job stability. It is both satisfying and motivating to have an organized and up-to-date folder (online or in print) of your professional materials.

I set out to create my own online portfolio this Fall. I have been an academic librarian for over a decade now and I’ve acquired many documents over the years that move around with me, from computer to USB drive, to inboxes, to different computers. And, I need to maintain a portfolio for tenure requirements, which means lots of printing and sorting and stapling. I desperately needed one place where I could both store and display these documents. As I researched what others are doing in this arena, I discovered that the plethora of free online “social tools” have become ideal portfolio platforms. Not only are they free, they offer security, lots of storage space, backups, searching and commenting capabilities, and are very easy to use – no web skills required. What better time to create, upload, display and archive your professional profile than now?

After contemplating exactly what I wanted my online portfolio to do, and weighing the many options, I choose to use a wiki. I wanted it to be clean and simple in its design, and I wanted to be able to easily cut and paste text from other documents without much editing. I used different pages within the wiki to create distinct sections for my materials such as publications, experience, presentations, and web design.

As social and professional sites expand, evolve, and intertwine, more and more people will be putting their portfolios online and thinking of them as just another link on their networking chain.

To reiterate what Tiffany mentioned above – when creating your online portfolio:

  • Be creative in a clean and simple way
  • Keep it organized and professional
  • Include documents, materials, presentations, etc., that highlight your skills and experience
  • Only include materials you would show a prospective or current employer
  • Be cognizant when naming things (URL, pages, folders, etc.)
  • Go beyond your resume and cover letter
  • Make it easy to navigate
  • Make your contact information visible
  • Make sure you can download it (back it up)
  • Keep it up-to-date
  • Use it to promote yourself

These are some articles and ideas that I found useful in my research, please let us know if you have additional resources or a portfolio you want to share.


Functional and Stylistic Needs of Every Online Portfolio
by Christopher A. Brown

Online Portfolios, or “WOW! Look at Everything I’ve Done!”
by Kim Moody

Punch Up Your Portfolio
by Katie Dunneback

Using Del.icio.us to Create an Easy, Always Updated Online Portfolio
by Michele Martin

Build a Killer Online Portfolio in 9 Easy Steps
by Skellie

Creating a Successful Online Portfolio
by Sean Hodge

Examples and How-To’s:

Creating ePortfolios with Web 2.0 Tools
by Dr. Helen Barrett

Michele Martin’s delicious Portfolio

The Information School, University of Washington, Sample MLIS Student’s Online Portfolios

SM’s Online Portfolio

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