Do I belong in a Professional Organization?

Around this time last year, I was approached by another iSchool MLIS student and asked to run for an office for the Student ALA Chapter at the University of Washington. I thought about it and asked other officers what the responsibilities entailed and decided to do it. Then I decided I had better become a member of ALA (American Library Association) if I was going to represent the iSchool and ALA by being part of the organization. So I joined. I didn’t know what (if any) the benefits would be, and I’m sure I still don’t know everything about it, but here are 3 things I didn’t know about ALA before I joined.
  1. American Libraries Direct – This is a weekly email that highlights events/webinars/people/awards… okay pretty much any and everything that is going on with ALA and libraries (in the U.S. and internationally) during the past week. I often tweet articles or snippets of stories I find interesting. I also bookmark articles I think will be useful for creating displays or planning programs when I am working at a library someday.
  2. There are so many listservs available and they are very diverse. Here’s a list from ALA: http://lists.ala.org/sympa. When you sign up for a listserv that looks interesting, you’re going to get a ton of emails. My advice is to set up a filter for the messages and then pick a day of the week when you want to look them over and save what you need and respond if you want to. I also found that job postings are often sent out on listservs and if you’ve been participating in the discussions, people may recognize you from your amazing insights and you could be a step ahead of the other job applicants.
  3. Scholarships – Some of the available scholarships for schooling and continuing education opportunities (such as ACRL, ALA and ALA Midwinter) are only available to people who are already members of a certain organization. Here’s the General Scholarships site for ALA.
I am also a member of ARSL — Association of Rural and Small Libraries — because I realized (during my education) that my passion lies in small communities and I hope to someday work in a small or rural library. By being a member of this organization, I am able to participate in email discussions with other people who are currently working in these settings.
This isn’t a post to convince anyone to go join ALA or ARSL. Find the organization that best fits your passions and career goals and join. Be as active as you want and enjoy and thrive in the experience of getting to know other librarians with similar passions.
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2 Responses to Do I belong in a Professional Organization?

  1. I've been an ALA member since my first semester, and am still quite sure I am not utilizing my membership very well. I think it is valuable to be a part of some professional organization for the purpose that we can be part of the body that defines our profession. However, pro orgs do seem kind of outdated in the way they do things sometimes. I find most value investing in more “real-time” professional development, like reading my colleagues blogs and commenting (!), or Twitter, and letting those professional relationships inform my involvement in organizations.

  2. I think it makes sense to join the ALA if you are a librarian, as long as the fee to join doesn’t break the bank.

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