Sunday, April 15, 2012

Getting Involved with ALA

In this series, SASCO liaisons and leaders will share how they became involved with ALA and its Divisions. Each of us became involved in our own way and maintain individual levels of participation. We hope that by sharing our stories it will help you find your own place in the organization.

Part 1: Conferences and Committees

By: Lindsay Sarin, Academic Librarian, Committee Nerd
I started my involvement with ALA as an executive board member of the University of Maryland ALA Student Chapter. The experience helped me learn a little about the inner-workings of ALA, but it wasn’t until I attended an ALA Annual Meeting that I really got involved. Lots of people contribute without going to conference, but for me it was essential. Here's how I used Annual to jumpstart my ALA participation.

Preplanning/Trying to Find Your Niche

ALA is overwhelming at first, especially at Annual. There are so many groups, sessions, and meetings; it can be tough to find your way. I started planning my visit by spending a lot of time on the ALA website looking at divisions and groups (with ALA Connect this is now a little easier since all the documents are in one place). I picked out the groups I thought were interesting and planned to attend their sessions.

New Member Sessions

My very first session was ACRL 101 (I went to the ACRL session because I've always been into academic libraries but NMRT's is great too). ALA 101 sessions are invaluable because they are friendly spaces for new members, presenters help clarify the ALA structure, and usually there is an opportunity to mingle.

Go to Meetings and Not Just the One's on Your Schedule

During Annual I went to some of the committee meetings and presentations on my schedule, but I ended up going to more that I heard about from those at the 101 session and from socials. Most importantly, at the meetings/sessions, I participated. As a newbee it can be a little scary to speak-up, but people pay attention if you do. If you want to be involved either on a committee or in the discussion you have to be willing speak (Steven Bell thinks so too). Don’t be afraid to speak-up, shake someone’s hand, or ask about being involved.


Socials are the bread and butter of conferences for a lot of reasons; one they're fun and casual ways to meet new people; two you never know who's going to be there; three they're good places to find out what's going on behind the scenes. They're also great opportunities to ask someone who's been there. During my very first session I struck up a conversation with an ACRL member who was willing sit down with me and quite literally outline the committee structures and suggested some groups to check out (I now co-lead one of them).

The Hard Part

If leaders in ALA don't know you want to be a part of the process, you'll never will be. You have to actually contact them. Send an email, post to a group on ALA Connect, find someone on Twitter, friend someone on Facebook. It doesn't take much. Just let the right person know that you're willing to contribute, and they'll probably take you up on it. For me it was just a matter of sending a few emails after the conference.

From ALA NMRT's SASCO Update #3. Check out the SASCO Update #4  and the SCALA blog later this month for Part 2.

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