17 February 2010

Just Join: The Benefits of Association and ALA Division Involvement

There are many benefits to joining a professional association or ALA Division, and it is never too soon in your career to get involved. I am a proud member of REFORMA Tucson, and Vice President of our local chapter. As an ALA-REFORMA Emerging Leader, I also Chair the national Public Relations Committee, and recently began serving as an Associate Editor of the REFORMA newsletter. My leadership roles provide exciting opportunities to hone new professional skills, and contribute to an organization that I am passionate about. I have gained a great deal both personally and professionally in terms of the training, networking and friendships I have developed through my membership in REFORMA.

Some of our most active Reformistas (members) are current SIRLS students and recent alums, and I strongly urge others to explore these options. Student organizations provide outstanding leadership opportunities, but it is also advantageous to establish local and national networks with working professionals and leaders in the field. Involvement in these organizations keeps you aware of the latest issues and trends, and can be a fast track to leadership in the American Library Association (ALA), as well as the profession.

It is also important to note that there can be different degrees of involvement in an association depending on your outside commitments. Examples of more ‘low-key’ forms of participation include: signing up for a national listserv, engaging in a dialogue on ALA Connect, contributing to a newsletter or journal, attending association-specific events at annual meetings, or joining a virtual mentoring program. The point is, there are numerous ways to get involved that can fit into even the busiest schedule. The professional development benefits gained from your involvement will be tremendous and are well-worth the time.

In closing, I would love to pitch REFORMA once again, but the reality is that you are most likely equally passionate about a different issue within our profession. Luckily, there is undoubtedly a professional organization or ALA division that fits your interests. And so, whether it be MLA, YASLA, AILA, LITA, LLAMA, PLA, ASCLA, or some other cool acronym that catches your eye, I encourage you to take advantage of your free or low-cost student membership. Afterwards, you will be glad you did because you never know what you will learn, who you will meet, what association scholarship you will win, or what doors it will open. Explore your options and get connected!

Jessica Hernandez is a recent SIRLS-Knowledge River alum, and mother of Reforma Tucson's youngest and loudest honorary member.

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