So, I’m packed and not as sleepy as I should be. I have an early start tomorrow, but I just wanted to check in with one last thing before I head off to ALA. The UNCG LIS student association posted today about FREE LISSA memberships with joint student membership to both ALA and the North Carolina Library Association. LISSA has always had trouble getting members, even when I was the supreme leader. I’m dismayed to see students not taking advantage of these kinds of easy professional development opportunities, and I wonder if this will translate into a lack of involvement in professional organizations later in their careers.
In the spirit of supporting LISSA and to celebrate the eve of ALA, here are my top reasons every UNCG LIS student should take advantage of this opportunity. Amy Harris, the outgoing co-coordinator of our Reference Internship Program, and I have given these reasons to our interns repeatedly. You should chime in too!
- It’s the only time LISSA will be free. And the student membership in NCLA and ALA is basically free. You will have sticker shock later on when you pay your real dues, so take full advantage of this opportunity now. Also, your conference attendance is basically free (compared to the rest of us).
- Professional organization membership, even in LISSA, provides an instant network on which you will be able to draw for the rest of your career. These informal networks will be your lifelines in years to come, both for professional and possibly personal advice (as in asking a colleague “Hey, should I move to New Jersey?”).
- The formal networks are extremely useful. I couldn’t do my job as a data librarian without the IASSIST listserv. Whenever I am stuck on a question I send it out to the listserv and get plenty of feedback. In many organizations you can’t be on the listserv without being a member.
- In smaller organizations (like LISSA or NCLA), you have the opportunity to rise to the top relatively quickly. I was asked to serve as the Secretary-Treasurer of the Government Resources Section within a month of joining. GRS is a very special case, but honestly you can get that leadership opp you’ve always dreamed of (and probably more than you would want).
- This one is cynical, but some of us coming out of library school need a bit of resume or CV padding. Employers might even be surprised not to see some professional involvement. As a member of LISSA you can help plan events and do fundraising and pretty much whatever you want to do! On your resume it can say LISSA, organizer of all of this wonderful stuff.
- Library conferences are the best. I like non-library conferences and think they are helpful for new thinking, but seriously, until I went to a library conference I thought all conferences were horrible hell-mouths where graduate students looked for the first opportunity to denounce you and mother as frauds. Library conferences, while they have their faults, are at least collegial (most of the time). People want to hear your story and you are able to learn from each other. They are true learning events both in the conference center and out and I love them for that. You don’t have to be a member to come to these, but they are usually cheaper if you are.
- A Political Science professor who was a rainmaker once told me that “opportunity builds on opportunity“. She was talking about finding fellowships, but this is true for all kinds of possibilities. If you make a name for yourself in one area, you will get noticed in another and more opportunities will come to you. This could happen without professional involvement, but getting into and active in organizations helps to make you more visible.
- Those opportunities will also lead to something ALL librarians need in this current climate– the ability to present yourself and your ideas. We must be self-promoters to survive and professional organizations are incubators for learning how to do that. NCLA has been doing a bunch of sessions on presenting your personal brand and other similar topics. You also have opportunities to present and learn on your feet how to sell an idea and yourself to an audience.
- No, you will not learn all you need to know about librarianship in library school and that isn’t the purpose of an LIS degree. Professional organizations exist to help you develop in your career as the field changes. LISSA has done some wonderful professional development activities in the past few years and it saddens me to think that anyone would miss them because they think they have to stay home and study. Seriously? Get over it. No one cares if you make all A’s in graduate school. (My apologies to any profs reading this, but…)
- Did i mention free (or basically free)?
So, join LISSA! Or if you are a member (or not a UNCG student) write your reason why they should join. Spread the love.