How to Get the Most Out of Joining a Professional Association
Published: June 20, 2023 by Hannah Nguyen
There are many professional organizations within the field of
librarianship that offer networking opportunities, scholarships,
grants, continuing education, and other resources and perks. You
may already be familiar with some of these organizations because
the iSchool provides a complimentary
one-year membership for students enrolled in Info 200. If
you’ve never joined a professional association before, you may
feel overwhelmed by the new emails or feel unclear about how to
contribute. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of
Before we get started, here are some of the most popular LIS professional associations:
- American Library Association
- Special Library Association
- Association for Information Science and Technology
- Society of American Archivists
- National Association of Government Archivists & Records Administrators
- American Association of Law Libraries
- American Indian Library Association
- Asian / Pacific American Librarians Association
- Black Caucus of the American Library Association
- Medical Library Association
- Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Service
Take your time looking into each of these organizations so that you join a group that aligns with your passions and interests. Some of them have several divisions or interest groups you can join in addition to your membership that will allow you to focus on a specific interest and connect with like-minded professionals.
Listen and Engage
After joining, you will likely be put on an email list and receive regular updates from the organization and discussion posts by members. These discussions can be helpful for understanding concerns within the field and you may learn solutions other librarians have found for problems you are dealing with. I have also found free opportunities for continuing education in a variety of forms by paying attention to these emails. I was able to apply for a Technology Jumpstart program for library students that got me started with GitHub, Python, and Visual Studio Code. I was also able to attend a webinar about organizing digital images that I found helpful for my photography hobby. Most of the people who are active in these groups are more than happy to engage and answer questions you may have. In fact I was able to connect with an iSchool alumni who contributed to my blog post about Artificial Intelligence.
Take Advantage of the Perks
These organizations come with a variety of perks, such as conference discounts, networking events, resume and interview help, travel discounts and scholarships. Some organizations have unique offerings; for example, ALA members get priority access to advanced reader copies through Netgalley. The Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services offers access to a significant library of relevant free webinars. Reforma members can seek guidance from more established professionals through their mentorship program. While there are plenty of opportunities to grow as a leader through professional organizations, the American Association of Law Librarians also offers a Leadership Academy and Management Institute.
If you decide to join a professional organization, be sure to read their website and look into opportunities that are exclusive to members. I am part of the California Library Association and recently attended the CLA Conference. I learned a ton in the few days I was there, but the most beneficial meeting I had was with someone at the CLA Career Center. I was able to discuss career goals, receive feedback on my resume and walk away with an outline for creating my first CV. The librarian I spoke with provided me with helpful tools and inside information that has completely changed the way I think about job applications. And…this is a perk I could have (and should have) been taking advantage of over the past few years that I have been a member.
Consider Leadership Opportunities
During job interviews, you may be asked about leadership experience or examples of how you innovate. It can be difficult to come up with impressive examples when you’re early in your career and your roles have been entry-level. Most professional organizations have leadership positions that you can volunteer to be a part of. Often, they are based on elections, but sometimes there are positions that are vacant and just need someone willing to devote time. It may be worth considering applying for a leadership position if you want to contribute to the field and are ready for a challenge.
- Read about an iSchool student’s experience attending a conference with a travel grant
- Read tips for attending a conference as a new student (and perhaps presenting!)
Two More Things…
Here are a few job opportunities on Handshake that might be of interest!
- Library Support Specialist – San Mateo, CA
- Curator for Gaming Collections – University of Nevada Las Vegas
Also, remember that internships can be an especially valuable part of your learning experience at the iSchool while also helping you when it comes time to look for jobs. Learn more about the iSchool’s internship program here, where you can check out the INFO 294 Student Handbook as well as the Internship Sites database.