Thursday, 27 August 2015

Thing 13: Professional Organisations

Welcome to Thing 13: Professional Organisations.

We have moved away from the technical side of 'Things' for a while and instead we are going to take a look at what we can do to raise our  professional profile by joining professional organisations, contributing to networks, attending conferences and getting involved in advocacy campaigns.

Most of you will be pretty familiar with the professional organisations or library associations that are available to you in your country. For those of you who are not I will list some of the big ones here.

The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) 

IFLA is the 'head-honcho' of library associations. They represent all library organisations world-wide and are hugely respected both in the information profession and by other international organisations such as UNESCO.
IFLA host a conference once a year which,  to us Library nerds, is the Glastonbury of Library conferences. It can be quite expensive to attend an IFLA conference, especially when you factor in travel costs. If it's way out of your price range there are some affordable ways to get to an IFLA conference:
  • Your professional organisation may have bursaries available to attend an IFLA conference
  • IFLA Speical Interest Groups often host satellite conferences in neighbouring countries and cities if you cant afford to travel to the main conference. 
  • If your country is hosting the IFLA conference you can volunteer to help out. 

The European Bureau of Library Information and Documentation Associations (EBLIDA) 

EBLIDA are sometimes referred to as the 'European IFLA' but this would not be entirely accurate. They do represent Libraries and Librarians in Europe but mostly as a lobbyist.  EBLIDA have spearheaded campaigns such as The Right to E-Read Campaign and have taken strong stance with the EU on issues such as Copyright reform.

Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) 

Although CILIP is based in the United Kingdom it represents Library and Information Professionals interationally. They have an International Library Group which provides opportunities for it's members to visit and study Libraries in the UK each year.
CILIP have a very comprehensive website full of resources that are relevant to all aspects of librarianship from things like running an advocacy campaign, up-skilling, or guidance in collection development.

The Library Association of Ireland (LAI)

The LAI represents Information Professionals in Ireland. It hosts a joint conference with CILIP each year. There are also plenty of opportunities to attend conferences and training events run by the LAI Special Interest Groups throughout the year. Our Rudai23 course is being run by the Western Regional Section of the LAI.

The American Library Association (ALA)

The ALA represents Library Professionals across America. There are Special Interest Groups as well as Associations for each individual state. Unless you are based in the United States it's probably not worth joining the ALA. You can however take part in things like the  Electronic Discussion Lists which are hosted by the Special Interest Groups. These are similar to a discussion forum but the conversation gets delivered to your email inbox.

Here is an article from Becky Spratford of 'Reader's Advisory for All' about how to subscribe to the Readers' Advisory Group Discussion Lists.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the organisations that exist for Library Professionals.

Here is a comprehensive list of Library Associations across the world from the American Library Association Website and an article from the Library and Information Sector New Professionals Network (LISNPN) blog about professional bodies. 

If you are not interested in paying money for a membership with a professional organisation, you can still benefit by following them on the various networks such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Some of the groups such as EBLIDA and IFLA will allow you to sign up for a newsletter and discussion lists without membership.

Following the associations and sub-groups on the various networks is a good way to determine which ones are active or best suited to your professional interests before you join.

Take a look at our twitter list Networks for a list of groups and associations on twitter. 

Why Bother?

When I first graduated from Library school I was nowhere near close to thinking about joining any library organisations and it was a few years before I decided to sign up to the LAI. Another few years passed before I decided to join a committee and become actively involved. I just recently joined CILIP and I'm thinking that Chartership is probably next on my to-do list.  It's not something that you have to do straight away, but it's good to be aware of what's available to you.

If you do join a professional organisation like the ones that I've mentioned you are immediately entitled to a range of benefits such as:

  • Training opportunities for professional development
  • Networking opportunities 
  • Bursaries and grants to travel and attend conferences
  • Advocacy tools and resources
  • Newsletters and publications
  • Opportunities to write for publications
  • Opportunities to submit presentation proposals for conferences 
  • Discounts to the organisation's events and learning resources
  • Professional recognition in the form of Fellowships or Charterships. 
  • Recruitment opportunities
  • Mentoring

These are the official benefits but there are many other benefits that come with membership also:
  • It looks good on your CV
  • You are part of a community of like minded professionals
  • You have instant access to expertise and support
  • You will find opportunities to exercise your library skills outside of work

Joining a professional organisation is also a way of cementing your career choice. You are investing in your career and making a commitment to your profession.

Special Interest Groups and Committees 

You can also take your membership one step further by joining a committee for a special interest group. Joining a Special Interest Group or Section will provide you with the opportunity to network with others that are working in the same field as you and can be very rewarding. It's also a opportunity to learn and collaborate with people that you may not otherwise connect with. You will find yourself working within a new team, with different dynamics from the ones that exist in your day to day job.

Joining a committee is also a useful way to gain valuable experience that can help with career advancement.

I think it  is safe to say that at the moment, jobs and opportunities are pretty scarce in the information profession.There are a lot of us out there who have fallen victim to the economic downturn in the last few years and have found ourselves in a stagnant job, with little opportunity for innovation or progress.

However it's important to keep your CV up to date and valid and to be able to demonstrate that you have grown in your skills and experience.   One of the obstacles we face during times of slow job growth is the lack of opportunity to diversify, try new things or work within different sectors.

When you join a group committee you will see an immediate increase in your skills and experience and it can be a huge boost to your CV. You will suddenly find yourself taking on roles that you may never get to do in your paid employment such as project management, minute taking, writing annual reports, policy writing, communications and social media management.Joining a special interest group or committee will immediately provide you with opportunities to try new things and exercise skills that you may not get to use in your current job.

One of Us

Becoming a member of a professional organisation means that you are part of community. Not only can you benefit from this community but you can also contribute to it. We will be talking more about advocacy for libraries in Thing 15 but it is an important element of your role in a professional organisation.

Professional organisations like the ones I have mentioned play an active part in advocacy for libraries and as a member you will too. You will find yourself contributing more to the profession whether it is planning training events or conferences, networking with colleagues or taking on projects as part of your chartership plan. These activities strengthen an organisation and in turn ensure the longevity and sustainability of the library profession.

Other Organisations

If you are not interested in pursuing the formal route of joining an organisation but you still feel you would like to be part of a network there are options for you.

New Professionals Day Ireland (NPD) : An Irish group that are ready and availalbe to help new and recent graduates. They host networking events, including a New Professionals Day, every year.

Repository Network Ireland (RNI); A network for Institutional Repository Manangers and Information Professionals.

Library and Information Sector New Professionals Network (LISNPN) : Another network that caters for new and recent graduates, based in the UK.

Your Tasks for This Thing Are  

  • Take a look at your country's Library Association website and see what it has to offer.
  • Write a blog post about your thoughts on becoming a member of a professional organisation. Are you a member of one or more than one already? What benefits have you found from your membership?
  • If your organisation or group is on twitter, tweet us their twitter handle so that we can add it to our list.  

 Further Reading

Take a look at our Pinterest board Professional Organisations for links to more organisations and further reading. 

1 comment:

  1. I think its a great idea to join a federation just having a look now....


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