My ALCTS Experience

Harriet Lightman

Professional organizations serve as intellectual homes for like-minded people. We come together on a regular basis, talk about common issues and concerns, then, at the end of the day, go back to our jobs and our daily routines.

The sheer size and complexity of ALA were daunting to me when, in 1995, I became a librarian. I was a career-changer, someone who had come in midlife to librarianship. Based on past experiences, I assumed that ALA would be like any other professional organization, only larger—unwelcoming, clannish, intimidating. I was wrong. In 1997, shortly after joining Northwestern University Library as a bibliographer, I attended my first ALA Annual Conference, encouraged by Diane Perushek, who supported my appointment to the newly-formed ALCTS Digital Resources Committee (DRC). This was a wonderful and exciting opportunity for a new collections librarian, especially at a time when electronic formats were becoming viable alternatives to print. At that time, I knew very little about ALCTS (when I first heard “uh-lex” pronounced, I thought it was a new computer program). But a new committee is a perfect place to learn an organization: the procedures and policies of ALCTS, and the “hot topics” of the organization were the core of the DRC’s work. During my tenure as a member, I helped put together a DRC subcommittee on preservation, which, in turn, introduced me to a new community within ALCTS, and I witnessed the mechanics of changing the committee’s name from DRC to Networked Resources and Metadata Committee.

Since 1997, I have never gone without an appointment to an ALCTS committee or award jury. My next appointment, again under Diane’s mentorship, was to the Library Materials Price Index Committee, where I met Pamela Bluh, and subsequently helped her to organize a program for the 2002 Atlanta conference. With Pamela’s help, I learned the intricacies of ALCTS, and had the great pleasure of working with her on the Fundraising Committee. As an outcome of her efforts with that committee, Sage Publications established the first Sage Support Staff Travel Grants. As a member of the first award jury for those grants, I met many more people, from throughout ALCTS, and was invited to chair the award jury during its second year. I continued to meet the most remarkable librarians—dedicated to ALCTS and to the profession, always eager to share their experiences and their love of librarianship. I subsequently gravitated to CMDS, the logical home for a collections librarian, where I served on various committees (Policy and Planning, Education) before accepting an appointment to chair the Publications Committee. Now, as secretary of CMDS, I continue to work with the wonderful group of librarians who have made ALCTS such a rewarding professional and personal experience.

ALCTS colleagues are eager mentors whose love of the profession and deep knowledge of the intricacies of the organization are unparalleled. ALCTS is really all things to all librarians—I have learned a tremendous amount about all aspects of librarianship. I would encourage any librarian, no matter what their field, to explore what this division has to offer.