My ALCTS Experience

Eric BrownellBy Eric Brownell, Folger Shakespeare Library

When I was asked to contribute to this feature, I almost declined, because my ALCTS experience has been rather limited. I have only been a member for a little more than a year, after all. As a cataloger for a special collections library, though, an argument could be made that my entire professional experience has been, not limited exactly, but specific, and in my short time as a member, ALCTS has proven to be a rewarding introduction into the wider world of library professional organizations.

My time in technical services began as an undergraduate, working as a student copy cataloger in Princeton’s Firestone Library. It was satisfying, seeing the books I had handled on sitting on processing trucks, on shelves and in carrels, so it followed that—not knowing what else to do with myself—I looked for similar work after graduation. I started as the modern book copy cataloger at the Folger Shakespeare Library in the fall of 2005, and have been at that institution since. What began as a job to hold me over for a couple years became a career, as by 2009 I had finished my MLS at the University of Maryland-College Park, and been promoted to a professional cataloging position at the Folger.

During this time, I was very much engaged in becoming a better cataloger, but I remained fairly disconnected from the profession as a whole. It remains one my biggest regret about library school that I did not make more of an effort to get involved in the many student chapters of professional organizations, or at least go to one of the ALA conferences hosted in Washington D.C. over the last few years. As it was, I attended my first conference, ALA Midwinter in San Diego, in January of 2011. Like most people, I found my first ALA conference to be a daunting experience, and I would argue that Midwinter, with its more business-like atmosphere, is not an optimal conference for the first-time attendee. It wouldn’t be until Annual 2011 in New Orleans that I would gain some insight into what would become my home base at ALA.

In New Orleans, I attended introductory sessions for a number of ALA organizations, but the one that made the biggest impression on me was ALCTS 101. Even putting aside the friendliness and helpfulness of all involved, the structure of the session—with its multiple tables featuring the many subdivisions and aspects of technical services—made joining ALCTS particularly attractive to me, as I was looking to broaden my understanding of my chosen profession beyond my very specific set of skills and experience. It also helped that, during the course of that ALCTS 101 session, I was offered a co-chair position of an interest group before I had even become a member. All it took was mentioning that I would like to get more involved.

As co-chair of the Technical Services Workflow Efficiency Interest Group, I have gained an increased appreciation for the thousands of people that go into making these organizations and conferences work. My own role in putting a session together merely provides a venue in which smart, dedicated people can talk about issues that conference-goers find interesting and useful. I would say that the satisfaction of putting together a successful session is a similar to the feeling I described earlier, of seeing the items I have cataloged and processed out in circulation. My co-chairship ends after this summer, but there is no doubt in my mind that I will continue my involvement with ALCTS.