In 2008, I had joined an ALCTS committee for the first time and had no idea what I was doing....
My ALCTS Experience: Pamela Bluh
My experience in ALCTS – RTSD as it was then known – began very inauspiciously. My first committee assignment was as a member of the Committee to Study Serials Cataloging, the successor to the Serials Advisory Study Committee. This was during a period of considerable controversy about the implementation of AACR2, particularly with regard to the treatment of serials.
The committee members were all (except for me) leading authorities on serials cataloging and quite an intimidating bunch! Our assignment consisted of preparing cataloging records according to AACR2 for twenty serial titles representing a variety of cataloging problems. (The complete list of titles was published in the June 1979 issue of the RTSD Newsletter). At the 1979 ALA Annual meeting in Dallas, the committee discussed the first five titles. Regrettably, I was a bit late for the first meeting and arrived to find the meeting room absolutely overflowing with spectators. One place had been saved for me, so I slid into my seat at the table, thoroughly embarrassed.
Serving on the serials cataloging committee, an assignment for which I was very grateful (though totally unqualified), taught me many valuable lessons, not only about serials cataloging (and the importance of punctuality), but more significantly, about teamwork, collaboration, and community. I volunteered for assignments and accepted those that were offered and in doing so, discovered a fascination for the business of ALCTS. It is probably fair to say that I became an ‘association junkie!’
Experienced members offered encouragement and served as role models. I acquired techniques for chairing meetings effectively. I began to understand what is required to deliver stimulating presentations and how to write for publication clearly and concisely. I learned to appreciate different leadership and management approaches. Generous colleagues encouraged me to discover my professional voice, gave me opportunities to articulate my thoughts, and helped me gain confidence. ALCTS became my professional home. The skills I acquired through my ALCTS connections have stood me in good stead throughout my career.
When I joined ALCTS, opportunities for professional engagement at the national level were limited and it was de rigueur to support one’s professional association. Today, that sense of obligation is less compelling and the ubiquitous nature of social media makes it easier to establish and maintain professional connections. Yet I believe that active participation in a professional association offers a much richer and more rewarding experience than is possible through social media alone.
In reflecting on my affiliation with ALCTS, I realized that it is about receiving and repaying; about being mentored and being a mentor. I am thankful for the varied professional opportunities ALCTS afforded me in an environment where personal and professional relationships are nurtured and enduring friendships are formed.