As I draft this column, the Midwinter Meeting is only days away. The first time I attended an...
My ALCTS Experience: Erica Findley
I remember doing the interview for acceptance to the MLS program back in 2006. When asked why I wanted to work in libraries, I mentioned that I wanted to use my organizational skills to help arrange library resources so that people could easily find things in the library. I believe I wanted to be a cataloger before I really even knew what that was.
I joined ALA as a student at the urging of my professors and advisers, and when there was an ALA Midwinter Meeting in nearby Seattle I decided to check it out. I did very little planning before the conference and thought I would play it by ear and go to as many cataloging meetings that were happening that Saturday. I didn't take the time to reach out to my classmates to see if they were going, so I didn't know anyone at the conference. Because of my poor planning I had a pretty poor first conference experience. I went to several meetings, but it was difficult for me to talk with others because I felt that as a student I was not yet on their level. I spent the rest of the weekend on a mini vacation in Seattle, concluding that conferences weren't for me as an MLS student.
But in 2008, the last year of my MLS program, I had the opportunity to apply for the ALA Student to Staff Program. ALA would pay for my hotel and registration at Annual Conference if I was willing to work some hours during the conference. I thought that if I spent some time working behind the scenes I could learn more about ALA and the conference and perhaps have a better experience than I did in Seattle. I was glad I did. I worked with ALCTS and learned so much from the time I spent with Charles Wilt and Julie Reese. They were really patient and answered all my questions about ALCTS and about Conference. They had me help with the setup for the ALCTS Presidents Program and the ALCTS Awards Program, two events I may not have thought to go to on my own. I'm positive I got way more out of this experience than they did of me.
As a result, I was inspired to become involved and at the next Midwinter Meeting I attended one of the first meetings of the ALCTS New Members Interest Group (ANMIG), hoping that I would get some tips on how to be more involved. At the meeting they had an election, and I was the only one that raised my hand for the secretary position. During the next couple of years I had the pleasure of working with ANMIG to organize events like ALCTS 101 and hold online chats to reach out to new members. (Anyone new to ALCTS should definitely see what ANMIG offers: http://connect.ala.org/node/85257).
Through ANMIG met so many ALCTS veterans who provided encouragement and tips to help me get involved in other ways. I became an intern on the ALCTS Bylaws Committee, which I admit I thought would be a bit of a bore. However, that was the year that ALCTS began to evaluate its interest groups and committees, so I learned quite a bit. I then went on to become a member of the Publications Committee where I learned about all of the different types of publications ALCTS has to offer.
In 2012 I was awarded the ALCTS sponsorship in the Emerging Leaders program. I received a two-year conference sponsorship, and was the intern on the ALCTS Board the following year. ALCTS provided not only a sponsorship, but a path that would keep me involved at the conclusion of the Emerging Leaders program. It was this dedication from ALCTS that has really motivated me to encourage involvement with ALCTS on the national level with members of my staff as well as others who work in technical services.
I am currently serving a three-year term on the ALA Council as a councilor-at-large. However, I am also staying involved with ALCTS as a member of the ALCTS Presidents Program Committee, a continuation of the path ALCTS cleared for me. I am also on the Emerging Leaders subcommittee, which provides a way to give back what the gracious and passionate members of ALCTS have given me over the past four years.
My ALCTS experience is not over. I feel like I have just begun. I will soon be starting a new position in a public library, and I am looking forward to exploring what ALCTS can provide to help me grow in to this new position.