NMRT President’s Program/Membership Meeting: International Insights for New Librarians

by Alice Wasielewski

President’s Program: International Insights for New Librarians

Jannelle Ruswick began the program by introducing the panel and first speaker. 

Loida Garcia-Febo of Queens Library spoke about her experiences helping new professionals get the best out of their job experiences and gave advice for helping new librarians to do the same.  As an example of a useful resource, she showed the new IFLA-NET (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) website. NPDG (New Professionals Discussion Group) has held meetings in Argentina and Durban, and Garcia-Febo encouraged audience members to sign up for the 2009 IFLA conference in Italy or the 2010 in Brisbane.  She pointed out that the IRRT (International Relations Round Table) wiki provides access for professional development around the world and allows new librarians who do not have the funds to travel to access free web-based tutorials to stay current and that REFORMA (The National Association to Promote Library & Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking) also has a mentoring program.  Garcia-Febo spoke very highly of NMRT, calling it “fabulous” because of its activities on an international level.  To show the lack of resources for leadership training, she cited an IFLA listserv survey where 86% of respondents said that their libraries are not offering leadership programs for their newly hired professionals.  Garcia-Febo also referred to her own experience of being put in a leadership position soon after graduating library school and said this is the type of risk that we need in librarianship.  In conclusion, Garcia-Febo recommended that libraries do the following: develop tools and materials to assist new librarians in becoming leaders; recognize the need for appropriate pay, respect, and inclusion in strategic planning activities; partner with associations; increase funding to allow new librarians to attend conferences; sponsor in-house professional development; and take risks with new librarians, including promoting them. 

Next, Andrew Spencer and Alyson Dalby presented:  “Our Space:  The experiences of new graduates and professionals in Australia.”  They explained that the Australian equivalent of ALA is a much smaller organization with about 6,000 members and a bi-annual conference of about 900 attendees.  Although they had never organized a conference before, in 2002 they organized a new conference called NLS (New Librarians’ Symposium) aimed at new professionals.  This conference has had an average attendance of about 280, including not just new professionals, but also senior professionals as speakers and supporters.  The organizers want to make sure new graduates are creating the event as well as participating, so they actively encourage new graduates to join the organizing committee.  NLS grew out of an ad-hoc event called ALIA Fringe that came from a concern that professional development is becoming increasingly an individual concern and new graduates are expected to seek out opportunities themselves.  NLS shows that new graduates can take on responsibilities such as budgeting, public speaking, and project management.  NLS also has a popular resume review service modeled on the one done by NMRT.  Spencer and Dalby pointed out that the NLS conference benefits the profession because it is a way for new thinking and new ideas to be introduced.  Currently, there is an Advisory Committee that is taking on the task of reviewing NLS from the inside, asking what its goals are and if it is financially sustainable.  Finances are a major issue because it is difficult to make NLS affordable.  It will probably have a name change and become less like a traditional conference, or may be merged into another conference.  NLS faces the challenge of the difficulty of defining what a new professional is.  40% of new graduates in Australia are second career professionals who have different goals from librarians who are younger, and it is difficult to sell NLS to both groups.  The panel offered tips for a successful event like NLS such as:  hold your event at a time of year when there are not a lot of other things going on; start small and build over time; get members of student chapters of library organizations to volunteer and ask faculty to encourage students to attend; work in cooperation with a state association; provide opportunities for networking and social events.  The audience was encouraged to attend the next NLS in Melbourne.

The last part of the panel’s presentation was Fiona Bradley’s “International Opportunities for New Librarians with (or without) Leaving Home.”  An international librarian was defined as anyone interested in other countries.  Bradley advised anyone thinking about going abroad to research what is happening in libraries abroad and not assume that the way libraries operate is the same elsewhere.  Before you go, get in touch with the library associations in that country and make contacts with other librarians and make sure that your qualifications will be recognized.  Prepare yourself for culture shock and reverse culture shock for when you return home.  Culture can be very complex, so keep an open mind and be prepared to experience life as the “other.”  Even if the culture is not that different from your own you can be tripped up by the little things.  You can prepare yourself by reading guides about the country, but they sometimes reinforce stereotypes.  Also, you should keep in touch with colleagues at home because people forget about you quickly.  Bradley also gave advice for becoming an international librarian without leaving home.  She recommended conferences on international topics, IRRT, IFLA and other similar associations’ mailing lists, social networking, Twitter, and ALA virtual committee appointments. 

Nannette Donohue asked for questions for the panel.   Silvia James, who is a treasurer, said she appreciated the financing issues.  Her organization is making a play for unusual sponsorships and has been successful with that.  The panel replied that they have had to think about demographics and had an idea to have sponsorships that appeal to their main demographic of young women rather than being library-centric. 

NMRT Membership Meeting

The NMRT Membership Meeting began with an introduction of the board members.  Akeisha Heard is the outgoing secretary, Laurel Bliss is the incoming president, Nanette Donohue is the outgoing president, and Courtney Young is the incoming vice-president. 

Nanette Donohue spoke about the past, very busy year.  She said that a number of very active committees made her presidency very easy.  The enhanced liaison program helped make sure that NMRT members who had reached their ten year mark could connect with other groups and use the skills they had learned with NMRT.  There were NMRT representatives to all divisions, caucuses, a number of state and regional associations, and organizations like SLA.  This year was also the first year that NMRT did two orientations at Annual.  Opportunities for mentoring have expanded with NMRT’s successful mentoring program.  The NMRT booth has moved to front and center of the membership pavilion, so NMRT is getting lots of attention.  A second volume of Scholarship and Research was published and NMRT was involved with the peer review process, which was a major accomplishment.  NMRT needed a better handbook, so very active committees have been working on moving to a wiki.  There is also a Marketing and Branding Taskforce and an Emerging Leader was sponsored for the first time by NMRT.

Linda Shippert, NMRT’s Emerging Leader spoke next.  She advised that everyone who meets the criteria (under 35 years of age or less than five years post-MLS experience and able to attend both Mid-winter and Annual conferences) should apply for this program.  In Emerging Leaders 100 new professionals are brought together and organized into groups to work on projects, which is a great way to learn about the organization and network, plus end up with an actual end product.  The Emerging Leaders meet on one pre-conference day at mid-winter and on one conference day at Annual and in-between, the groups work virtually on their projects.  Shippert said that when she first applied she was afraid Emerging Leaders would be just lectures on leadership, but instead she felt she has “gone from having a job in libraries to having a career in librarianship.”  Shippert said that she hoped that NMRT would sponsor projects as well as leaders next year.  For her project, she worked on an ILL staffing survey, which was interesting for her since she is not an ILL librarian.  Her group created an intensive survey that was sent out on several ILL listservs and they received more than 1,000 responses.  Shippert closed by recommending that people nominate themselves for next year.

A representative from ALA’s Washington Office encouraged everyone to participate in the Vote for Libraries drive and promoted the Office of Government Relations which is looking for new, interested people.

Then Laurel Bliss, the NMRT Incoming President spoke about the plans for the 2008-2009 presidential year.  Bliss wants to make it easier for people to submit their reports.  She has also been making committee appointments and is trying to be open to what she hears NMRT members talking about.  At Midwinter two new task forces were approved.  The Alumni Relations Task Force wants to include NMRT alumni as mentors, speakers, and resume reviewers.  The Online Participation Task Force is looking into social networking tools.  Many members cannot attend conferences frequently.  Bliss said she is looking forward to hearing from the task forces. 

Nanette Donohue concluded by saying that it has been a fabulous presidential year!