Making the Most of the NMRT Experience
by Virginia Pierce
As a new librarian, eager for professional opportunities and experiences, I recently volunteered to serve on the NMRT Handbook Committee. My first assignment was to research the history of the NMRT and to revise the History section on the New Members Round Table Handbook wiki. Few of us might ever find it necessary to read all of the archived Footnotes newsletters, committee webpages, the NMRT Archives database, or NMRT web pages, which are all available online on the ALA and New Members Round Table websites. But, with my assignment in hand to find out what the organization has been up to the last 10 years, I was able to learn a tremendous amount of information about NMRT which might prove helpful to all current New Members and which I am glad to share with you.
In the last decade, social networking has transformed how new members collaborate and participate within the organization. We have the opportunity to keep abreast of activities and to follow nation-wide NMRT discussions through Facebook group for ALA New Members, NMRT on Twitter, LinkedIn NMRT Networking Group, NMRT photos on Flickr, and NMRT on ALA Connect. The new NMRT Notes: Blog, Online Discussion Forum, and the Official Wiki of NMRT are also great ways to follow events and participate in discussions within the organization. Our ability to network online, without geographical limitations, allows us to engage and collaborate throughout the year rather than just at semi-annual conferences. This has probably strengthened the ability of NMRT to serve its members and is most certainly beneficial to the majority of new members who, while early in their careers, are often unable to attend numerous conferences.
Other programs offered through NMRT that benefit from the collaborative aspects of social networking are the Resume Review Service and the Career Mentoring Program. The Resume Review Service is a fantastic source for those who are still in a graduate program or have just commenced job searching. This is a year-round service available by email to all members. The Career Mentoring Program. pairs seasoned professionals with new librarians in a “learn and give” experience for both librarians, through correspondence via email and social networking forums. This year-round program creates a symbiotic relationship as it gives the seasoned librarian a chance to give back to the profession while mentoring a librarian in the nascent stage of his or her career. Mentors offer guidance and career advice to new librarians on how to build their careers by providing invaluable first-hand experiences of his or her professional life. Both of these programs offer on-site conference mentoring and review services at Annual and Midwinter conferences, as well.
For those who are planning on attending a conference this year, there are a variety of networking and learning opportunities at ALA conferences to help new members get the most out of national conferences. NMRT has initiated Conference orientations at both ALA Annual and Midwinter Conferences to help new members navigate the extensive and sometimes overwhelming magnitude of the conference. NMRT also hosts an NMRT Social and a Student Reception at the respective conferences. These receptions give new members an opportunity to network, socialize, and to make professional contacts with their peers from across the nation. The on-site Resume Review Service and Conference Mentoring Program provide a valuable service at ALA national conferences, in which experienced professionals volunteer their time and offer one-on-one invaluable advice to new librarians during the conference. Additionally, the Placement Center, allows employers to set up recruitment booths on site that gives job seekers a chance to speak with university and corporate representatives about work environments and details of advertised position descriptions. Conference attendees also have the opportunity to register and post their resumes on ALA’s JobLIST and to arrange brief interviews at the conference for positions advertised on JobList.
NMRT also sponsors grants, scholarships, and awards to several members every year to help defray the expenses of conference attendance. The 3M/NMRT Professional Development Grant, whose purpose is “to encourage professional development and participation by new ALA members in the national ALA and NMRT activities” covers the round trip airfare, lodging, conference registration, and some incidental expenses to its grant recipients. This year the 3M/NMRT awarded four new librarians this generous grant to attend the Annual Conference in New Orleans, LA. Similarly, the Shirley Olofson Memorial Award and the NMRT Emerging Leaders program both present a $1,000 award each year to one ALA/NMRT member, who exhibits a valid financial need, is active within the profession, and shows promise in the area of professional development. These awards are intended to help defray the cost of attendance to the Annual Conference. The Marshall Cavendish Award generously presents tickets, to three awardees each year, for attendance of the Newberry/Caldecott/Wilder Banquet at the ALA Annual Conference, the cost of which would likely be out of reach to many New Members. Each year, the Student Chapter of the Year Award is presented to an outstanding ALA Student Chapter to “increase student involvement in ALA through student chapters and to recognize future leaders in the profession”. The winning Student Chapter will receive $1,000 to help its student members with their travel expenses to ALA Annual.
Other opportunities offered by NMRT are writing opportunities, learning skills in leadership, and opportunities to serve on committees. The NMRT quarterly online newsletter, Footnotes, encourages its members to contribute non-scholarly articles related to NMRT issues and events. There is also a new online journal, Endnotes: The Journal of the New Members Round Table, launched in 2010, to provide new librarians and members of the Round Table opportunities to publish scholarly work in a peer reviewed publication. For those interested in honing his or her writing skills, the NMRT New Writer List, NMRTWriter, provides a forum for anyone interested in gaining writing experience in a professional capacity. A peek at the archived postings on this listserv demonstrates the numerous writing opportunities and writing advice posted there.
For New Members who aspire to be leaders in the profession, the Ladders to Leadership Resources page offers several sources for self-assessment, a bibliography and other resources on leadership, and is designed “as a starting point for librarians to learn about leadership and to identify resources that may help them develop their leadership potential” (http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/rts/nmrt/initiatives/ladders/ssra.cfm).
For those who are interested in serving on NMRT committees, the majority of collaboration between committee members takes place online through ALA Connect. One positive aspect of online collaboration is that many of the committees do not require attendance at either Annual or Midwinter Conferences during the period served. To date, there are 26 New Members Round Table Committees on which members may volunteer to serve. This is an especially helpful volunteer opportunity for those anticipating a career in academic libraries where committee work will be an integral part of the job.
Lastly, the NMRT Handbook wiki is a tremendous online resource for anyone interested in the organizational structure of NMRT, policies and procedures, information on the Executive Board and their minutes and reports, and descriptive information on the 26 NMRT committees and their purpose and activities. It is also a good source to use for new members who want to get involved in the organization.
Virginia Pierce is employed as a Metadata Assistant in the Digital Collections Department at the University of South Carolina, where she enjoys working on the NEH grant-funded Library of Congress program, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. She currently serves on the New Members Round Table Handbook Committee.