Learning From Library Leaders and New Members at Midwinter Meeting

By Andrea Mullarkey


Conferences provide many ways to meet and learn from librarians with different kinds of experience. One of these fantastic opportunities is the New Leaders Discussion Group. Each year at Midwinter LLAMA and NMRT collaborate to host this program that brings together library school students, new librarians, and experienced library leaders for discussion on topics of interest to all. This year’s theme was “How involvement in professional organizations can enhance your day-to-day job.” Three discussion starters on the theme were selected, briefly presented and discussed in greater depth by session attendees.

The Perks of Being a Joiner

Self-declared joiner Jessica Pryde of Archbishop Carroll High School subtitled her presentation “How to make the most of your professional involvement.” She described many of the perks that come from being a joiner. In particular she highlighted the networking and professional development opportunities. Whether you are a solo librarian or you just like learning from people with other perspectives, joining committees, round tables and working groups gives access to librarians from all types of libraries and from all over the country. These are people who can provide advice, share ideas or even become mentors and future employers. She also showed how joining one thing often brings opportunities to join other things which can lead to still other opportunities. By being a joiner you can expand your network, build your skills and deepen your involvement in the profession.

Why Current Library Science Students Need To Be Involved in Professional Organizations

As a current University of North Texas LIS student who is involved in professional associations Julia Wright was well-positioned to talk about what benefits library students can get from being active in professional associations. In particular she noted that professional association work allows students to apply the theory they learn in the classroom to gain practical experience. In addition library association projects give students opportunities to broaden their professional network, develop interpersonal and project management skills, gain knowledge that can improve their class work and deepen their feeling that they are of value to the profession and not “just students,” a sentiment expressed too often.

"We Could Do That!" - Bringing Your Conference Ideas Home

For my discussion starter, I focused on how to translate the great ideas and energy of a conference into improvements at your home library. In my experience there are four main obstacles to implementing new ideas learned at conferences. Sometimes that obstacle sounds like “that’s not how we do it,” other times “we don’t have the time or money for that,” and still other times colleagues back home just don’t get it. At our table discussions we shared strategies for addressing these three kinds of obstacles. They included finding a champion, starting small, preparing a plan that addresses budgetary and staffing concerns, building momentum, suggesting a pilot program, relating the new idea to something you already do and showing your boss or director what’s in it for them. Then there are the times when you get home and the conference is such a blur you don’t even know what to propose. Strategies we explored for dealing with that obstacle include using the conference scheduler to track what you do at the conference, collecting business cards from presenters who spark great ideas, and having a separate place to log things you want to try back home.

All three of these topics spurred energetic discussion among session attendees. Newer librarians and established library leaders all contributed to the wider discussion of how professional involvement enhances day-to-day library work. As a newer librarian myself, I especially appreciated having an informal setting to share with and learn from library directors and association leaders. Because like most of you, I am constantly looking for ways to make the most of my professional involvement and I learned a great deal from colleagues in this session.

There was no shortage of interesting meetings, presentations and discussion groups at the Midwinter Meeting in Dallas. With such fierce competition for time, it is often hard to decide what to attend. I hope the other librarians who chose the New Leaders Discussion Group for their Sunday morning got as much out of it as I did.


Andrea Mullarkey is a Reference Librarian at Berkeley Public Library. You can find her on Facebook or Twitter @mullarkea.