By Deborah Striplin
The Georgia Library Association (GLA) unveiled an updated web site in November 2009, one of several projects undertaken by GLA to enhance its ongoing effort to meet the needs of librarians in Georgia. The purpose of this article is to share with the library community, in particular librarians new to the field, GLA initiatives that other states or groups might use to support new members and strengthen their associations.
GLA leaders had been considering updating the site for some time. At the beginning of 2009, the Public Relations Committee and the site’s webmaster reviewed library association web pages from all over the world. Sarah Steiner, chair of the committee, reported to me via email that their goal was to “make [the site] more visually appealing by using colors and images.”
Many individuals were involved in GLA’s new home page, such that no one person carried the entire burden of its creation. Laura Burtle, the webmaster, and Ms. Steiner sought volunteers. In the end, students, new librarians, and long-time association members responded to collaborate on the update. A new logo, designed at the request of GLA Past President Jim Cooper, was the contribution of a library science student. In addition to the visual uplift, a blog and widget were added to make the page, as Steiner reported, “more dynamic and up-to-date.” A major inspiration for the look of the home page was the Tennessee Library Association web site. This association’s site also motivated our inclusion of a new feature, the “Spotlight on Georgia Libraries,” in which a different library in the state has the opportunity to be publicized. The library submits a photo and 3-5 paragraphs, which appear together on the home page. The response to this has been tremendous; so many libraries submitted requests to be highlighted that the schedule now goes into 2011.
Users of the web site have responded very positively to all of the changes, with e-mails and calls commenting on the user-friendly design and involving features. It has increased the sense of pride in the association, provided a way to learn more about other libraries and librarians in the state, and helped foster a sense of connection by making it easier to know what is going on in GLA.
In the fall of 2007 a group of Atlanta-area students in the online Master of Library and Information Studies program at Florida State University contacted Ms. Steiner (then New Members Round Table chair for GLA). The students knew of each other but did not have regular contact. Some were taking the same classes but had never met in person. As Ashley Dupuy (28-29) wrote, they felt that a “meet-up group would help them gain a sense of community while in school.” The group would also provide an opportunity for students to take leadership roles and offer insight into various aspects of librarianship. They established a planning committee that named the group Atlanta Emerging Librarians (AEL). It was agreed for the group to include students, librarians just entering the field, paraprofessionals, and all who are interested in a library career.
From a small group of students determined to be successful librarians, word spread and AEL grew very quickly to include a wide range of people, from those who were just curious about library science to those who have made it a life career. Interest eventually led to a mailing list that now contains over 200 names. The meetings are free to attend and subsidized by GLA. The cost absorbed by GLA has been reasonable: under $300 for the four meetings held in 2008.
AEL meetings are usually held at libraries that provide space at little or no cost; these locations, however, are often small and have necessitated waiting lists for some would-be attendees. The kick-off event of the year, “Meet the Admins,” is held in a venue that can accommodate a large number and allow for easy networking. At this event, administrators from all kinds of libraries – academic, public, special – discuss their libraries, their duties, the duties of staff members, and respond to questions. AEL’s Planning Committee has had no difficulty recruiting presenters for this event or for any of its other meetings. “Librarians in general are very generous with their time and expertise,” wrote Dupuy (28-29), Planning Committee Chair. “The group has rarely been turned down when they have asked a presenter to attend a meeting.”
In addition to “Meet the Admins,” the meetings in 2009 were, according to Ms. Dupuy (email):
“User instruction – Anne Wallace of Luella Elementary School in Henry County, who won the 2008 National School Library Media Program of the Year award and Casey Long from GA State, who was one of Library Journal’s Movers and Shakers of 2009, presented on library user instruction for different groups.
Public library programming – Three presenters focused on different age groups. The children's librarian from the Buckhead branch gave info on kids’ programming, the head of young adult programming from Gwinnett County covered planning for teens and young adults, and the outreach coordinator from DeKalb County spoke about adult programming.
Scholarship and Award opportunities – The chair of the GLA award committee talked about GLA awards and 5 award winners from the area spoke about how to apply, what is out there, strategy and tips. We also gave out a pretty comprehensive list of scholarships and awards available for students from various organizations (ALA, SLA, etc.).”
All of these sessions were opportunities for education, networking and professional development that benefited not only the individual attendees, but presenters as well. To learn more about how to develop this kind of program, contact the planning committee through its web site.
There are other new programs specifically directed towards students and new members of the library profession. Beginning in October 2008, the Georgia Library Association NMRT Committee began providing a resume review service at the annual joint conference of the Council of Media Organizations and GLA. Experienced librarians work one-on-one with novice librarians to help them present themselves in the most advantageous way. Because of the great response in 2008, this program was offered in two different sessions during the 2009 conference, where GLA/NMRT also sponsored "Georgia on My Mind,” a presentation that gave newer librarians a general introduction to the state and to library organizations in Georgia.
A group of new librarians with the assistance of Ms. Steiner, Public Relations Committee Chair, is building a “So You Want to be a Librarian” page. It will be online in 2010 and feature interviews with librarians from a variety of libraries and departments throughout the state. Although aimed at Georgians, the information it contains will be of interest to potential librarians anywhere.
Following the advice of a mentor, Ms. Steiner recommends that people “get involved with their state-level NMRT or with ALA NMRT as good starting points for service.”
Ms. Dupuy (email) tells librarians starting their careers: “Although professional experience is important, I think the best and most extensive contacts I have made have been through my involvement in professional organizations. My participation in AEL has provided a great opportunity to meet many people including decision makers in libraries.”
All of these initiatives by the Georgia Library Association are models of ways that a library association can foster the participation of new members, support their development, and in the process strengthen the association.
Dupuy, Ashley. "Atlanta Emerging Librarians Encouraging Distance Education." Georgia Library Quarterly Fall. 2009: 28-29. Print.
Dupuy, Ashley. “Re: Atlanta Emerging Librarians.” Message to Deborah Striplin. 6 Jan. 2010. E-mail.
Smith, Shelley. “Re: GLA/NMRT.” Message to Deborah Striplin. 7 Jan. 2010. E-mail.
Steiner, Sarah. “Re: GLA Initiatives.” Message to Deborah Striplin. 4 Jan. 2010. E-mail.