My ALCTS Experience: Sarah Simpson

Sarah Simpson, Tulsa City-County Library

For years, I had wanted to get more involved in ALCTS, but I suspect I share a common story with many public librarians that the responsibility of having to attend both the Annual Conference and the Midwinter Meeting has been a big stumbling block in this endeavor. Trips to ALA are often few and far between as the library tries to give many people a chance to attend the Annual Conference. The Midwinter Meeting is generally limited to people who have committee responsibilities, and the library needs to limit the number of people who are allowed to participate on committees for exactly this reason. It is easy to say that people need to invest in themselves and use their own time and money to attend these conferences, and a completely different thing to make that happen with all the other demands on that time and money. However, there are ways to be involved that do not require as much travel.

My first step was to submit the volunteer form and tell ALCTS my interests, while also letting them know I was not able to attend all the conferences. For me, ironically, this not only led to my first participation in ALCTS, but also a trip to the Annual Conference. Getting my name out there meant that when the Heads of Cataloging group wanted a public librarian for an ALA session on cataloging staffing, I was invited to participate. The chance to be on a panel with librarians from academic libraries, the Smithsonian, and the Library of Congress encouraged my library to pay my way, and that was an amazing experience. I loved getting the chance to present a different perspective, and I got so many positive comments, I was determined to find more ways to get involved.

I have been a virtual reviewer for Library Resources and Technical Services (LRTS) for the past two years. This means that I get to review and comment on articles submitted for publication to the journal. It is very exciting to see some of the research being done, and I really enjoy the responsibility of helping choose the publications that will inform our profession.

I also recently co-hosted an ALA e-forum on communication between technical and public services staff, along with Keri Cascio from St. Charles City-County Library in Missouri. Again, this is something you can do from the comfort of your own office. Helping to lead this discussion was both fun and incredibly rewarding as I gathered ideas and participated in wide-ranging discussions with other people who share the same concerns. On a side note, it also got me invited to the Massachusetts Library Conference to do a similar presentation for them!

There are definitely great ways to get involved in ALCTS without having to attend conferences, but the taste I have gotten has led me to consider looking for more opportunities, even if that means I need to find a way to attend those conferences. There is just something about being a part of the work of our profession and our professional organization that has been incredibly fulfilling for me. I know I have already gotten more than I have given, and I am excited about the chances I will have in the future. I would encourage everyone to look for those opportunities that match your interests, and even if you cannot get to conference, there are other great opportunities out there!