One of the most frequently asked questions I’ve heard this year as your ALSC President is: “How can I get involved in the work of ALSC?” For many people, this is a question about how to volunteer for a committee–and I’m always eager to help folks figure out their next steps toward committee contributions! Just as often, however, the question of “How can I get involved?” is truly an open one–an honest inquiry of how a willing member might channel their energies for the greater good of our shared work. It feels fitting, then, in my last ALSC Matters column as your president, to respond to this question at large, and speak to opportunities for members at every stage of their career and membership beyond the committee volunteer process. If you’re looking for ways to get involved, big or small, I hope you find some steps forward here!
If you are a newer member to ALSC, why don’t you:
- Sit in on an open meeting of an ALSC process committee. All of ALSC’s process committees post notices and agendas for their upcoming meetings in the ALSC community space of ALA Connect, and any members are welcome to sit in on those meetings to observe. It’s a great way to learn about the work happening on a committee, especially if you’re not sure you want to submit your volunteer form just yet!
- Submit a guest post for the ALSC Blog–or apply to be a regular monthly blogger! Even if you’re newer to ALSC, I’m sure that you have ideas and insights worth sharing with other youth library workers. (Did you know that I first got involved in ALSC writing for the ALSC Blog? It was a great way to share my ideas and program successes, but also to connect with other bloggers, many of whom are still friends and colleagues today!)
- Find an upcoming online learning opportunity you want to participate in, and ask a friend or colleague to join you, so you can discuss afterwards.
If you’ve been a member for several years, why don’t you:
- Reach out to your alma mater–library school, undergrad, or any other program!–and see if they have opportunities for graduates to talk to current students about their career trajectories, libraries, and ALSC. If you talk to current high school or college students about libraries, you could be opening a possibility to a potential future library worker who had never considered a library job. Similarly, if you talk to current college and graduate students interested in working with kids, they may be excited to learn about the opportunities that come with ALSC membership (at discounted student rates)!
- Connect with a more junior colleague at your library or in your local area and make plans to chat about what you’re both up to over coffee or lunch. We’re all still working our way back toward connections after the isolation of the early pandemic, and a coffee break idea swap with a colleague can be a great way to get refreshed and support a colleague newer to our work. If your colleague isn’t familiar with ALSC, help them connect the dots on what resources ALSC offers that are relevant to the work they are doing.
- Propose a webinar or online course for ALSC. If you’ve been a member for a few years, you’ve got both tips and tricks to share from your library work AND some knowledge about what types of resources are useful to other ALSC members. Share the knowledge you’ve acquired through experience and build your presentation credentials as well.
If you’ve been a member for longer than you want to count (thank you!), why don’t you:
- Reach out to the teachers in your network to share great ALSC resources like our summer reading lists. While many youth library folks think about connecting with other librarians and library workers, no matter the sort of library they’re in, we don’t always think about the other professionals in the ecosystem of kids and reading. I’ll bet you’ve gathered quite the rolodex of educator acquaintances over your career–let them know what’s available to them from ALSC to support their kids.
- Consider asking friends and family to donate to Friends of ALSC on your behalf next time you’re having a birthday or other celebration, but don’t want physical gifts. Or put your baking or craft skills to work for a bake sale or craft sale, and donate the proceeds to Friends of ALSC. No matter how you do it, Friends of ALSC support allows us to flexibly fund great initiatives like conference and training scholarships.
- Send me an email sharing some of the highlights of your ALSC membership and what you have been able to accomplish throughout your tenure. At the very least, I love hearing folks’ ALSC stories–and if you’d be comfortable with your story being part of a larger testimonial to the value of ALSC membership, that’s a bonus!
These are just a few snippets of ideas for ways members can take another step toward engagement with ALSC. This newsletter is full of other examples of ways to get involved and share as well–the opportunities are many to share your gifts and enthusiasm within ALSC!—Amy Koester, ALSC President
Dear ALSC Members,
Recently, I have been reading various self-care books (e.g., 2 Minutes to Peace: Everyday Self-Care for Busy People by Corinne Sweet, Self-Care for Black Women: 150 Ways to Radically Accept and Prioritize Your Mind, Body, and Soul by Oludara Adeeyo) in the hope of trying to prioritize my mental, physical, and spiritual health while serving as ALSC vice president and preparing to assume the role of president at the end of the upcoming ALA Annual Conference. (Believe me, these are both challenging leadership positions with tons of responsibilities!) Several of the self-care books mention the benefits of service in our lives. For instance, in Be Happier Now: Simple Ways to Become Instantly Happier, Jacob Sager Weinstein (2023) wrote, “Volunteering increases life expectancy, reduces the risk of depression, and increases feelings of energy and joy” (p. 123). Similarly, Adeeyo (2022) noted,
Donating our time to an organization will improve our spiritual wellness. When we help other people, we tend to feel better.... The more you volunteer, the more you’ll realize there is more to life than your day-to-day activities. As you continue to serve, your worldview will expand—and so will the well-being of your soul. Volunteering is truly the gift that keeps on giving. (p. 171)
When I reach out to ALSC members to make appointments for process committees, I sometimes feel as if I am imposing, but reading these self-care books and thinking about how service is beneficial has led me to rethink my position. I believe that by asking people to serve, I am offering individuals a gift and a great professional opportunity. That being said, self-care books also note that we should not overload ourselves with unmanageable amounts of work and that it is okay to sometimes say no. You know what is best for you, and if you are unable to serve now, ALSC will be waiting when you are ready to do so. However, if you are able to say yes, you will gain much more than an addition to your CV. Serving on ALSC committees has enriched my life and professional career in ways that are difficult to measure: enriching friendships, the opportunity to listen to and learn from a variety of publishing experts (e.g., art directors, editors), and the further development of my leadership skills.
Bearing all of this in mind, I humbly ask that you complete the ALSC volunteer form, if you haven’t done so already. Also, over the next few weeks, if you receive an email from me asking you to serve on a process committee, please consider (to borrow from the words of Weinstein, 2023) signing up, showing up, and cheering up!—In service to all of you, Jonda C. McNair, ALSC Vice President/President-Elect, 2022–2023, Charlotte S. Huck Endowed Professor of Children’s Literature, The Ohio State University
Adeeyo, O. (2022). Self-care for Black women: 150 ways to radically accept and prioritize your mind, body, and soul. Adams Media/Simon & Schuster.
Weinstein, J. S. (2023). Be happier now: Simple ways to become instantly happier. Odd Dot/Macmillan.
Many thanks to the following generous contributors to Friends of ALSC. To learn how you can support ALSC, visit our website.
Silver Circle - $250 to $499
Notables Circle - $100 to $249
Friends Circle - up to $99