One of the best things a prospective MLIS student can do when preparing for a future in librarianship is to take advantage of all of the opportunities offered through professional organizations. The Student Chapters of ALA offered at Library Schools across the country are a fantastic way for students to jumpstart their career while building new relationships and getting hands on experience. Regardless of whatever stage you are presently in, this opportunity offers a wide range of possibilities for any student looking to strengthen their library and information skills.
1. Networking Opportunities
Networking is essential in our field. It allows us to exchange ideas, increase our awareness, and learn from other librarians. Serving on the executive board of my school’s SALA chapter allowed me to network with librarians all over my state, share ideas and make connections with students in other SALA programs across the country, and develop ideas and plan events with other students and faculty.
2. Student 2 Staff Program
I cannot begin to describe what a great program this is for library students. One member each from a total of 40 SALA chapters has the opportunity to attend the ALA Annual Conference for FREE. In return, that student volunteers during the conference within one of the ALA-divisions based on similar interests. I was fortunate enough to participate last year and the experience has greatly contributed to my growth as a new librarian.
3. Leadership Opportunities
Before I served on the board of my school’s Student ALA chapter, I had no leadership experience. Through this opportunity, I have learned to compose agendas, review bylaws, develop committee goals, and collaborate with other organizations and professionals in the field. Having exposure to these types of management and leadership skill sets proves invaluable in the long run for new librarians.
4. Professional Development
Librarians are often referred to as “wearing many hats” in their daily activities because there are so many different aspects to the job, many of which can be found outside the scope of a library school program’s general curriculum. Therefore, learning and developing a variety of new skills related to librarianship while running a Student ALA chapter was essential to the future development of me and my colleagues. Everything from web and flyer design, to event planning and public speaking, it all became applicable experience that we were able to cull from to prepare our resumes, cover letters, and interviews down the road.
5. Let your Voice be Heard
Student ALA was also a great way to serve as an advocate for my fellow classmates and colleagues. This experience provided a fantastic platform for our board to bring any issues we were aware of to our school’s library program in addition to providing workshops and events for fellow students.
6. Find your Path
I was one of the students in library school who had a hard time deciding which track to follow. Being a part of SALA exposed me to so many different types of libraries and librarians through networking, coordinating activities, and meeting new people that I was able to make educated decisions about my course load, perspective internships and job openings, and other committees or projects to join.
7. Get Involved
Working in teams and collaborating with others is a constant part of a librarian’s day to day activities, from being a part of committees, collaborating on presentations and instruction, outreach and more. Being involved in Student ALA is a great way to develop social and team building skills needed on the job, while also showing support for and giving back to your school’s library program.
8. Build your Resume
Finding ways to promote leadership, collaborative, and social skills is necessary to have a leg up on the competition. Being able to add SALA to my resume has helped immensely in creating more opportunities to stand out to employers and demonstrate my leadership skills.
9. Learn the Lingo
I felt like I spent a great portion of my first semester in library school deciphering code, trying to learn all of the acronyms and other terms of library talk. One of the great things I found about becoming a part of SALA is that it’s a quick immersion into the professional library world in which you begin to participate with librarians in the field and begin to speak their language.
10. Have Fun!
Besides the knowledge and experience attained with this opportunity, the best part about SALA was interacting with all of the awesome students. The students at the University of Rhode Island as well as other SALA chapters from across the country I met during the Student 2 Staff program are still some of my favorite people today. SALA is a great way to meet friends and create lasting relationships while in this ever growing and evolving field.
I encourage students to become involved with their school’s SALA program in any way they can. Whether it’s joining the board, volunteering to assist with events, or becoming a member, do not let this opportunity pass you by! Contact your school’s chapter today and find out how you can become involved.
In addition, another fantastic way for students to get involved is to join ALA in conjunction with your state’s library association. Contact your school for any special rates or discounts for students. For example, the University of Rhode Island’s Library School has a program where students will be reimbursed for the already low fee when joining the Rhode Island Library Association together with ALA!
Written by Alyssa Diekman, who served as Vice President and President of the University of Rhode Island’s Student ALA chapter from 2009 to 2010. She is currently a Visiting Science and Technology Librarian at the Marston Science Library at the University of Florida.