Why I value the Texas Library Association

Austin-skyline

After driving 8 hours from annual assembly in Austin to my home here in the Panhandle, I thought it might be a good idea to write a post on why I value the Texas Library Association. Of course, this isn’t as easy as it sounds because it all starts with a little history.

I began my career in Librarianship as an undergrad. I was an English major, but decided my senior year to find out what a librarian actually does. As a student worker, I knew the basic functions of the library from a support-staff point of view, but “librarians” and their function eluded me. So, I did an internship with Erin Dorney, Outreach Librarian at Millersville University of Pennsylvania.

She (like any good mentor) suggested I join the Pennsylvania Library Association as soon as I entered graduate school for a few reasons. Here’s my top 3:

1. Cheaper membership rate – I discovered, too, that if you time this just right, you really get your money’s worth. So important for the starving grad student.

2. Networking – as a student, I didn’t really value this at first. I didn’t know what it meant to network when I was working on my degree mostly online. More on this later.

3. Chance to build my resume – again, I didn’t really value this yet because all the job postings just said “ALA Accredited Degree” and “5 years experience preferred” (I never did understand that last bit).

Okay, so I joined and I wasn’t really sure what I could do since I was only a student. I will say, if I didn’t have the mentors that I had in Pennsylvania, I don’t know if I would have kept my membership. I am hoping this post helps you if you’re wavering on deciding either as a student, librarian, or support staff person in your library.

Then, in 2010, the annual Pennsylvania Library Association conference was held in my city, Lancaster. This was convenient because I could afford to walk there, and I was slated to speak on a panel on – you guessed it, BLOGGING! What I remember from that conference was how welcoming all of the members were. They helped me network and introduced me to people that could’ve been my potential employer. I did my best that first go, but I knew I wanted to get more involved – I just didn’t know how.

I moved to Texas 1 year ago for my first stint as a full time Reference Librarian at West Texas A&M University. I knew as soon as I got here that I wanted to join the Texas Library Association (TLA) because I remember how welcoming everyone was in Pennsylvania to n00bs. Plus, I was 1600 miles from home and all of my professional contacts were in PA.

The moment I joined, I realized how enormous the state is. This library association is divided into districts and each district has their own yearly meeting. On top of that, there is the annual conference that is (I think) the 2nd largest in the nation – 2nd only to ALA’s annual conference. Whoa. Pretty intimidating. I was a bit nervous about meeting anyone with a conference that large. Luckily, I started getting involved with the College & University Libraries Division (CULD) because that seemed like my best general fit as an academic librarian.

How? Well, I surfed the TLA website and found some information about the different divisions and roundtables to see where my interests truly lie. There’s something for everyone, and you’ll find people who are interested in the same professional (or fun) goals as you.

Then, I got the idea in my head to self-nominate for part of the executive board to see what goes on behind the scenes of these things. Suddenly, I was elected Chair Elect –meaning I will be chair after conference next year– Luckily, I was partnered up with current chair, Sian Brannon who has served as a mentor through the procedures and helping me gain some confidence in heading committees.

I value the professional contacts I have made so far, but what I value most is how welcoming, kind, and energized the organization is. Everyone is invested in succeeding and helping others succeed. I guess if I didn’t have that first push to join the Pennsylvania Library Association as a student, I might not have joined. I know now that it is so important to get involved, meet people in the profession, and just see what other places are doing. Yes, I guess you can see some of that stuff virtually, but the benefits of making lasting relationships is at the heart of our service as professionals, and the Texas Library Association has that.

Check it out for yourself 🙂 Are any of you involved with your state library association? Why (or why not)?

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3 Comments

  1. I also started out as a student member of TLA, and this has led me to being involved in the Wisconsin Library Association, which led me then to ALA and the IFC (Intellectual Freedom Committee), as well the SLA Arabian Gulf chapter (which functioned as a de facto regional library association) when we worked in the UAE, and now the Oregon Library Association, where I’ve signed up as a mentor for new librarians. It’s totally been worth it to me to commit to regional and state library associations, in addition to ALA. 🙂

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    1. Wow, Jen, that’s awesome! I started out as a student member of PaLA (Pennsylvania Lib Assoc) and I just met so many awesome people, and I was a resident haha. I think if you’re someone who likes to get involved and spread out professionally, the state associations are the way to go. I mean, even if you aren’t interested in joining committees or participating on an executive board, you still get a ton of benefits, even just being able to get cheaper (than ALA) webinars and CE if you need it depending on the kind of librarian, etc. I dunno, there’s just too much to list here, but I just wanted to touch on the points that I personally find valuable 🙂

      Thanks for sharing. Oh, and p.s. I ❤ your blog

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      1. Really good point about it being cheaper overall to join state library associations, in addition to opportunities for workshops, webinars, and CE trainings. And regional associations can be good, too. For example, I was really active in the Southwest Wisconsin Association of Libraries when I lived and worked in Wisconsin. I really enjoyed your post! It’s so easy to get jaded, and taking a bit of time to be thankful for things like professional support can make all the difference. 🙂

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