Ways to Involve Students and New Librarians

Ways to Involve Students and New Librarians in ALA

We need to encourage and inspire library students and new librarians to join ALA and participate in its activities.  When I was a library student at Simmons, the Dean, Tom Galvin, emphasized the importance of service to the profession through ALA.  He introduced me to ALA, and I credit him as a major influence in my decision to join ALA early in my career and become active immediately.  Today, we have 58 ALA Student Chapters, providing a way for people new to the profession to become involved even before they receive their degrees.  http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/affiliates/chapters/student/studentchapters1.cfm – contact

My first experience in this campaign with a MLIS student was Jim Holmes, who works at the Reed College Library here in Portland and is a student in the Emporia State Program.  Jim volunteered to set up my website and did a fabulous job.  A thank you to him is posted separately.  Jim encouraged me to get in touch with other Emporia students, and I am delighted to say that a couple of them will be helping me at the Public Library Association Conference here in Portland later this month.

As a presidential candidate at Midwinter 2010, I thought perhaps I could involve students and new librarians in ALA in unusual, if not unique, ways.

Since I knew I would be making presentations to 40 ALA bodies during the conference, I thought students and new librarians could take advantage of an opportunity to accompany me to my appointments.  Two Simmons students and one (relatively) new librarian from Utah signed up for “the tour” of ALA.   They witnessed the work of a broad range of divisions, committees, roundtables, and caucuses in a first-hand manner that would not have been possible otherwise.  They learned of the broad range of fields in the profession and units within ALA to which they could offer service.  I also learned from them, as they recounted their observations while we walked from meeting to meeting.

I also needed to staff a campaign table throughout the conference.  I thought this would be an opportunity, not only to provide students and new librarians with campaign experience, but to staff the table with one senior librarian and one student or new librarian for each hour.  At times, we were able to accomplish this mentoring team arrangement.  ALA Past President Professor Loriene Roy was instrumental in recruiting Jon Grass, one of her students at the University of Texas iSchool, to coordinate the staffing of the campaign table.  Loriene cranked out over 100 emails to recruit volunteers, and Jon did a terrific job managing and maintaining the staffing schedule.  They were the model mentor and student duo that we sought to replicate in the two-person teams assigned to cover the campaign table during the conference.

After the conference, I met with a group of students and faculty at Simmons to discuss current issues in the profession, the role of ALA and its components in the profession and in society, and the importance and benefits of service to the profession afforded through active ALA membership.

Finally, I asked Jon Grass to write a post for this blog about his experiences at Midwinter that could be shared with a wider audience, particularly fellow library students.  So, in the next post for this blog, you’ll find his thoughts.  For the more “seasoned” readers of this blog, I can’t resist saying …”H-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-rs, Jonny!”

Did you enjoy this post? Why not leave a comment below and continue the conversation, or subscribe to my feed and get articles like this delivered automatically to your feed reader.


Molly, this blog post is the number-one reason you are my choice and why I joined your Facebook page. New folks like me lack the experience, but it doesn’t mean we lack the ideas, drive or interest! I’ve been volunteering for ALA committees for a year, and only SRRT has very recently found a way we can participate. The others didn’t even bother to answer.

Thanks, Michael. Finding meaningful ways to involve new members in ALA is something that many people in ALA have been concerned about, but I don’t think we have been generally as successful overall as we would like to be. I have some ideas about how we might do this better, which I would be interested in implementing as president. I also think that we should be better at thanking people for volunteering for committees, even when we cannot appoint them to a committee, and encouraging them to volunteer in the future. I made appointments a couple of years ago when I was president-elect of the Library Leadership and Management Association (LLAMA). It was a challenging assignment because I really wanted to appoint everyone who volunteered, but there were more volunteers than there were vacancies. I encourage you to not get discouraged. And if I am successful in the election, I hope that you might be available to help us figure out how to be better at welcoming and involving new members in ALA. Thanks for submitting your comment.

There is much talk of community engagement, an important concept and activity for sure. But in an association this also means member engagement, particularly newer member and prospective member, i.e., students. At San Jose we have just concluded an agreement with the California Library Association for a new model of student engagement. This may be a model for ALA and with you as president, I know that it will be at least seriously considered.

Thanks, Ken. It’s great to know that there are models out there with a chapter like CLA. I know we really need to engage with the newer members about what ways they want to be engaged. And yes, I will follow through with this idea as ALA president with the help of people like you and those members we want to engage.

Congratulations on your electoral success.

I must admit that not being a member of ALA (I’m in Canada and am a member of CLA) I have not kept up on the recent elections. It was by way of ResourceShelf that I stumbled upon your website and blog postings about ways to involve students and new professionals.

Your approach to engaging students and new grads is wonderful and hope it will spread to other parts of ALA and its many units. (Perhaps it will even spread across the border to CLA and our provincial associations!)

It’s been 14 years since I first joined a library association and it was actually my manager who encouraged me to join, even before going to library school. Like your dean, she stressed the value of giving back to the profession. As another colleague has pointed out, almost everything we use and take for granted in our professional lives was the result of the work of volunteers. It is quite sad to meet LIS students and find out that their schools place no emphasis on professional involvement and associations and where many faculty are not members of or involved with any library associations.

My involvement with the CLA has been at the local level through the special libraries division. Over the past three years in Ottawa we have included two seats on our chapter executive for an MLIS student rep and a library technician student rep. This has been a great way for us to connect with the library education programs and for students to gain experience. More recently we have created a Next Generation Network for new professionals. It has provided them with a way to connect and plan programs with the support of more established librarians.

Again congratulations. Perhaps our paths will cross at a conference in Canada or the US.

Leave a comment