Thing 7: Face-to-face networks and professional organisations
Welcome to Thing 7! It’s time to talk about professional organisations: what they do, what the benefits are, and how and why you can get involved.
What is a professional organisation?
Well, they come in all different shapes and sizes! But at heart a professional organisation is a group of people joined by a common profession, which serves some purpose towards the furthering of that profession.
They may be an official, subscription-based organisation such as CILIP, ALA or ARA, or they might be more informal, such as LISNPN or LIKE.
What do they do?
All sorts of things! Professional organisations will do some or all of the following:
1. Provide opportunities for networking.
One of the easiest ways to get started with professional networking is to join a professional organisation or group. The three professional benefits outlined by Helen in Thing 6 apply just as much to face-to-face networking as they do to online networking. Connecting with people through a professional organisation can help to advance your knowledge and career – as well as being a great way to meet new people and make friends! There will usually be networking opportunities available at all events – even if it’s just the chance to have a chat over lunch, make the most of it!
Find it difficult to approach people face-to-face? You’re not the only one! Most people find it difficult to start a conversation. I’d recommend this post on Jo Alcock’s blog for some advice about how to get started.
There are some chances this week for you to get involved with organisations in your area, practice networking – or just find out more about what’s going on! Meet-ups have been arranged in various places around the country – see here for a list.
2. Provide opportunities for training and development
Many organisations will run official training courses. These will usually be tailored to meet the needs of their members, and may be part of a professional development framework. They will also often run conferences, which are a great way to develop yourself, and meet new contacts and friends.
As well as these formal training opportunities, professional organisations give you opportunities to develop your skills in other ways, such as learning informally from other members. You can also gain skills and experience from volunteering for a position within the organisation: you could join a committee; write for the newsletter/blog; organise events; get involved in a mentoring scheme. For instance, you might need to gain experience of handling finances and budgets – a committee treasurer position is a great way to do this.
3. Provide structured professional development and qualifications
Many professional organisations will have a structured professional development path. This may include accrediting or validating courses, including the professional qualification courses. In the UK, this is done by CILIP (libraries) and ARA (archives & records management). ALA does the same for library courses in the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico.
These can range from peer-reviewed journals to magazines and newsletters, to blogs and podcasts. These provide you not only with the chance to learn from the content, but also to contribute!
Associations may also run award schemes, provide advocacy and support, sponsor places at conferences, run current awareness and careers services – and much more! If your organisation isn’t providing the support or activities you need, why not contact them? You might be able to start something that will benefit you – and others!
Why should you get involved?
Being a member of a professional organisation gives you great opportunities, and the chance to benefit yourself and the profession. It can demonstrate that you are committed to the profession, and to your own personal and professional development. Membership gives you opportunities to help others, by sharing your knowledge and expertise, taking on a formal role on a committee, or taking part in a mentoring scheme. If the association is one which charges dues, these will help the association to continue their activities, and provide training and support to its members.
So, what organisations are there?
I can’t possibly supply an exhaustive list – if that’s what you’re looking for, IFLA publishes a ‘World Guide to Library, Archive and Information Science Associations’. If that’s a bit rich for your pocket, try a library! (Copac, WorldCat). The following is a selection of some of the organisations – and, if I’ve missed your favourite, why not leave a comment, or blog about it?
When you’re looking at organisations, remember that they will usually have sub-divisions – called special interest groups, chapters, caucuses, divisions, round tables, groups, committees, units - just about anything you can think of! For many people, these specialist/regional groups will be their main point of contact with the organisation, so it’s always worth checking out sub-groups when you’re deciding whether an organisation is right for you. You will usually get membership to one or more of these groups as part of your membership of the organisation, and can add more for a small fee.
All of the following charge membership fees, usually on a sliding scale depending on your salary, and often with great deals for student members. You might even be able to get your workplace to pay for your membership, or claim the tax back on your tax return as a ’professional expense’. If none of them fit your budget, why not have a look at some of the free, informal associations? You also often don’t need to be a member to attend events, so if you’re thinking about joining, why not go along to a few events, and get a feel for the organisation? Library/info organisations:
UK: CILIP: the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals is the UK’s professional body for library and information workers. With 9 regional branches across England and home nations branches in Wales, Scotland and Ireland, and 27 special interest groups, from UkeiG to the Patent and Trademark group, to Career Development, CILIP provides a wide range of support and activities.
SLA: The School Libraries Association (not to be confused with the Special Library Association!) supports, and promotes the value of , school libraries and librarians. They also run awards, courses, and provide online resources.
IMRS: The Information and Records Management Society welcomes as members ‘all those who work in or are concerned with records or information management, regardless of their professional or organisational status or qualifications’. They run a bulletin, training, and a conference.
ASLIB: The Association for Information Management provides training, along with an impressive portfolio of publications. Members are not necessarily librarians, with ASLIB’s portfolio being aimed at ‘people who manage information and knowledge in organizations’
BIALL: The British and Irish Association of Law Librarians represents legal information professionals and suppliers. They provide information and support for those interested in/already pursuing a career in legal information work, including a ‘how do I?’ wiki, publications, and conferences.
IFLA: With around 1600 members in 150 countries, the International Federation of Library Associations is truly an international organisation. Most library associations are members of IFLA, and you can also join as a personal member. IFLA publishes internationally-renowned guidelines and reports, and has relationships with other world bodies such as UNESCO, the UN, and the World Trade Organisation. They have a wonderfully diverse range of special interest groups and sections.
SLA: the Special Libraries Association is based in the US, but has chapters all over the world, including a very active European Chapter. The divisions and caucuses provide support for professionals in a wide variety of fields and areas of interest – including a baseball caucus! Members don’t just come from special libraries, and many cite networking opportunities as one of their main reasons for joining.
ALA: the American Library Association also has members all over the world. They accredit US, Canadian, and Puerto Rican library courses, and run 2 big conferences every year: ALA Midwinter and ALA Annual – featuring book cart rallies!
AIIP: the Association of Independent Information Professionals represents and supports independent information professionals worldwide, with e-learning tools, publications, conferences, and special deals with vendors. The association is also open to those who are considering going independent or starting their own business.
SAA: The Society of American Archivists account for many of the different names for sub-sections! With committees, sub-committees, sections, roundtables, student groups, and task forces, there are plenty of opportunities for involvement in a number of areas.
Many information professionals are also members of professional organisations outside the LIS sphere. These are a great way to gain skills and contacts from other professions, and widen your viewpoint.
HEA: Librarians who do a lot of teaching may wish to become members of the Higher Education Academy, which provides resources and support for teachers in the HE sector.
CIM: the Chartered Institute for Marketing is celebrating its centenary in 2011. With levels of membership that cover novice to fellow, they also offer the chance to become a chartered marketer.
If you’re working/supporting users in a particular field, you might like to see if membership of their professional body is open to you, perhaps as an affiliate member.
Informal organisations: The Library Society of the World describe themselves as ‘a world-spanning group of library professionals and library advocates, dedicated to furthering the role of librarians, archivists, information professionals, and information educators through communication and collaboration. The LSW is about people, not buildings (although some of us think architecture is sexy). It’s about friendship, not organization. It’s about creating and fostering opportunities, not building barriers and divisions.’ They have professional development material, a set of priorities that will chime with even the most jaded info pro, and a distinguished list of ‘Shovers and Makers’.
LISNPN: The LIS New Professionals Network started online (and was mentioned in Thing 6 by Helen as such), but has graduated to face-to-face events. Open to anyone with an interest in being or supporting new professionals, the network has discussion forums, resources, and recently ran an advocacy competition.
LIKE: The London Information and Knowledge Exchange meet monthly to ‘share stories, learn and exchange knowledge in an informal and relaxed setting.’. They run a variety of events – the next, LIKE27 on 28th July, is a guided walk of London, with an optional guided tour of the Guardian’s offices and Information and Archives service!
Hack Library School: By, for, and about library school students, Hack Library School is another group that started out online. Hack Library School also now has face-to-face meet-ups, including one at this year’s ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans.
Absorbed all that? Good! Your task for this week’s Thing is to consider your experiences with professional organisations, and blog about it! What involvement have you had? How has it affected your career? What have you learned? Why are/aren’t you a member? Extra credit for investigating a new organisation or group!