Hack Your Professional Organization

23/12/2013 § 4 Comments

There is no better time than graduate school to join a professional organization. Many LIS organizations have special incentives in place to attract library school students. The offerings will vary between organizations, but this post should give you an idea of what to watch for.  


Professional organizations exist at several levels, including international, national, regional, state, and local. Smaller organizations may give you more opportunities to participate directly, but larger organizations will offer a broader spectrum of roundtables and sections. As a student, I have found national and regional organizations to be the most beneficial because I am still figuring out what I want to do with my career. Some organizations offer joint membership programs for library school students and support staff. This is a great way to make your membership dues go farther. Additionally, student chapters on your campus can be a great way to get involved with your regional and national organizations.

San Jose State University has compiled an extremely comprehensive list of professional organizations for LIS students. The list includes general national groups like the American Library Association and Society of American Archivists, but also specialized entities like the Music Library Association and the Association for Moving Image Archivists.


Membership in a professional organizations has several benefits for LIS students. Some of the tangible ones include scholarships, discounts on textbooks purchased through the organization’s store, access to job boards, continuing education courses, and (in some cases) tuition discounts at partner institutions. Other perks include opportunities to travel to new cities for conferences and learn about the field through scholarly journal articles. One of the greatest long-term benefits to membership is the chance to meet with peers, mentors, and future employers. Membership is also a great addition to your resume or C.V., especially if you make time to serve on a committee.


Many organizations offer discounts on membership dues and conference registration to students in ALA-accredited programs. While it can still be expensive to attend conferences, this is a great way to try out a few organizations before you have to commit to full dues.

Several organizations offer concurrent membership in specialized roundtables, committees, and divisions. These sub-groups serve as a microcosm of the larger organization, allowing you to engage more deeply in professional conversations and network regularly with seasoned professionals. Each group typically focuses on a specific interest, institution type, or professional status. You might consider joining a roundtable for records management, GIS librarianship, performing arts archives, or library support staff. Many organizations have groups that that cater to students and new professionals.

If you’re still skeptical about joining a professional organization, you can try it out for free first. Check your campus library for print or electronic copies of professional publications. Follow organization and roundtable accounts on social media networks. Join listservs to preview the professional conversation or follow conference hashtags on Twitter. Most importantly, talk with your professors and peers to learn which organizations they recommend.

Have you joined a professional organization in library school? Share your advice and experiences in the comments!

Volunteer Management 101

08/11/2013 § 8 Comments

Hello Hack Library School readers! I’m excited to introduce myself with a topic very near and dear to my heart: managing volunteers.

In 2011, after finishing my MA, I found myself at a bit of a crossroads and needed to do something different and interesting while I figured out what was next. So I started a year-long AmeriCorps placement with an arts education nonprofit, helping administer three volunteer programs. I did everything from the nitty-gritty of event RSVPs and answering questions about the application process to big-picture reevaluations of the entire volunteer recruitment and screening system. Although none of these skills are taught in my MLIS program, I can already tell that they’ll be among the most valuable skills in my professional toolkit.

Much of the recent debate about unpaid internships can also be applied to volunteering; it can provide valuable experience for volunteers and build capacity for organizations. Plus, it often just feels really good. But when volunteering becomes an expectation or prerequisite for moving ahead in a field, or when administrators use volunteers to replace professional staff, thorny ethical issues arise. Despite these concerns, though, volunteering remains an important part of our civic and cultural landscape, and my guess is that it’s here to stay.

So I’m not here to tell you that volunteering is inherently good or bad for the profession, or to tell you that you should or should not volunteer as an MLIS student. I am absolutely here to tell you that you will need to manage volunteers at some point in your career, and that your MLIS program most likely will not equip you to do so. Volunteers are a long-term investment for your organization, and without some forethought and infrastructure, neither you nor your volunteers will be satisfied. So here are some basics you’ll want to keep in mind as you get started:

« Read the rest of this entry »

Your Very First Library Student Business Cards

26/07/2013 § 9 Comments

At the beginning of this summer I was faced with a pretty lengthy list of long-range-to-do’s, one of which was “business cards(?)” (yes, I put question marks on my to-do lists…). After seeing business cards encouraged in many Hack Library School posts, and after realizing I’d probably want some for ALA, I decided it was time. But then I was faced with a myriad of options, questions, and debates. What should I include? Should I put my phone number or just my email? Should I mention that I’m still a student or just put something dorky like “aspiring information professional?” Here are some of the many factors that I considered; hopefully they’ll give you all some things to think about as you craft your own business cards.

If you’re not afraid to get a little cutesy, might I suggest these lovely library-card-inspired business cards by Tower of Babel.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Staying Current on Library World News

10/07/2013 § 9 Comments

In part, what it means to be a library professional is staying current with developments in the field of librarianship at large and not just focusing on your specific job duties at your institution. While you are in library school, this task is often easier because your classes encourage you to read and research into contemporary issues in the field, but afterwards, many librarians note that their workloads keep them from being able to read news and research as much as they would like. Developing good, efficient practices for staying current on library world news while you have the time, then, especially important.

Winston_the_paper_retrieverWinston retrieved the Tulsa World every morning. Photo by S. Carter, 2004.

I’d love to hear from readers about two things:

  1. What is one source of library news that you check regularly to stay on top of the news (listserv, blog, professional magazine, scholarly journal, podcast, etc.)?
  2. What is one current library news item that has caught your attention recently?

For myself, I have many library-related rss feeds set up in my Feedly account, and while I often just read the headlines of blog posts, at least I have a sense of what kinds of news items are current. I also recently started using my Twitter account more regularly to follow various librarians who post about library topics. I’ve found that Twitter often has more up-to-date links to news items than blog posts since it takes people a little longer to compose a blog entry with reflections on the news item. For example, ALA’s publication American Libraries has an active Twitter feed of news.

The news story that I am thinking about lately is the announcement last week at the ALA conference from President Barack Obama in which he charged public libraries to provide access to health care information once new laws about mandatory coverage take effect. (My co-conspirator at Information + Publics recently blogged the topic.) I first came across a mention of the story the weekend of the announcement via a Twitter post.

How do you get your news? Reflecting on your own practices in finding news information (or having it find you, in the parlance of Web 2.0) is helpful in clarifying for yourself how you engage with information.

June Meetups in DC!

05/06/2013 § 4 Comments

It’s that time again! Summer is here, and we know lots of Hack Library School fans are in the nation’s capitol for work, or internships, or school, or just for the heck of it. So we’ve got a series of meetups planned for everyone to get to know each other.  It’s a great chance to network in a  casual setting, and get to know parts of this excellent city that you might not see otherwise!

The first two meetups will be:

June 8th, 5:30

We the meet up @ We, the Pizza

305 Pennsylvania Ave SE  Washington, DC

(Just up the street from the Library of Congress. Closest Metro is Capitol South, Blue/Orange lines)


June 15th, 7:00

Hack Vampire School (Buffy the vampire slayer Happy Hour) @ The Black Cat

1811 14th St NW, Washington, DC

(Closest Metro is U Street, Green/Yellow lines)

If you can’t make it to these two, there will be more to come, so stay tuned! See you around town!

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing the Professional Life category at Hack Library School.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 735 other followers

%d bloggers like this: