Most of you are members of your state association. A good number of you, although it should be much more, are members of ALA/AASL but only a small percentage of you are getting all you can from your membership.
Are you using the resources our state and national associations provide? How often to you check their websites? AASL has a wealth of information and resources—and for most you don’t even need to be a member.
Become an active member. Although AASL has paid staff, and your state association may have some paid positions, the organizations direction an accomplishments are powered by volunteers. Even if for some reason you don’t feel ready to participate at the national level (and they welcome newbies), do contact your state association to find out how you can be of service.
I can hear you saying, “I agree those are great resources and I would really love to be more active, but I haven’t the time.” That’s our favorite response to almost everything. And as I said last week with the stories we tell ourselves, it’s grounded in truth. You don’t have time, but when you recognize it’s a priority in your life, you are willing to make time.
I keep hearing librarians complain about irrelevant PD offered by their district. Although I believe you can always get something from these offerings, AASL has webinars geared specifically to areas you need. Do you sign up for them? AASL also offers e-Academy asynchronous courses lasting only a few weeks on topics of concern to school librarians. I give two six-week e-courses for ALA editions, one based on Being Indispensable and the other on New on the Job. You can’t take advantage of them if you don’t know they exist.
Are you on your state’s listserv? Their Facebook page if they have one? If you are an AASL member you can be on the AASLForum electronic discussion list. It’s a great source for getting and sharing information you need every day on your job. You will also get to recognize the leaders, those who know and use the latest in technology. Because of my presence on my state’s listserv I had a librarian contact me and ask me to mentor her. Of course I did so. Although she is now well on her way to being a leader in her own right, every now and then she still checks in with a question.
Fall conference season is upon us. Several state library associations have already had theirs. In my state, the New Jersey Association of School Librarians will be holding its annual conference from November 15-17, and before that AASL will have its biennial conference November 6-8 in Columbus, Ohio. I will be at both of these. Will you be attending any?
Even if you can’t take professional days to attend the AASL and/or your state conference, it’s worth it to take personal days. When you do, write up a brief report letting your administrator know what you learned and how it will affect what you are doing with students. It shows you are a professional, and what you receive from your time at conference will inspire and rejuvenate you. It’s the best PD you can get.
Looking further down the road, and registration has been open for some time, ALA’s Midwinter conference is in Boston this year from January 8-12. Book now since rates go up after November 12. You needn’t attend the whole conference. Arrive Friday after work and leave on Sunday in time to be back on the job on Monday. There is no official programs at Midwinter, but the exhibits are far more extensive than all but the very largest state conferences. (I am thinking of Texas.)
While there you can sit in during AASL’s All-Committee meeting, which I believe will be on Saturday. Round tables are set up in a very large room for the various AASL committees to meet and conduct business. Guests are welcome. It’s an excellent opportunity to see whether you would like to serve on one. If you find one to your liking, let the chair know to recommend you be appointed to it. You needn’t get to every ALA Annual and Midwinter to serve on a committee. Most of them have virtual members and a lot of business gets done in conference calls and through ALA Connect which is onlne.
I learned to be a leader thanks to my participation in my state association and ALA/AASL. I was nervous when I was asked many years ago to run for president-elect of my state association. When I won, I had to figure out how to plan and run our annual conference. Beyond that, I had to deal with budgets, agendas for meetings, dealing with conflicting views of board members and more. In AASL I learned about long range planning, advocacy, and strategic planning. The latter I also did at the state level. I have been and am on ALA Committees and developed a deeper understanding of how all types of libraries connect and need to support each other.
Each committee, each task taught me more than I ever learned in library school or at my district’s PD offerings. I became a much better librarian and one whom administrators and teachers respected for what I knew and brought to them and students.
Is that enough of a priority for you to consider becoming active?