Thursday, June 21, 2007

Dual Membership Benefits for Library Students Part 1 of 2

Book shelf 2

This post is the first part of a exploration of the benefits of dual memberships to professional organizations for library science students. Read the second part here.

Professional library associations build a network of like-minded experts in their field, provide current news and information to its members, and promote public awareness of the profession. Benefits of association membership include engaging news and views offered through publications and meetings, scholarship opportunities, continuing education courses and workshops, mentoring relationships, networking opportunities, employment insights, professional development, and resume boosting. Investing in a professional association membership grants a sense of community to those new to the profession or working in isolated environments by offering conferences, discussion boards, and chat rooms. Membership promotes professional advancement by providing circumstances for research, publication, and presentations, as well as demonstrates professional pride by developing standards, guidelines, and ethics for the profession. These, in turn, enhance the institutions that members work for and the communities they serve.

For library students who are interested in working in academic libraries, such as myself, the American Library Association (ALA) and the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) offer unique benefits to potential members who are contemplating joining both or either of the associations. After a brief survey of the individual associations, this paper discusses the benefits and disadvantages of each organization, ultimately advocating dual membership for library students interested in careers in academic or research libraries.

The ALA, founded in 1876, prides itself in being the largest and oldest library association in the world, with an astounding 64,000 members. ALA membership is available to people involved in library work in the United States and abroad, retired librarians, general supporters, libraries or other nonprofit organizations, and businesses that serve the library community. Membership benefits include a subscription to American Libraries, discounts on ALA publications, conferences, and continuing education opportunities, as well as a myriad of service discounts ranging from life insurance to credit cards.

An elected council, which sets policies and programs, and an executive board, which administers said policies and programs, govern the ALA. Association and council committees propose these policies and programs. Committees of the association include literacy, membership, and orientation, training and leadership development, among others; committees of council include groups that focus on diversity, intellectual freedom, and pay equity, to name a few. The broad scope of the ALA led to the formation of eleven membership divisions, which have their own clearly defined responsibilities, mission statements, staff, and governing board. Additionally, the ALA offers Round Tables, which are membership groups concerned with a field outside of the divisions’ scope, such as Exhibits, Library History, or New Members.

The ALA is devoted “to provide leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all” (American Library Association, 2006). It is currently focused on six priorities: access to provide users with timely access to information, legislation/funding to strengthen services through increased aid, intellectual freedom to protect the right to uncensored materials, public awareness to promote the importance of libraries to society, personnel resources to advocate for library staff and library services, development, and technology to advance new information tools and technologies (APA, 2006).

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