I’ve been a librarian by heart all my life, but only received my Masters in Information Resource and Library Science in May 2013. It wasn’t until last year that I realized that I AM an information professional, and that association memberships would be helpful. So, I buckled down and paid for memberships with the American Library Association, Arizona Libraries Association and Special Libraries Associations, and I have found them invaluable in my work (and sanity).
The associations have kept me alive in my beloved field, and I have found an abundance of resources that allows me to feel and stay connected to my type of information professional, aka, solo librarians.
When I became an AZLA member, I signed up to volunteer at the AZLA 2016 Conference. This allowed me to attend 2 days for free!
I was assigned as a presenter for a technology session that had 3 panel members. I was to introduce the panel and read a bio. I introduced myself to the presenters, who were all quite embarrassed about the formality of the session. They all agreed they did not want to be formally introduced, so instead of a presenter, I became an attendee.
The session was four hours long, about different technologies, particularly for maker spaces. Unfortunately, being a solo in a health department, some of the ideas, aside from the presentation method were not of any use to me.
However, I one of the presenters works with high school kids interested in volunteering to get work experience, asked for my contact information, as I am the volunteer/internship coordinator for the health department! A match made in heaven; we exchanged numbers.
I walked in as key note speaker, Miguel Figueroa, with the Center for Future of Libraries, ALA, talked about the future of libraries. While it was inspiring and relevant to public and school librarians, it was hard to find much to take away as a solo.
In his speech, he stated, we must “…Recognize the value of the library professional.” Unfortunately, he did not identify how that is done in non-traditional librarian/library settings.
In my position, where I have multiple librarian-type duties, I was not hired because of my MIRLS, and I’m sure my successor will not be required to have one. However, I have a strong desire to make my superiors aware that the work that I do, the things I’ve accomplished are because of my education and connection to librarians and information professionals, and not just because “I’m a good worker.”
The one and only session I had a true vested interest and affinity for was: Librarians Transformed: Roads Less Traveled. It was incredibly gratifying to sit in a session and listen to three presenters who went to “library school,” with an idea of becoming a public librarian, and finding out getting in isn’t so easy.
With a tight economy, budget cuts, and the ridiculous idea that the internet can replace librarians, there aren’t a lot of librarian jobs out there, and the competition is fierce! There are people working at lower levels in the library while in the master’s program. It’s a sad, sad competitive library world.
This session solidified my idea that yes, my job may not have required a MIRLS, but I AM a librarian; and I am special. One of the speakers held a position very similar to mine where she worked on recruitment activities, created an internship program, and conducted outreach activity for a particular population.
After lunch, I volunteered in the exhibit hall at the raffle table. I met one of the librarians at the prison, and had some really interesting conversations with her about censorship of certain materials and the reading ability of inmates.
My last session was about Arizona State Library Archives and Public Records, where I learned about what is available via those websites, as well as resources for the visually impaired.
I stayed for the hors d’oeuvres and jam session, where a band comprised of 2 people who I worked with during my internship. I went to talk to Mike, who didn’t remember and Becca, who did.
Overall the experience was nice, but lonely. I wandered around alone, purchased 2 books from the exhibit hall and saw some interesting things, but most every exhibit and session was geared toward the traditional librarian (public or school). (I don’t even think there was much for academic librarians, even though the University of Arizona School of Information was there.) This made it really difficult to make any connections with other solos.
I did enjoy being around so many librarians and info pro nerds, and I will likely attend next year, hopefully as a volunteer. I found it to be a valuable experience, a little something to add to my resume, and much easier to meet people.
Fortunately, the Special Libraries Association Conference 2017 is in Phoenix, and I will be attending. As a matter of fact, I should look for volunteer opportunities there too! Right now!