by Caitlin Moen, Head Editor, INALJ Louisiana
Building a national network with ALA’s Round Tables
When I graduated from library school in 2011, I was committed to the idea of librarianship as a profession and participating on the national level. I began a position at an academic library where much of my time was devoted to the day to day running of the library. This just renewed my commitment to national level service. I knew that if I wasn’t finding the fulfillment I needed in my position that I needed to look outside of my day-to-day work. I started submitting research proposals, presentations on the state level, and started looking for ways to get involved in library organizations. That is when I started looking to ALA and to its many divisions, sections, and round tables.
Each year, members of ALA can fill out volunteer forms to try to get involved with the different organizations of ALA. Because I worked in an academic library I went straight to ACRL. Because I had an interest in collection development and other technical service functions (although I was working in public services at the time) I checked out ALCTS. I filled out both volunteer forms, which was daunting, as I did not really understand what I was volunteering for; I was just checking off boxes for committees that sounded interesting based on the brief website blurbs. Then I waited. It would be months before I would hear back from ALCTS and ACRL would never respond to my form. For a new librarian hoping to broaden both horizons and CV this was a frustrating process.
Meanwhile, on one of the many listservs I subscribe to, a call came out from the Learning Round Table. They were looking for people to get involved and for attendance at their monthly virtual meetings. I emailed the president and received an immediate response back. She asked me to attend the meeting that month and see what they were all about. I did so, and quickly experienced a dynamic and truly working group that is focused on training and lifelong learning. I emailed the president again and said that although I was not necessarily working in that field, I was interested in training and learning and would like to be involved. This exchange quickly developed into an invitation to serve as a board member for the Learning Round Table, filling out a ballot, and being elected for a two year term. This year I have been asked to run for President-Elect, which I may not win, but I am happy to do, knowing that the support and knowledge of the board as a whole will make this service successful.
It is amazing how much my view of the world within ALA has changed in the last year because of my involvement with the round table. I am networking nationwide and getting to know different people in different parts of the library world. I am an academic librarian (although I am always open to new things!) serving on a board that is almost wholly public and state librarians. While in the board meeting at the Midwinter Meeting in Seattle I was able to meet many of these librarians face-to-face, start interacting with some of the ALA staff, and even question and provide input to one of the ALA presidential candidates who visited our meeting. I applied for Emerging Leaders, was selected, and my sponsorship came out of the involvement I have with the LearnRT. It has been an incredible opportunity.
The round tables of the ALA are amazing networking and career building opportunities. They are much more focused than a division is, enabling you to find something that fits your interests, not just your job title and the dues are much lower, making it much easier to justify membership. The divisions and sections do great work, but for a new librarian, just starting out, I have been so impressed with the accessibility, nurturing, and dynamic work that the round tables do. If you’re looking to expand your career and network nationally, I highly recommend that you check out the ALA round tables.