Building a national network with ALA’s Round Tables

by Caitlin Moen, Head Editor, INALJ Louisiana

Building a national network with ALA’s Round Tables

Caitlin MWhen 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.

Naomi House

Naomi House, MLIS, is the founder and publisher of the popular webzine and jobs list (formerly I Need a Library Job) and former CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) of, a crowdfunding platform focused on African patrimony, heritage and cultural projects. INALJ was founded in October 2010 with the assistance of her fellow Rutgers classmate, Elizabeth Leonard. Its social media presence has grown to include Facebook (retired in 2016), Twitter and a LinkedIn group, in addition to the interviews, articles and jobs found on INALJ. INALJ has had over 20.5 Million page hits and helped many, many thousands of librarians find employment! Through grassroots marketing, word of mouth and a real focus on exploring unconventional resources for job leads, INALJ grew from a subscription base of 20 friends to a website with over 500,000 visits in one month. Naomi believes that well-sourced quantity is quality in this narrow job market and INALJ reflects this with many new jobs published daily. She has also written for the 2011, 2012 and 2013 LexisNexis Government Info Pro and many other publications in the past decade. She presents whenever she can, including serving on three panels at the American Library Association's Annual Conference in Las Vegas; as breakout presenter at OCLC EMEA in Cape Town, South Africa; as a keynote speaker at the Virginia Library Association annual meeting; at the National Press Club in Washington DC; McGill University in Montreal, Canada; the University of the Emirates, Dubai, MLIS program and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian for a contractor at a federal library outside Washington, DC, and has been living and working in Budapest, Hungary and Western New York State. She spent years running her husband’s moving labor website, fixed and sold old houses and assisted her husband cooking delicious Pakistani food. She is preparing to re-enter the workforce and is job hunting. Her husband is now the co-editor of INALJ, a true support!  She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay.