Professional Organizations

The number of professional organizations available to librarians can be overwhelming: which are worth the price of membership? Are some organizations more prestigious than others? How can joining the right association help me reach my professional goals? For this entry, I explored two divisions of the American Library Association that focused on my personal goals—the Public Library Association (PLA) and the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA).

The PLA was established in 1944 and it currently has over 9,000 members, who largely dictate the direction of the organization as a whole. The goal of PLA is the advancement of public library services, such as acquiring adequate funding, intellectual freedom, and improved access to library resources.

Though PLA is geared toward public librarians in the US and internationally, membership is also open to retired library professionals, library vendors or workers, students, and library trustees. Membership dues vary from $25 a year (student price) to $65 a year, depending on the type of personal membership chosen. Organizational memberships are also available for an annual fee of $100. Both personal and organizational memberships require ALA membership and include subscriptions to the PLA’s publication Public Libraries, discounts on ALA sponsored professional development conferences and seminars, and discounts on ALA and PLA products.

PLA has a very strong social media presence. Aside from their parent website, they maintain Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest accounts for their Public Libraries Online division, as well as Facebook and Twitter accounts for their annual PLA Conference and Library Edge.

YALSA was founded in 1957 and currently has over 5200 members. The goal of the organization is to expand and strengthen public library services for teens through advocacy, research, and professional development.

Membership to YALSA, as that of PLA, requires membership in ALA; other than that, it is remarkably flexible, and personal membership is open to students, librarians, library workers, retirees, friends of the library and trustees, both in the US and internationally. Organizational and corporate memberships are also available, and dues for all types of membership run anywhere from $25 annually to $570 annually. Membership benefits include access to YALSA’s e-learning library, grants and scholarships offered to members only, free subscriptions to the quarterly journal YALS and the weekly e-newsletter, service projects, professional blogging opportunities, and discounts, as well as additional ALA membership benefits.

Overall, I think I will definitely be joining the parent organization of both the PLA and YALSA, the ALA. Not only does membership offer some great benefits and discounts on its own, but it also opens up the opportunity for membership to the dozens of different divisions and associated organizations of the ALA. I think that YALSA’s specific focus on Youth Services also makes it a valuable resource, and a great way to network with colleagues who are interested in the same area. PLA might be nice to join as well, but it wouldn’t be my first priority based on what I’ve seen.

 

References

American Library Association. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org 

Public Library Association. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/pla 

Young Adult Library Services Association. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/yalsa

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How I Got Here and Where I’m Headed

When I first toyed with the idea of pursuing a graduate degree in LIS, the only thought on repeat in my head was this: are you freaking nuts?

Not the most optimistic of starts, perhaps, but I admit to being rather intimidated. I’ve always enjoyed learning and pursued education with passion and drive; however, getting my undergrad degree was a bit of an ordeal for me. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, and I floated vaguely through my first three years of college without a declared major. The university I’d started at wasn’t the right fit for me, and I’d really only chosen it because they’d offered me a full-tuition scholarship. I studied music; I studied film; I studied chemistry. I wasn’t really convinced that I wanted to spend my life in any one career, and the longer everything went on, the more afraid I became– time was running out and I still didn’t have a plan for my life.

Then, in the summer of 2006, I got the most wonderful job as a counselor for a city-run day camp. I spent eight weeks working with kids from ages 5 to 13, and they taught me more about myself in those two months than the previous six semesters of college had. I knew that I wanted to work with kids, so with my life-long love of literature accompanying me, I changed schools and set out to become a teacher. It was a long lesson learned, but by the end of my undergrad career, after spending many hours in various classrooms, I figured out that while I wanted to work with kids, teaching was not quite what I’d thought it would be. Crushed idealism as its finest, perhaps, but somehow I’ve always believed that everything happens for a reason.

After a lot of soul-searching (and Googling), as well as a much-needed year off for my tired brain, I decided to go to school to get my MLIS degree. I’m hoping to eventually combine my love of books with my love of kids and find a job working as a youth services librarian in a public library. I believe deeply in the power of good books to heal and help children of all ages; as a shy and strange child myself, there were several years when my books were the only real friends I had. I grew up, of course, and learned how to make and maintain friendships and overcome my shyness, but I’ve never forgotten the way it felt to have a delicious new novel placed in my hands. My books taught me so much about the world and about myself, and they kept me company when I was lonely. I’d like to do the same for other people; as Meg Ryan says in You’ve Got Mail: “When you read a book as a child, it becomes part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.”

I want to foster that ideal and encourage the kids of today to take a time-out from texting and Wii and Skype and Netflix, to take a turn utilizing their imagination and that feeling of pure magic that accompanies it. The average adult American only reads at an 8th grade level, and I believe that by encouraging a love of reading at a young age we can start addressing that problem. Eventually, I’d like to start adult literacy programs at my library, as well as outreach programs for at-risk youth; at the end of the day, I want to touch lives and show people what being a “reader” can really mean.

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Introduction Part 2: The Reckoning

Hello again, and welcome to my blog for Library Science 6010. My name is Melissa and this is my first semester as a grad student at Wayne State University. In the coming months, I’ll explore some of the relevant topics related to the profession of librarianship, learning about my chosen field even as I express my own opinions about it. I hope to encourage frank discussion and unhindered honesty; the best ideas are often formed through debate and dissent, so I’m looking forward to contradicting ideology as much as comments that support my own thinking!

A little about me:  I received an undergrad degree from The University of Michigan in 2012; my focus was English and Psychology, though I originally wanted to be a teacher and have taken a lot of Education courses as well. I’m actually just two classes and a semester of student teaching shy of a teaching certificate– it took me a long time to figure out that my passion for working with kids and avid love of books did not necessarily translate into wanting to be a teacher. However, my obsession with literature and my general adoration of libraries has made me realize that an MLIS degree might give me just the opportunities I’m looking for.

I live in Michigan with my husband of three years, Joel, and our cat. I’m interested in a variety of topics and ideas, and I tend to geek out heartily about life in general. If you’d like to know more about me– particularly my penchant for wry humor– please see my previous Introduction post. Go ahead, take a look. I’ll wait. Awesome, right?

My assumptions and beliefs about librarianship:

1) Librarians are not the guardians of knowledge; rather, they are its protectors. The difference being, of course, that while librarians keep knowledge safe and preserved– imagine the things we would never know about the past without the written records that have been painstakingly maintained!– they do not get to decide who has access to it. They are not gatekeepers or soldiers meant to keep people out; on the contrary, they have a professional obligation to make information available to whomever seeks it out.

2)Libraries aren’t meant to be intimidating. If people are hesitant to step through your doors, you’re doing it wrong. Though the most grandiose of libraries can certainly be overwhelming in their splendor and sheer size (the Bodleian comes to mind), patrons should never feel apprehensive about open your doors. Whether you work in a public library that is open to all, or a special library that has very limited access, if people are afraid to use your services, you are not upholding your responsibilities as a librarian. Libraries should be safe havens, welcoming and warm.

3) People in the LIS profession are as diverse as those in any other. Though most people imagine the stereotype of a tight-bunned old lady, shushing people and harassing them about overdue fines, there are as many different types of people in the field as there are anywhere else. Young and old, male and female, fat and thin, funny and humorless, cutting edge and conservative, interesting and dull. There is no such thing as a “typical” librarian, just as there is no such thing as a “typical” mailman, welder, doctor, lawyer, or dogwalker.

4)LIS degrees are more versatile than you think. Aside from public libraries, there are a plethora of occupations that utilize library and information science degrees. School media centers, museums, hospitals, opera houses, law firms, government offices, the list is endless. LIS professionals can be used in the tech field, in book publishing, in so many areas of life. There is an abundant need for those who can catalog and organize vast amounts of information, for people that can teach others how to access the ever-growing resources made available in the digital age. Being a “librarian” doesn’t necessarily mean working in a library!

5) LIS professionals are going to have to be technologically savvy in order to stay relevant. Computers, smartphones, tablets, iPods, ereaders– the average person expects their librarian to know how to use their resources; indeed, they expect that the librarian can use them more proficiently than they themselves can! Technology is changing and growing exponentially, and it is slowly becoming integrated in every aspect of daily life. People studying LIS need to be prepared to tackle tech-oriented issues head on, and realize that librarianship requires almost as much education in computer science as it does in anything else.

This just scratches the surface of my ideology, but  look forward to conversing with you all in the coming weeks about much more. Until then, cheers!

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An Exercise in Narcissism: Introduction Post

Hello friends, and welcome to my world. This blog will contain just a little bit of the slightly deranged workings of my mind. Be prepared: sarcasm is a given and a sense of humor a must.

My name is Melissa, and I am, of course, a caffeine-addicted bibliophile (as my tagline would suggest.) This is me (Well, sort of. This is the most flattering picture I could find of myself, because what is the internet for if not making you appear far more attractive than you really are?):

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I live in Wyandotte, MI, with my husband of three years, Joel,  and our crabby yet adorable cat, Severus. Strangely enough, Sevy is a female cat, but she’s lovingly called after my favorite Hogwarts professor, and she’s oddly suited to her name.Image

I have a BA in English from the University of Michigan, which is, of course, about as useful as a doorstop in terms of seeking gainful employment. As my mother would say, “That and 2 bucks will get you a cup of coffee.” So, it was either grad school or panhandling on the street, and since I’m a ginger and sixty seconds in direct sunlight turns me into a lobster, I opted for more education.

The choice to study Library Science was easy; I’ve been a devoted reader since I was four years old, and my home is overflowing with books. I mean that fairly literally– I own over 600 volumes at the moment and am rapidly running out of space. If I die in tragic accident, I’m fairly certain it will involve being crushed to death in an avalanche of literature. But what a way to go! I’ve got one of those newfangled devices the kids are always on about– a Nook. But who could completely cut from their lives the heavenly smell of musty old paper or freshly printed pages? Not I. And by the way, get off my lawn, you young whippersnapper.

Aside from the unbelievable love of reading, I crave information, and am endlessly fascinated by the increasing availability of shared knowledge juxtaposed with the problem of unreliable sources. Google is a wunderkind, but by George, if you don’t know how to tell the pearls from the swine you’re in for a world of hurt. Teaching people how to simply improve their search terms can be very satisfying, and I’m looking forward to learning how to do that even more effectually. Being a librarian is all about connections: connecting people to the information they need, connecting readers to the books that will transform their lives. Professionally speaking, I’m also interested in the the debate about privacy versus freedom of information. I’m hoping to become a children’s librarian and introduce kids to the characters they will fall in love with for a lifetime.

In order to keep the lights on and buy Sevy all the Meow Mix she can consume, I write freelance and substitute teach. The freelance writing is generally tedious– just how many articles can one write about making origami animals of various persuasions??– but the substitute teaching is downright unpredictable. I enjoy working with kids and have a passion for children’s literature, but when you’re stepping into a new classroom every day you never know what’s in store. It’s definitely not my dream job; I hope to be a real author some day. I’ve won various writing awards and scholarships for both poetry and fiction and am currently 35,000 words into a young adult novel. I’ve maintained a writing blog on Livejournal for ten years and was regularly published in U of M’s literary magazine, Lyceum.

Aside from writing, my hobbies are varied but reveal the fact that I’m a die-hard geek. I enjoy photography, playing the flute, knitting, and hanging out with my exceptionally large family (I have five siblings plus three siblings-in-law.)  I’m a Christian and I love old music. I’ve got a handful of close friends that I cherish, and generally consider myself a creative and interesting person (Then again, does anybody really believe they’re boring? “There’s nothing so commonplace as to wish to be remarkable.”) Here are some cool pictures I took:

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Converse- Selective Color

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Fun facts about me:

— I was either named after the Allman Brothers song “Sweet Melissa” or a fat waitress from Texas called Missy. My parents can never get their story straight.

— I was born in Dallas, Texas at Parkland Memorial Hospital, which is the hospital JFK died in. Morbid but sort of cool.

–Favorite movies: Star Wars, Office Space, Dirty Dancing, Pride and Prejudice, You’ve Got Mail, Star Trek, Remember the Titans

–Favorite tv shows: Doctor Who, The Office, Sherlock, Supernatural, Friends, The Newsroom, Castle

–Favorite foods: Lasagna, dill pickles, salad, garden omelette

–Favorite books: The Three Musketeers, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, Good Omens, Anne of Green Gables, Harry Potter, I Capture the Castle,  Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,  the poetry of Pablo Neruda,  The Princess Bride, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

–Favorite music artists: Al Green, Van Morrison, Fall Out Boy, Elvis, Michael Jackson, Otis Redding, Journey, Paramore

Favorite season: Autumn

Favorite color: Blue

Favorite quotes: “You don’t have to stay anywhere forever,” — Neil Gaiman, “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live,” –Albus Dumbledore, “I write for the same reason I breathe; if I didn’t, I would die,” –Isaac Asimov

 

Team Building Stuff and Logistics:

I’m a MS Office expert and can learn new technologies very fast. I’m also a grammar geek and proficient wordsmith; I enjoy writing and editing and have won awards for my skills!  My research skills are exceptional and I am definitely an out-of-the box thinker. In group settings, I’m comfortable either taking a leadership role or being more passive, and this flexibility makes me very easy to work with. I believe in communication and compromise and like to get projects done early! I’m entirely an online student and can be reached at adkinsmelissa85@gmail.com or here on my blog!

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