Professional Organizations: A Brief Intro, and How They Relate to You
posted March 26, 2013 2:31 PM
SAA, SLA, MLA, ALA... in the world of the library and all its' properties, it seems like almost every three letter combination stands for a professional organization. And, unlike the title suggests, you don't have to be a "professional" to join them!
Many professional organizations are organized to help budding entrants into their fields. Because this is my first year into the library science world, I've been researching many of these organizations, trying to evaluate if they will be helpful to me pre-graduation, and what resources they offer. Here's a quick glance at some of them:
ALA, the American Library Association: the quintessential professional organization for anyone in the library field, ALA costs only $33/year and supplies its' student members with newsletters, updates on the job market, free round tables, and even online classes! One of the biggest perks of joining ALA is the conference that is held once a year, usually in June, which brings librarians together to talk about the latest and greatest inventions, problems, and advances in the field.
SAA, the Society of American Archivists: almost as well known as the American Library Association, the Society of American Archivists is a must-have for any serious archivist. At $48 for an annual membership, SAA provides a number of benefits, including a subscription to The American Archivist, specialty section and roundtable memberships, and access to the mentoring program. (While I have not yet tried out the mentoring program for myself, I have heard great things about it.)
MLA is the Medical Library Association, and is one of many smaller organizations that represent more specialized libraries. The Medical Library Association also has a newsletter and several other benefits - but what sets this organization apart from others is that it takes a (potential) "mild interest" and turns it into a realistic career. The medical library field is one of the places where librarians are consistently needed, and MLA actually provides its members on the best way to find a career. It comes in at $50 a year for an annual student membership.
SLA, the Special Library Association: this organization is a broader umbrella organization than MLA in that it encompasses all different kinds of "special" libraries - including corporate, medical, academic, and many others. One of the benefits of an SLA membership is that it comes with built-in enrollment into a few different roundtables of the member's choice, based off the member's interests. For example, I am signed up for the Biological Data roundtable, which discusses the latest trends in storing and accessing the multitudes of data generated by the field of Biology. It also places a premium on professional development, and regularly reminds its' members of networking or career opportunities. This membership weighs in at $40 annually.
I would highly suggest at least checking out, if not joining, one or many of these highly valuable professional organizations. They are a perfect glimpse into the current working world of librarians in many different fields, and you will find people willing to help you in any aspect of your career.