19 Dec 2014

The Library Association of Ireland - Why bother with Membership?

Guest post by Jane Burns, Research Officer, Royal College of Surgeons, and Occasional Lecturer, SILS, UCD.

The Library Association of Ireland  - Why bother with Membership?

For me the holiday season is always a mad time of year, trying to be organised for Christmas, wrap things up at work and then try to put some time away to reflect on the past year to plan for the one quickly approaching. From a professional perspective, this is when I think about what I have learned, what have I achieved and what do I want to achieve. My membership of the Library Association of Ireland (LAI) is always the scaffold that I use to construct my plans.

However, the decision on membership of the LAI is one that we should all question. Why should we bother? What is the benefit to us individually and collectively? If you are not a member what negative impact does it have it on your career and your personal development? Is the cost of membership either paid by yourself or your organisation worth what you get in return? These are questions we all need to ponder. My personal opinion is examined in this blog post.

Throughout most of my librarian career I have primarily worked as a solo librarian within an organisation or in non-traditional librarian roles, such as Research, Taxation and Digital Imagery. So for me being involved with the Irish Professional Body of Librarians has been a way to stay involved in my chosen profession, to network with colleagues and to be active in its development.

If you think about it there are two ways to develop your career in librarianship, these are within your organisation and within your professional body. For many librarians there was a career trajectory within their organisations, starting at one level, developing skills and then being able to move up the ladder so to speak as opportunities arose. Now with the changing roles available for librarians and the challenging economic environment these opportunities are few and far between. However, the ability to develop your career within our profession still remains strong. This is available through the Associateship (ALAI) and Fellowship (FLAI) levels of membership

Some of the many benefits are the opportunities for CPD development. Many of the groups and sections offer discount prices for attending events to LAI members. The range of CPD topics developed by colleagues is targeted, relevant and fantastic value. When you attend these events you know that you are not going to have some generic or non-industry based information delivered but rather information that is within the scope of our range of our requirements. The issuing of CPD certificates adds to your professional development and to your portfolio for applications to become Associates (ALAI) and Fellows (FLAI) of the LAI. The development of the Mentoring scheme for these membership schemes is currently underway which will provide more opportunities for development.

The degree courses that we participate in, The School of Information Studies, UCD and Dublin Business School are both accredited by the LAI. So for many of us even from our first point of entry to the profession we are directly involved with the LAI.

My membership of the Academic & Special Libraries section in particular has really instilled in me such a positive perspective about the benefits of LAI membership. I was very fortunate to be a committee member for a number of years and the skills I learned working in that environment certainly helped me develop my confidence, my networking and my event planning skills. It also gave me a forum to meet with, collaborate with, so many different types of librarians that I would have otherwise not have had contact with. My current role on the Executive Council  has further enhanced these skills and opportunities.

Membership of LAI demonstrates to your colleagues and employers that you are serious about your profession and your CPD. Involvement means that you personally have opportunities to contribute to the development of the profession, to the development of professional standards and be involved in the development of a national base of knowledge and experience.

There are in place reciprocal recognitions with other Library Associations such as the American Library Association (ALA) which can be beneficial if you want to work abroad. Membership of the LAI also provides access to the international library and information community through links with the European Bureau of Library Information and Documentation (EBLIDA) and the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA).

All members are entitled to a Countdown Card which I have found to be great for a range of discounts, ranging from dry cleaning to travel vouchers.

An Leabharlann is the peer reviewed journal of the LAI.  This is a fantastic benefit of membership of the LAI. The journal has Irish focused articles about research, practices, seminars/conferences and book reviews. In November of this year An Leabharlann became Open Access (OA), members however, have the privilege of access to the most recent issue, while access via OA is not available until the next issue is published.

One of the key messages I teach my students in SILS at UCD  is that the one of the best things to do in developing as a professional is to network. Membership of the LAI is a fantastic way to develop and engage in a professional network. This is done via committee work, seminars and conferences and informally. Librarians in Ireland are fantastic at networking. I think this stems from our altruistic nature, our desire to collaborate and be supportive and accepting that being a librarian means continuing to learn new skills for the rest of your life, and we learn best from other people and shared experiences.

Membership and renewal of membership takes place in January and is for one calendar year. There is information on the LAI Website (for Renewal of membership - click on the renew button, and if you are joining for the first time see here) .

So if you are interested then do give yourself a New Year’s Present and be a part of the LAI. The LAI is an organisation fully staffed and developed by volunteers, all LIS professionals with many demands on their personal and professional lives. All members are welcome to participate to help develop our professional body and to develop themselves in the process.

So in answer to my initial question- Why bother joining? I would say Why not? As LIS professionals we need to demonstrate that we value our Professional Body, that we value our Profession and most importantly that we value ourselves working in a field that is changing and evolving very quickly, because after all if we don’t demonstrate that we appreciate the value how can we expect anyone else to?

All good wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


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