It's almost time for one of my favorite professional activities of the year - attending the American Library Association annual conference, held this year in Chicago. I am a long time ALA member and a very active ALSC (Assocation for library Service to Children) division memebr.
I wasn't always active. As a young librarian, it seemed hard to break into committee work...how could I ever get appointed? The libraries I worked at (for almost my entire 33 year career) couldn't/wouldn't support my attendance financially but graciously gave me two days paid time to attend. It was discouraging but I felt I had something to offer. Mentors like Kathleen Weibel and Jane Botham encouraged me to keep connected nationally with colleagues.
So I started my ALA savings account to cover transportation room and board, attended committee meetings as an observere and made connections with children's library colleagues. We shared our experiences, successes and frustrations over lunch, in hallways, while browsing exhibits and walking around the conference cities. Those conversations and friendships became the bread and butter of my conference experience - even better than the programs offered. I came home with great ideas, buoyed by support from friends around the country and inspired by book creators that were honored at award ceremonies.
After ten years, I received my first ALSC committee appointment. That opened the door to lots more committee work - Intellectual Freedom; Legislation; Grolier Award; Sagebrush Award; Organization and Bylaws (multiple times); Liaison with National organizations Serving Children; and eventually three dream appointments: Caldecott; Newbery; and Priority Group Consultant for Child Advocacy committees(a kind of "auntie" for 8 or 9 committees to help them navigate through their work with ALSC and ALA). In each committee, I worked hard to make a difference in some small way; to bring ALSC farther along the path to being THE place for great children's librarianship and best practices for the nation's children's librarians.
And now I serve on the ALSC board and we wrestle with how to involve younger members and memebers who can't afford to attend. I am glad we as an organization are "owning" this vital issue and looking to be leaner, faster, more connected and aggressive in giving our young turks (ALA actually has a "Young Turks" advisory group to the ALA presiden!) more paths to involvement and power. I hope to see and hear lots from our new and younger members and they dive in feet first. It is a glorious world at ALA if you are a process junkie and want to change the library world. Hope you can join me!