Why Get Involved?

I'm just back from our annual three day Wisconsin Library Association conference.  Once more, I had the chance to attend thought-provoking sessions; chat with friends and colleagues from all sizes and types of libraries; participate in a number of business and board meetings and relax and enjoy some truly fun and funny after-hours events.  I love my state association meetings and would go even if I paid my own way and had to take vacation to get there.  How come?

First, foremost and always, WLA is a huge leadership and advocacy group for libraries in our state.  Without their work during the craziness of the spring and the ongoing legislative madness that continues in our state, we would have had rollbacks on services and funding. And of course, WLA is us so we are able to respond quickly and effectively to legislative alerts and involve our friends, neighbors and family in speaking up for libraries.

My state association is also a leadership incubator.  Opportunities exist - and we all are supported in - chairing divisions, committees, conferences and other work that brings us into contact with our colleagues in becoming leaders. Currently, the president of our 1700 strong association is Rhonda Puntney, a long time mover and shaker in WI youth services. She is joined on the "big" board by other Youth Services advocates (including me as newly elected state chapter councilor to ALA Council) to provide a strong voice for youth and libraries.

Each of us in leadership roles was mentored by colleagues outside of public library youth services (as well as YS folks of course) and have had our visions widened and enriched by this breadth of knowledge from academic, special, school, tech and adult services colleagues. I can say that without a doubt that I am the librarian I am today because of professional associations like WLA, ALA and Wisconsin Women Library Workers that gave me an opportunity to be with, learn from and laugh with dedicated library workers from all types and sizes of libraries.

WLA also provides the framework for youth librarians to gather and advocate for excellent service, collections and initiatives across our state. Together, when we are strong, we help chart the course of Youth Services.  Of course like any membership organization we are only as strong as our active members make us.  I have heard, in this time of tight budgets and staffing, rumblings of "no time, no money, no support- I don't think I can continue to be a member".  We mustn't give up on our state or national professional commitments though. Each of us is the engine that drives greatness in our local and national associations and each and every voice is important.

I hope you are all members of your state and national library associations. We are needed now more than ever to present a strong and coherent leadership and advocacy agenda. And the friends you make, the leadership you step into and the work you do for libraries is an investment that will long remain with you and benefit your library.


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