As someone who is, relatively speaking, a newcomer to working in a library, I have vacillated about whether or not I would like to join a proper library association. There are many things to consider.
Library associations are great places to network. In everyday life, you may not get a chance to randomly meet other people in your field, especially not on a regular basis. Yet within an association, one can easily parlay the relationships that are fostered into bigger and better things. You may learn a different way of assisting patrons or even be offered a new and better paying job as a result.
Associations are also great ways of keeping abreast of the latest innovations and technologies that affect our daily work lives. Let’s face it, we don’t all have a lot of time to sit around and read every journal and every article that discusses librarianship. With professional associations some of the best of these ideas are highlighted and discussed with you.
Associations also provide opportunities to flex your leadership skills. Being a member is great, but being an active member can benefit you even more. Taking the lead on a committee can give you management experience you may not get as a reference librarian. This can then give you the proficiency necessary down the road when you feel like advancing your career into library management.
I have to admit that one of my first cons is money. Most of these associations require dues annually. For example, ALA membership is $48-$135, depending on your job status, and SLA membership is $40-$200 depending on what your annual salary is. These are just the dues though — they often do not include the cost of attending conferences, in and out of state. While I think it’s great that the fees are on a scale, it is still an extra expense that many of us, right out of school and burdened with school loans, may not be prepared to pay. Another “con” might be whether or not these associations are even necessary in today and tomorrow’s world of internet information globalism. I was reading the November 12, 2014 blog post from Beerbrarian, where he discusses what tools he cannot live without. One of his choices was Twitter because “I can’t afford to go to every conference I’d like to. Library twitter is like a 24/7/365 conference. Articles, blog posts, and other useful items get shared.”
I wonder if Beerbrarian is correct: Are Twitter and other social media sites are all you really need in order to achieve all (or at least most) of the “pros” of professional memberships? Please feel free to discuss and share your thoughts in the comments.