Column Description: Learn easy and hands-on ways to engage and grow within the library field. Learn about resources to connect and develop your interests outside of libraries or in parallel industries.

Join the Things

We’re not all joiners. I get it. After a long day, sometimes we don’t want to add another meetup to our busy schedule or attend yet another zoom meeting after dinner. I am here to tell you, though, that joining library networks doesn’t have to mean a sacrifice of your personal time!

Whether you’re a new graduate or a longtime librarian, there are lots of reasons you may not have engaged with library networks before now. I didn’t right away because I was moving out of state upon graduation, so when I moved back to NY, I had to figure it out myself. So, perhaps you’re new to NY state, new to libraries, or in a new phase of your career where you want to connect. It’s cool because now is always a good time to JOIN THE THINGS! Thankfully, it’s not difficult, and most committees, interest groups, and conferences can be attended during work hours or count toward your contracted hours.

The best place to start is to find your local network. In NY state, you can find that via the Empire State Library Network. The 3R’s Councils (reference, research, and resources) make up the Network. There are nine Councils across New York. Here, you can discover which Council is local to you, look for positions or help with grants, explore services offered, and find an event to attend. ESLN displays all Council webinars and professional development opportunities. They also have a YouTube Channel called ESLN Webinar Series 2022.

Local councils are a great place to start, and to meet people with similar work interests. If you don’t want to join a committee/interest group/other right away, follow councils and other networks on social media to get an idea of what’s offered. Another no-commitment opportunity is to join the NYLINE listserv, and receive a digest of jobs, new initiatives and services, and other info from the New York State Library. If you’re interested in checking out larger networks, search library systems, like SALS (southern Adirondack Library System) or UHLS (Upper Hudson Library System). These networks will offer training, grant opportunities, rotating collections, and more to member libraries and employees. Then there are larger networks, such as NYLA (you probably wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t know this one 😊), ALA (and all their subsidiary groups), and even other library-adjacent groups like DHPSNY, SAA, AAM, etc. There’s something for everyone.

If you’re apprehensive about having time to participate or sign up for things, remember that you can just follow a network on social media or sign up for their newsletter before committing to volunteer.


Participate at Work or Toward Work Hours

This can vary from library to library and position to position, but generally, most librarian positions will come with the perk of participating in committee or CE on the job. Management generally wants their staff to know what’s going on in the area and the industry and will often encourage employees to join things. Plan appropriately and give your supervisor ample notice of an upcoming event/CE opportunity you would like to attend, or what a time commitment to a committee, etc. might look like.

Some libraries may require forms to be filled out and/or offer stipends to attend conferences. As a newer librarian, this can be a great opportunity to meet people, and learn about new technology and program offerings. I work for NYSED now, and our Employee Handbook, it states the following about professional leave:

 “The SED allows leave without charge to accruals to attend professional conferences or seminars as long as operational needs are met and attendance at the conference is a benefit to the agency. In general, permanent employees may be allowed time off for seminars or conferences that are directly related to their profession or professional duties as an employee of SED."

These conditions were probably met with the approval of the union, and there’s a lot of additional information, including approval forms. It will likely be less formal at a public library.

Of course, by joining a thing, you don’t have to commit to volunteering if you’re not up for it. Consider the joining itself as step one. Engaging with it can happen when you’re ready, and that will be covered in future columns. 

After working in graphic design and photography for years, Colleen Ellithorpe went back to school to become a librarian. In the past 10 years, she has conserved 150-year-old maps, created and migrated a public library website, coordinated annual week-long astronomy festivals, and even painted a couple of murals. It's been an interesting career so far for her. She recently began a government librarian position at NYSED and continues to look forward to new challenges. When she is not working, she keeps up with continuing education and volunteers with local nonprofit organizations. She is here to talk about how to do just that - engage and grow within the industry and connect and develop outside of libraries too.