Giving Back To The Profession

I recently attended the New England Technical Services Librarians 2014 Annual Spring Conference, or NETSL 2014. I’ve attended NETSL for some time now. My first time was in 2006 as a GSLIS student at Simmons. Later, I volunteered to help out with registration. Then I joined the board as Treasurer. This current board year, I’m the Past President, finishing up not only a three year term as I started as Vice President, but also after a year as treasurer and as a volunteer. Each year, NETSL hands out the NETSL Award for Excellence in Technical Services. This year, the NETSL Award went to Amira Aaron of Northeastern University and Diane Baden from Boston College. What I found particularly moving this year was Diane’s acceptance speech about networking and mentoring. In short, she explained that it was a great honor to receive this award. For her, her involvement in the profession was all about learning, networking, reaching out and giving back to the profession. This struck home. Many of us are on committees of one sort or another. Many librarians are also tenured or seek tenure or perhaps a promotion which involves showing evidence of professional activity and scholarly research. Being professionally active because it will count towards moving up the career ladder is one reason. Granted, many might this as myopic. But I see it as a good start to becoming involved if it leads to a greater understanding of what it means to be part of the profession and what it means to be professional. I would like to emphasize the “good start”. Being professionally involved cannot be solely about working up the career ladder. Well I guess it can but that would mean a very ambitious sort of climb that might be helpful only for the climber. I would prefer to see professional involvement as giving back to the profession and where librarians really excel at sharing and communicating amongst themselves their expertise and experiences. This passion to help our profession comes not from being ambitious towards greater professional peaks but the willingness to see our profession grow and evolve. Is this idealistic? Certainly, though not entirely! It is also practical. By being on committees, presenting, networking, being mentored or mentoring, we learn through engagement. With small steps, we breach the many silos that we work in and around each day to do a better job as librarians as a whole. To be engaged is to work collaboratively with our peers for better or worse.

This sentiment was echoed in the remembrance for Birdie MacLennan, a prominent New England librarian who passed away recently. The remembrance was delivered by two of Birdie’s mentees and one of Birdie’s mentors. They recalled how Birdie would selfless help those navigate a new career as a librarian. This was done not only through networking but also through engagement with others to further the field of technical services in librarianship.

Out of all the presentations that day, the most moving were Diane’s acceptance speech and this remembrance. Each reminded me that engagement is so much more than just an accomplishment. It is giving back to the profession by learning and collaborating with your peers.

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