Hello everyone! I am starting a new feature here on the ALA blog where we interview someone who is the head of a local professional library or information science organization. With all the information out there about professional organizations for librarians, it can be confusing for a student or new librarian to navigate through them. We hope that these interviews will help students learn more about smaller organizations and how to really get involved in a meaningful way with them. Right now the feature will be monthly, but I hope that we can make it bi-monthly in the future.
ALA Student Chapter at UCLA Guide to Professional Organizations for Students
For our first interview, the wonderful April Cunningham agreed to a phone interview, even though she was home feeling ill, to talk about Southern California Instruction Librarians (SCIL)and how professional organizations can benefit their members. April Cunningham is the Chair for the Southern California Instruction Librarians interest group. She is also the Library Instruction Coordinator at Saddleback College.
April Cunningham is the Chair for the Southern California Instruction Librarians Interest Group. She is also the Library Instruction Coordinator at Saddleback College.
SCIL stands for Southern California Instruction Librarians. It’s an interest group within CARL (California Academic and Research Libraries) which is itself a local chapter of ACRL (Association of College and Research Libraries). Got that? Don’t worry, the important thing to know is that it’s a local organization that allows its members to get together and discuss issues in library instruction and information literacy. SCIL also puts on two events per year, SCIL Works and their Spring Program, that let local librarians present and share what they have been doing and learn more about professional skills they can take to their jobs.
Diana Tedone: How did you get involved with SCIL?
April Cunningham: I did not know about SCIL until my first job where my boss suggested I get involved. SCIL was very open to new members and was a great chance to be mentored by librarians with lots of experience and who were passionate about their jobs. SCIL makes it easy to get involved from the beginning of your membership. Also, I was fortunate to have employers who were supportive of the time-commitment I made to SCIL, not every institution is.
DT: What types of programs and services does SCIL provide?
AC: During our business meetings, which take place every six weeks, we have a period called “share and learn” where we choose an article and the reading group discusses it. Our latest share and learn topic was Threshold Concepts, which is a way of looking at teaching that emphasizes the transformation students have to go through in order to start to think about their disciplines the way experts do.
Almost every year we put on SCIL Works in January or February. It’s a half day conference with 3-4 sessions like what you see at a national conference. It’s a good chance for local librarians to show what they are doing in the profession. The recent theme of SCIL Works was Reflective Practice
We also have a Spring Program in May. We bring a professional from outside the library world to speak about things like assessment or management, topics that are important to librarians but in which our profession has not yet developed a great deal of expertise.
For example, one of our speakers, a professor of Education, talked about assessing one shot teaching sessions. Another speaker from Lean Management and Continuous Improvement spoke about the philosophy of management, like value added techniques and looking at processes to make work run more smoothly.
Also, in the last five years we’ve presented at ACRL (Association of College and Research Libraries) about instructional space, how to set up classrooms and work with physical limits a librarian might have in their classroom. And in 2007 we hosted LOEX (Library Orientation Exchange) in San Diego.
Note: more information about LOEX here: http://public.csusm.edu/acarr/loex/index.html
DT: What is the most rewarding of being involved with professional organizations?
AC: The relationships, for sure. It’s where I get support, which is sometimes hard for instructional librarians to find on their own campuses. Often on a campus there is only one instruction coordinator. While many librarians do instruction as part of their job they have other duties as well, so this is a chance to go and talk to people doing similar jobs and bring back a few ideas. “This is what I’m doing, this is what has worked, this is what hasn’t.” Through SCIL I’ve made some of my closest professional relationships and it lets me see beyond my own campus.
SCIL is a way to get support from other professionals who are experiencing some of the same things you are. The thing about instruction, which you’ll hear a lot, is the idea of needing to lead and manage without any authority. If you’re in collection development or technical services you don’t have to ask other librarians outside your department to do a lot for you, but everyone shares in instruction. Other librarians will have a lot of things to worry about besides instruction, so it’s great to have an opportunity to meet and talk about managing instructional programs and developing ourselves as teachers.
DT: I talked to Amy Wallace a few weeks ago and she mentioned the importance of meeting new people as a beginning librarian.
AC: Yes, SCIL is also good for networking, I’ve known some people who’ve gotten jobs through SCIL. Also, for me it made a difference to have the foundation that SCIL provides when moving from different colleges as I was changing jobs at the beginning of my career.
DT: What is the most challenging part of being involved in a professional organizations?
AC: I think time. Finding time out of your other responsibilities to get involved is hard. For me it balances, because what I learn makes other parts of my job easier. It really depends on the support of your institution.
DT: What types of opportunities does SCIL have for students?
AC: SCIL Works is a great place to present ideas and posters. There are also student discounts for programs.
Students may not have made a commitment yet to what area they want to get in to, but in our view they will probably be teaching more then they expect no matter what. We think it’s great to explore that early.
There is so much information and opportunities it’s hard to maneuver through different organizations. Something SCIL has asked is how much to reach out to students, and what role students can have with the organization. As chair I want to raise awareness among students. If students could be introduced in school they will have a better chance to take advantage of opportunities they may not be aware of yet. Within SCIL there are a lot of chances for interested graduate student to find connections and turn those into a project or internship.
It’s a way to break down the barrier between students and professionals.
DT: That’s true about students being overwhelmed the amount of professional organizations. As a student I’ve been encouraged to get involved with professional organizations, but I’ve never really been sure how,
AC: Because we meet regularly you have the opportunity to make connections quickly. When we see people at more than one meeting they can easily become part of the group.
DT: What advice do you have for graduate students who want to get involved with professional organizations?
AC: Try out a few meetings of different groups. In my experience you make so many personal connections. Find a place that feels comfortable and welcoming. It may matter less what the group is for, because it’s more about making connections with other librarians.
To learn more you can visit the SCIL website here:
To learn more you can visit the SCIL website here:
Do you have a particular organization you want us to interview, or any interview questions you think we should ask? Feel free to comment on this post, or send us an email at email@example.com.