As I write this, we are about four weeks out from the 2014 Annual Conference where I will formally (and nervously) take the helm of our Arizona Library Association. Since being elected, I’ve been struggling with what I want my ‘platform’ to be during my year as President, and what theme we should have for next year’s Conference. I thought about technology, services, funding, staffing, user expectations, and more, but there is so much going on in the library world that it difficult to find something that is not a moving target. And while my work focus and activities have been geared towards Government Information and Academic Libraries, this AzLA President gig means promoting and supporting all types of libraries and the diverse folks who do their best every day to deliver critical library services to the people of Arizona (and beyond). What the heck do I have in common with a rural public librarian, a prison librarian, or a school librarian? (Aside from the fact that we are obviously not in it for the money)…
I reflected about my own experience with AzLA (member since 2000!) and I realized I actually had worked side-by-side with a diverse group of Arizona library staff – in AzLA! That is what we have in common! I started thinking about the great people I’ve gotten to know, the opportunities I’d taken advantage of, the frustrations I’d endured, and the satisfaction I’d experienced. Many of the activities I’d engaged in weren’t my issues as an Academic Government Information Librarian, they were our issues. Or, they weren’t activities that I was particularly interested in, but they provided opportunities for others, while providing me with valuable experience and contacts outside of my job. And sure, there were/are frustrations, but that’s part of growing and negotiating change.
And so, I’ve decided to focus on member engagement, from the new (or lapsed) member all the way up to the Executive Board. Libraries in Arizona are doing great things in tough times. If you feel like some issues are bigger than you or your library, I can guarantee that you are not alone. One of the best ways to leverage individual efforts is to join up with others who share similar passions and similar frustrations, using the one to combat the other. Together we are better, that is the essence of the association.
The fact that this year’s Conference is being held jointly with friends and colleagues from the Mountain Plains Library Association makes it all the more special for me, as a longtime member of each group. Earlier this year as we were considering speakers for the ‘Best of the West’ conference, I was thinking about who I might get to close the conference and kick off my year as President. The stars aligned around Maggie Farrell, someone I had known for a few years had never worked with. She had started as a Gov Docs Librarian at Arizona State University and was now Dean of the Libraries at the University of Wyoming. She has always been engaged in professional associations from Chair of the AzLA Conference Committee to the MPLA Continuing Education Committee to ALA and beyond. As important, if not more, is that she also encourages and supports those who work with her to get involved as well. Best of the West, indeed.
I hope you were able to join us for Maggie’s “Engagement with our Profession” closing talk, and will now join me in engaging with our AzLA in the year ahead.