That was the question in my inbox from an post MLS grad this morning. With Annual looming in the not so distant future (gosh, I wish May was a little farther away), I thought I would share my response here as well.
Being involved in ALA can be very rewarding. Yes there is stodginess and red tape galore, but the people are great (if you find your niche). Which bring me to item one:
Find your niche. ALA is not for everyone, but if you decide it is for you, find a group working on stuff you love. There are groups in ALA for almost everything. Find the one that speaks to you. I would suggest starting with only one group and branching out from there. If you become really involved, one may be all you can handle!
Go to as much of your chosen group’s stuff as possible. I am not talking about big sessions on topics, unless they are small discussion groups. Every committee, roundtable, or division has business meetings and social events. Go to those. Introduce yourself. Happy hours are especially good for this. Everybody is happy with a drink in their hand. It is intimidating to walk up to people you do not know and introduce yourself, but do it anyway, especially if you are familiar with that person’s work. I have met a lot of wonderful people this way. The two that come to mind which I remember clearly doing this to are Michael Stephens and Walt Crawford. Either they do not remember our first encounters or they have continued to be nice to me anyway!
Volunteer to do stuff. Anything. Many times, people will be happy to have new people wanting to do things. That is how I got so involved in LITA. Some groups are easier to move around in than others. I have, so far, been involved with ACRL Instruction Section and LITA. I have found LITA to be more of my taste topic wise and much easier to get involved in. If you do a good job, people will remember and give you more work. This unfortunately means more work, but you should be having fun.
Have fun. Speak up. Make ALA your own. ALA belongs to all of us. Yes, it is a monster at times, but it will only get better if we all pitch in with our ideas and take action.
–Jane, wants to build ALA 2.0