In my state of Virginia, I am very fortunate to be a member of the state librarian’s association—the Virginia Association of School Librarians (VAASL). As the old American Express commercial used to say, “Membership has its privileges.”
Possibly the most important benefit is collaboration and community. VAASL has a listserv, regional conferences, an annual conference, Twitter account, and more. Because of all of these things, I have learned so much—things to ponder as well as ideas I could use the very next day in my library. I will never forget the time my friend Liz and I were at the banquet at the annual conference. We were brand new school librarians and chatting with a colleague, Kathy, a veteran librarian. Kathy said, “You know, when I was an elementary librarian, I always had my lessons on a Tuesday-Monday cycle. That way, I could begin the week knowing what to do—I had already taught the lessons the week before.” Liz and I looked at each other, stunned! What wonderful information! We started doing this lesson cycle right away, and it helped our stress level over the weekend and on Monday mornings so much. You may snicker, but it is true.
Along with fun tidbits as told above, when you attend your state conferences, the presenters are mostly colleagues. We do have author and vendor sessions, but the vast majority are fellow school librarians. This is your chance to talk to your peers, as we are very often the only librarians in our schools. I have attended sessions on everything from collection development to the new AASL Standards, and the discussions that follow in the hallways, over lunch, and in the elevators are so worthwhile. It is a chance to commiserate and celebrate with people who know EXACTLY what you are experiencing.
Another benefit is leadership. Your state association always needs help in the form of volunteers. In VAASL, we have six geographic regions in our state. In my first year as a librarian, I was asked to serve as the James Region Director-Elect. I would help organize and plan our James Region conference for a year, and then the next year, I would be the director with more responsibilities. I have to admit: I thought the folks asking were a little crazy. What did I have to offer as a brand new librarian? My Longwood professors convinced me that this was not a mistake and that I should accept. It turned out to be a great learning experience for me. I was able to attend executive board meetings, vote on state issues, and lead our region in decisions. I was able to take that leadership and be confident when talking to staff, colleagues, and other stakeholders, based on that regional experience. Even newbies have lots to offer!
If you haven’t joined your state association yet, I urge you to do so. If you are a member, I urge you to get more involved. Many, many volunteer jobs are short-term—a few hours or less. Belonging and being active in your state association will give you much, much more than you put in. It can literally be life changing.
Author: Elizabeth Kyser
H!! I am the lucky librarian at Ettrick Elementary School, located in Chesterfield County, Virginia. I graduated with a degree in History from Allegheny College, received a Master of Education degree from Loyola University in Maryland, and my library certification classes were taken at Longwood University. I was a classroom teacher for fourteen years before I became a school librarian and I am so glad I was. Please feel free to find me on social media. I am energized by sharing ideas with colleagues from around the world!