Back to Basics: Value of Professional Associations and Conferences to You and Your Organization

It is timely to remember and share some thoughts about the value of a professional association. The value comes from not only being a member but also by being active in one way or other because despite issues that occur in any organization, they have their value both short and long term.

The SLA Leadership meeting in New Orleans is coming up in a few weeks and the annual meeting in Cleveland will be in June. It is a great opportunity to meet colleagues, enhance leadership skills, and enjoy the city.  January and June are some of the prime conference times for librarians and information professionals. Do you participate in one or more of these? There are many other meetings and activities that occur throughout the year that are also valuable but that are not necessarily directly associated with a professional associations and those should be considered as well.

OK, so what is so good and valuable about these things? The information industry is turning upside down and sideways many times over and has been for a long time. Participating (notice I don’t say attending) in conferences in person or at least virtually enables you to hear about what is going on and talk with other people who are dealing with all of it.

A couple of key points:

*Conferences are a good investment if you take full advantage of what they offer – so while everyone’s financial situation is different, just because your employer doesn’t pay for your expenses doesn’t mean you can’t/won’t/shouldn’t participate. Success comes from investing your time, effort and money throughout your career, not just when you earned your graduate degree. You invested in your education to get yourself going in a career. It doesn’t stop there. You have to continue to invest in yourself and as stated previously that takes time, effort and oh yes, money. Let’s look at this a bit more closely in a way you may not have done so previously.

Many times people complain about the cost of conference registration, workshops and the typical travel costs on top of that. Indeed, it is an investment and sometimes it is just not feasible to have that kind of expense on a regular basis. But how about this. Think about how much it costs for a credit hour at a typical university — not when you went to school (for those of us who have been around a while), but now. The cost will be on average several hundred dollars to $1,000 and lots more (depending upon the school) per credit hour. This adds up to lots of thousands of dollars over a one to two year period. If you were willing to spend that kind of money to get your degree, don’t you think spending a small portion of that on a reasonably regular basis to keep yourself informed and well prepared is worth it?

Another point is the opportunity to meet friends and colleagues you already know and to make new friends. Many people talk about how they discovered a job opportunity or learned something new or simply made some new, fabulous friends at a conference. The job marketplace is more dynamic than ever, and you never know what may change at a moment’s notice. It is not unusual to have a career in many different arenas over time, and those contacts you make at conferences become invaluable in understanding what is possible. All in all, it’s important to invest in yourself and take advantage of the many opportunities provided in lifelong learning at conferences and by other means.

 

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