Topic Spotlight: Professional Organizations

Joining a professional organization is a great way to make connections, get involved, and gain access to exclusive benefits only available to members, such as newsletters, professional development, directories, discussion boards, and discounts. As a student, you may be unsure whether joining a professional organization is right for you. Though you may not be a professional quite yet, there are a lot of great benefits to joining a professional organization while you are still working on your degree.

As a student in the iSchool’s MLIS program who is interested in academic and research libraries, I am a student member of the American Library Association (ALA), the Ohio Library Council (OLC), and the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), so I am speaking mostly from experience with these particular organizations, but there are numerous other organizations that meet the interests of students in all programs and pathways at the iSchool. I have listed many of these organizations at the end of this post. 

The American Library Association (ALA) is probably the most well-known LIS professional organization. This is a great organization to get involved with, especially if you are still figuring out your path in the LIS world and aren’t quite sure which areas of specialization you are interested in. ALA does a great job of seeking out student members and offering resources that cater to their specific needs. Additionally, the Ohio Library Council and ALA offer a great discount for students enrolled in an MLIS program: joint membership in both the American Library Association and the Ohio Library Council costs only $42. For reference, ALA student membership costs $39, so for only a few more dollars you can also belong to your state library association. Most state library associations participate in the joint membership offer, so this deal does not only apply to Ohio residents. You can learn more about joint membership and sign up here.

Regardless of which organizations you decide to join, most groups recognize the value of student membership and offer some great perks to members who are still earning their degrees.

Benefits of joining a professional organization as a student include:

  1. Reduced membership fees

Student membership fees are usually a small fraction of the regular membership fees. For example, I joined ACRL for five dollars. The regular membership fee for ACRL is $68, and many professional organizations charge much more than that. Some cost hundreds of dollars. Take advantage of the student discount while you can!

  1. Discounts on events and professional development opportunities

Like with the membership fees, students also often receive discounts on events and other programs presented by the organization (admittedly, some of the price tags on these are exorbitant even when drastically reduced for students, but there are still great deals to be had). One of the biggest lifesavers is reduced conference registration costs. For example, ALA Midwinter is free for student members this year, while regular members must pay $130. This is another discount that you will sorely miss when you graduate and have to pay hundreds of dollars if you want to attend a conference. 

  1. Opportunities to make connections with professionals in the field

In addition to the great networking opportunities available at conferences, some professional organizations also provide their members with opportunities to connect virtually. For example, ALA offers “ALA Connect” on their website, where members can go to discuss ideas, seek advice, announce opportunities/programs, etc. This is a great resource for students to keep up with library trends, gain advice from professionals, and hear about job opportunities and programs that are being offered. Networking is a big part of belonging to professional organizations, so this is a good way for students to get their feet wet in making connections with professionals in their field of interest.

  1. Subscriptions to newsletters and magazines

As a member of a professional organization, you will usually be subscribed to the group’s mailing list, which often includes a virtual newsletter. These newsletters provide updates on related news in the field, professional development opportunities that are being offered, scholarships, and job openings, to name a few. 

Some organizations also offer members the option to subscribe to their magazine for free. This is kind of a bonus that I wanted to throw in because you may or may not care about receiving magazines from your professional organizations, but I felt so excited and official when I got my first issue of ALA’s American Libraries magazine in the mail!

  1. Familiarity with involvement in a professional organization 

Professional organizations are a big part of life for information professionals. Many of the benefits of belonging to an organization (keeping up with news and trends in your field of interest, participating in workshops and webinars, and forming connections with other members of the organization) are also the key to developing yourself into a well-rounded, successful information professional. Joining now, while membership fees are significantly lower, is a great opportunity to begin exploring what professional organizations have to offer as you get more established in your career.

Below are some professional organizations organized by the iSchool’s MLIS pathways and other programs. This is not an exhaustive list, but includes many of the major organizations. 

Applied Data Science

American Society of Information Science & Technology (ASIS&T)
Research Data Access & Preservation (RDAP)
Research Data Alliance (RDA)

Cultural Heritage Informatics

Society of American Archivists (SAA)
Ohio Museums Association (OMA)
American Alliance of Museums (AAM)

Data, Information and Technology

Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC)
American Society of Information Science & Technology (ASIS&T)
Research Data Access & Preservation (RDAP)
Research Data Alliance (RDA)

Digital Humanities

Association for Computers and the Humanities (ACH)
Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory (HASTAC)
Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations (ADHO)

Information Access and Discovery

Association for Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS)
Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL)
Public Library Association (PLA)
Reference and User Services Association (RUSA)

Information and Knowledge Organization

American Society of Information Science & Technology (ASIS&T)
International Society for Knowledge Organization (ISKO) 
Special Libraries Association (SLA)

Youth Engagement

Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC)
Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)

Organizations Based on Other iSchool Programs:

K-12 School Library Media

American Association of School Librarians (AASL)
Ohio Educational Library Media Association (OELMA)

Health Informatics

Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS)
Northern Ohio HIMSS Chapter (NOHIMSS)
Ohio Health Information Management Association (OHIMA)

Knowledge Management 

Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM)
Special Libraries Association (SLA)

User Experience 

User Experience Professionals Association (UXPA)

Brendan Latran – Student Spotlight

Tell us a little about your background.

My name is Brendan Latran, and I am scheduled to graduate at the end of 2020 from the iSchool with my MLIS. My journey to this point in my life has been unconventional, but during these times, “unconventional” is more ordinary now than it was a year ago.

I was born and raised in Long Valley, New Jersey, and I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Film, Video, and Interactive Media from Quinnipiac University. I originally came to Kent State University to earn an MFA in Scenic Design, but after a particular project for the teaching assistantship I earned, I pivoted towards Library and Information Sciences; within a month I was accepted into the MLIS program. Since I started the program the realm of intelligence work, political strategy, knowledge management, and research librarianship has been the main focus of my studies.

Tell us about your internship site.

I interned at Bandwidth, Inc. as their first Information Heuristics Expert (intern) for the 2020 Summer, and I’ve been greatly honored to have my internship period extended till I graduate at the end of the year. Bandwidth is a software company providing “Software as a Service” (SaaS) for telecommunications across the country, for example in text messaging/notifications, emergency/911 communications, etc.

How did you find out about this internship?

I found out about the internship when I was searching for internships with the term “masters in library and information science” on LinkedIn. That really was the key to finding any internship opportunities for future MLIS students. If you can find a posting with that requirement, you should be relatively successful.

What sort of work did you do during your internship?

Mostly the work revolved around “problem-solving.” I was given a business challenge involving knowledge management, and the capturing and sharing of tacit knowledge, and was told to research new tools and techniques. From there, I developed an “out of the box” solution that is modeled like an “old-school, OSS-like intelligence network” that can capture, discover, and synthesize new knowledge to be used by the company.

These proposed solutions have changed though since I’ve continued my work. More time on the project means I can go “deeper down the rabbit-hole” and discover things I hadn’t come across yet. It is a far more complex challenge now, after discovering the inner workings of the AGILE Software Development process. I am now researching what I’ve deemed the “AGILEvolution” and trying to find out what the next stage to better capture tacit knowledge in an extremely dynamic workspace.

What was your favorite part of the internship?

I love puzzles, and that’s exactly what this project is; a puzzle. The ongoing adventure of testing theories, and discovering new bits of information, always kept me interested. I was able to apply my skills towards a real-life situation and test out my work in an enterprise environment.

The people were amazing to work with. Despite the fact that everything was virtual (thank you, COVID), everyone was supportive and very friendly to me and the rest of the interns. They called us “Headliners” because the interns were doing really important work rather than doing typical “roadie” work (i.e. “getting coffee,” and basic intern grunt work).

What is your advice to students looking to complete an internship?

PERSISTENCE. Another important thing I learned is that library and information science is a very diverse degree and a group of skills that can be applied to a wide variety of different jobs and sectors; especially, the private sector. Be open to the possibilities that you can do with your experience and the degree; don’t just limit your potential to only one thing, apply to anything and everything.

The other thing that I want to share with any incoming students into the program involves the massive “up-turn” of our employment opportunities during the pandemic. I had the majority of my future jobs get dissolved during the pandemic (thankfully the internship was unaffected), but you need to keep in mind is that all of those events are out of your control; you can’t do anything about it, and that’s okay; that’s how the world works. If you can’t do anything about it, why are you worried about it? This isn’t the end of the game, you’re just going to need to be a little more creative and bold with your next move.

The best way to go after these problems starts within yourself. If your attitude is mostly negative, you’ve already lost. When I received the news about my future opportunities, I thought to myself: “Okay, a little bit of a setback, but I’ve lived and succeeded through much worse. We’re just gonna need to hunker down and work hard.” That would be my advice to you in working towards your success as a newly graduated LIS professional. And if you ever need advice, I am more than happy to help!

Topic Spotlight: Self Care and Mental Health

Self care and mental health were already crucial topics for graduate students long before the COVID-19 pandemic began, but the furloughs, lay-offs, cancellations, and shut downs that began around March of this year made talking about self care and mental health more important than ever before. Many of us struggle with balancing classes, a job (or multiple jobs), an internship, professional organizations, and family. 

Now, we are struggling with additional stress at work due to COVID-19 regulations and fears. Some are anxious over finding work and making ends meet after being furloughed or laid off or having a partner furloughed or laid off. Others may be concerned about the health of elderly family members or exhausted each day from caring for children who are learning from home this year.

While searching for resources, I found several helpful self care and mental health tips. Here are a few takeaways that really resonated with me:

  1. Take a break from electronics. This is especially crucial during the pandemic, where people have replaced many of their physical connections with virtual ones. As an online student, you will also spend a massive amount of time on the computer, so it is important to take a break in order to rest your eyes and  mind. Do a puzzle or play a board game, take a walk, take a drive, make a craft, or cook yourself a meal – anything to step away from computers, iPhones, and TVs for a while.
  1. Figure out a time management plan. As a graduate student, time management is crucial. Impending due dates can really bog you down with stress and anxiety, so having a laid out schedule for your class work can help to ease your mind and organize your thoughts. At the beginning of each week, look at your course due dates as well as your personal schedule, and set aside specific days and times that week to read and work on your assignments. Having a formal schedule and a plan written out can help settle some of the anxiety over completing classwork.
  1. Find some way to blow off steam. This is tougher during a pandemic, as the gym may not be an option for many people, but there are still many different ways to break a sweat and get off of the couch or the computer. This could be biking, walking or jogging around your neighborhood, shooting baskets, or doing a quick yoga session in your room. Anything to get your body moving and your mind off of the things that are making you stressed. 
  1. Recognize your feelings of stress and anxiety and take steps to better cope with those negative emotions. This may include seeking counseling. Sometimes self care alone is not enough to ease mental health concerns. This resource list includes links to Kent State Psychological Services, which can help you figure out a way to move forward.

The following resources provide information on mental health and self care. Some were specifically written with COVID-19 in mind, while others focus on self care and mental health in general. Many resources also focus on self care from an LIS perspective.

Self Care and Mental Health Programs

9/23/2020 10:00 am ET. This webinar will help you take control of your choices and your life, increase your sense of positivity and positive emotions, and work toward responding to adversity with optimism and hope. Registration is free for iSchool students through NEO-RLS’s Gold Membership. All you have to do to take advantage of the Gold Membership is create an account through NEO-RLS and identify yourself as an iSchool student.

Kent State Psychological Services is offering virtual group counseling this semester. You can learn more about these groups below.

Art of Coping Group

This virtual group will help you learn to overcome challenges and set realistic expectations. You will also learn strategies to increase mindfulness, regulate emotions and tolerate distress, and break out of negative cycles. The group will start meeting on Wednesday, September 16th and take place every following Tuesday from 3:30 – 5:00pm. You can register for the group here.

Anxiety and Stress During COVID-19 Group

This virtual group will help you work to manage the stress of everyday life during COVID-19. Some topics of discussion in this group will be overcoming excessive worrying and negative thinking, and learning relaxation and self-care techniques to cope with anxiety. The group will start meeting on Tuesday, September 15th and take place every following Tuesday from 4:00 – 5:00pm. You can register for the group here.

Kent State of Wellness is offering virtual, facilitated meditation sessions every week day this semester as part of the Meditation Across Campus program. Meditation sessions last for around 30 minutes and are free for students.

Kent State of Wellness is offering Koru Mindfulness training for free to Kent State students. In these classes, you’ll discover how to incorporate mindfulness skills and meditation into your life to better manage stress.

LIS Resources

This webinar, hosted by ALA JobLIST Placement and Career Development Center, looks at twelve strategies for managing stress. The link provides access to the archived webinar and a related resource list.

Kent State Resources

Kent State of Wellness is a university-wide health and wellness promotion initiative. You can access their COVID-19 support resource list here.

KSU Psychological Services is currently offering teletherapy and telepsychology M-F 8am-5pm. Students who are in Ohio and have access to a laptop and Wi-Fi for video conferencing are eligible.

Included in the resource center is a list of self-care resources for BIPOC.

Other Useful Resources

This organization provides mental health resources specifically for students of color.

This organization is focused on the mental health and wellness of college students. You can access their Coronavirus resource center here.