‘SLA Helped Me Gain Confidence in My Skills’
Catherine Lavallée-Welch has moved across the Atlantic Ocean (twice), worked in three different countries on two continents, and started an academic library from scratch. But odds are she never underwent a transition as abrupt as the one she experienced at a happy hour in Louisville sponsored by the SLA Kentucky Chapter.
“The Kentucky Chapter of SLA is a force to reckon with,” she told Information Outlook. “They take you in and they don’t let go, and they’re very friendly. I went to a social event they held, it was a cocktail hour kind of thing in a bar. By the end of the night, I had volunteered myself to be the webmaster and newsletter co-editor.”
Like many SLA members, Catherine has found that the connections and skills she has acquired through her volunteer activities have complemented the experience she has gained at her jobs. She strongly encourages her fellow librarians at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse to follow in her footsteps and join an association, believing they—and the university library as well—will benefit from the membership.
“I’m a big fan, as a library director, of having my librarians be involved in professional associations because I know they are going to learn skills, and it’s an investment in them and their careers,” she said. “It’s also an investment in my organization, because I think I’m going to have better librarians from that. I’ve really enjoyed being active at the chapter and division level, because you can go deeper into a role and you can try things—for example, I’ve never been an event planner, so I’m going to try that. It’s a safe environment to do it.”
Catherine has plenty more to say about her SLA experience, as well as the challenges of managing a library, the advantages of being bilingual, and why she went to the “dark side” of librarianship rather than becoming an archivist, in her interview in Information Outlook.