Candidate question #1: Why I joined SLA

Question 1: When did you first join SLA? What made you decide to join then, and why do you still belong today?  Bethan Ruddock, Candidate for Director


I first heard of SLA in early 2009, when my library school tutor sent me a link to the SLA Europe Early Career Conference Awards (ECCAs), and said ‘you should really apply for this’. I knew very little about SLA at the time, but as I discovered more about SLA while applying for and after winning the award (co-sponsored by the Insurance and Employee Benefits Division), I started to get more intrigued by the association. ‘What’s a baseball caucus? And an open house? And what’s so ‘special’ about these libraries, anyway?’ And then I got to conference in Washington, and was hooked.

There I was, not long out of library school, at the SLA Centennial. It was my first conference, and is still my largest. I’d never seen so many information professionals in one place! And the best thing? They were all so nice. That ‘first-timer’ ribbon drew kind people like a magnet, and although I occasionally felt overwhelmed, I never felt out of place.

I left conference determined to stay involved with SLA, and ‘pay back’ some of the benefits I’d felt from wining the ECCA and attending conference. I was delighted to be offered the opportunity to work with the SLA Europe board as Early Careers co-chair, giving other new professionals the incredible opportunity I’d had to get involved with SLA. 2009 was a fascinating time to be part of SLA, with the debate about the name change and the start of the Alignment Project. SLA felt like an association that was really thinking about its role and looking to the future, and it wasn’t just that I wanted to be part of that: I wanted others to be part of it, too.

The more I do with SLA, the more I am delighted by the openness, generosity, and professionalism of its members. SLA isn’t the biggest professional association I’m part of, but it strikes me as the most dedicated. I don’t think anyone’s an SLA member because it looks good on their resume or because their employer expects it. People are SLA members because they want to be – because they want to make a difference, to get involved, to develop themselves, others, and the profession.

And those people are why I’m still an SLA member: because when I think ‘wait, who do I know who could help me with that?’, the answer usually lies in the SLA membership database.

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