How has involvement with SLA over the years helped you grow professionally and personally? Bethan Ruddock, candidate for Director
When I joined SLA, I was very much a new professional. I’d been out of library school and working in my first professional post for less than a year, and was just starting to get to grips with what it really meant to be an information professional. My colleagues were supporting me brilliantly within the workplace, but outside that I hadn’t engaged with the wider profession. Then along came SLA, and everything changed.
Winning an SLA Europe Early Career Conference Award (ECCA), attending conference, and working with the SLA Europe board made a huge difference to how I viewed professional associations. Before this, I’d thought along the lines of ‘what can my professional association do for me?’. My gratitude for all SLA and its members had done for me in my ECCA experience flipped this to ‘what can I do for my professional association?’.
But more than just gratitude: SLA gave me the confidence to step up and serve. If the SLA Europe board hadn’t asked me to join the board and help with the running of the ECCAs and other early career activities, I don’t think I’d have dared put myself forward. And it was a post that helped me to discover how wonderfully rewarding it is to help and mentor others, and really sparked my interest in supporting new professionals.
As I’ve grown as a professional, SLA has always been there challenging me to try new things, and to take my volunteering and involvement beyond roles I was comfortable with. The people I’ve met through SLA have become some of my closest professional contacts, giving me a network of friends, inspirations, and mentors – formal and informal.
And now SLA has issued one of the biggest challenges of my career so far, calling me to step forward to serve the association and all its members at the highest level by standing for the board of directors.
Whether I’m elected or not, the process so far has already helped me to grow enormously. I’ve had to get more comfortable in my ‘extrovert suit’, and start thinking about the factors which affect the association and the profession on a much wider scale. Whatever happens, I hope this new-found understanding of the challenges and environment for the profession, and of the absolute importance of balancing the one with the many, the individual member with the association, stay with me throughout my career, and help to make me a better and more compassionate professional.