Learning to Lead: Another Benefit of SLA Membership

This is the fourth in a five-part series of blog posts about four recent recipients of the SLA Philadelphia Chapter’s Knower Fund Travel Award. The first post described the Knower Fund and introduced the travel award recipients; in the second post, the award recipients discussed the reasons they joined SLA and the lessons they learned while attending their first SLA Annual Conference. In the third post, the award recipients described how their SLA connections helped them make the transition from library school to the workforce.

The focus of this post is how the award recipients continue to find value in SLA membership and especially in volunteer opportunities.

Now that they’ve found jobs in the library field and made some professional connections, Chrystelle Browman, Erin Nagawiecki, Marrette Pearsall, and Michelle Klaw might figure they have no more need for SLA membership.

True, their membership in SLA introduced them to the Philadelphia Chapter and its 200-plus members, who gave them career advice, helped them with their résumés, and alerted them to job openings. And, yes, they received travel awards from the chapter’s Beverly M. Knower Fund to attend the SLA Annual Conference, where they met more SLA members and made more connections. But the hard part—making the transition from school to the workforce—is behind them, so what value could SLA membership possibly offer now?

Plenty, it turns out. All four continue to be involved in SLA, and two are actively engaged in leadership roles.

Chrystelle Browman, who migrated from Philadelphia to the West Coast and works as a legal research analyst at a law firm, recently completed three years of dual volunteer service with the SLA San Francisco Bay Region and Silicon Valley Chapters. With the former, she served as the sponsorship chair, which helped her build relationships with the library community at large and improve her communication skills. In the Silicon Valley Chapter, she served as the programming director, helping to create events that benefited the chapter members.

“For me, the primary benefit of being active in any professional organization is the networking opportunities,” she says. “You never know who will introduce you to a new product or a new job. I also want to note that I’ve made several long-lasting friendships.”

Erin Nagawiecki, a competitive intelligence research analyst at a law firm, is still active in the Philadelphia Chapter and is also a member of the Competitive Intelligence and Legal Divisions of SLA. “I enjoy our local chapter events, where I can talk with colleagues about work or life in a relaxed setting,” she says.

Marrette Pearsall, the systems librarian for the Montgomery County (Pa.) Law Library, could be forgiven for taking a respite from SLA, given that she served a three-year stint as president elect, president, and past president of the Philadelphia Chapter from 2014 through 2016. Instead, she doubled down on SLA and agreed to serve as treasurer of the chapter this year.

“I was talking to an SLA member who holds an executive board position for another chapter—she views volunteering for SLA as a practice for skills you would like to use in your career,” Marrette says. “I agree. If you would like to learn negotiation skills, volunteer for the programming committee and negotiate with caterers and event planners. If you would like to get experience with directing a project or project management, volunteer for the programming chair position. If you would like to understand what the big deal is with Facebook or Twitter, but do not know how you use it, volunteer with the communications or marketing committee. You get to see the work involved, practice it, maybe mess up, do it again, and learn.”

Michelle Klaw, a technical services librarian at a Philadelphia law firm, is the early career leader for the Philadelphia Chapter and the coordinator of the chapter’s newly launched Resume Review and Practice Interview Bureau, which consists of local librarians and information professionals who provide feedback on résumés and offer informational interviews and practice interviews to job seekers.

“I have benefited from the networking and leadership opportunities that being an SLA member has provided me,” says Michelle, who is also a member of the Leadership & Management and the Biomedical & Life Science Divisions of SLA.

In their final post, Michelle, Erin, Marrette, and Chrystelle will share their advice for students and new information professionals about getting involved in SLA early in their careers.

—Valerie J. Ryder
2016–2017 Membership Chair
SLA Philadelphia Chapter

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