Thursday, 18 August 2011

Getting involved in professional organisations

As shown in my previous post for Thing 7, I'm a supporter of professional organisations, and I'd like to encourage others to do the same. As part of CPD23, I organised an informal event for CILIP West Midlands and we had a lovely group of people get together for a coffee and chat about CPD23 and about CILIP. One of the attendees, Naomi, kindly wrote up her experience for our CILIP West Midlands blog. I also attended the CILIP in London event the same week, which was a larger group and a slightly more structured event where we heard from a number of different speakers about their involvement in professional organisations. We also had chance to network and chat to others about their involvement. The questions from people at both these events tended to be why you should get involved and how you go about getting involved. I'd like to share my views on these two questions based on my own experiences.

Why should I get involved?

You might hear people talk about volunteering their time to help professional organisations, but wonder what the value is of getting involved in professional organisations. The main points for me include:
  • Supporting your profession
  • Informing the organisations that act as a voice for the profession
  • Being able to play a part in the direction the organisation is moving
  • Getting to know more about the wider profession across all sectors
  • Building your professional network
  • Using your existing skills and developing new skills
So there are some benefits for the profession as a whole, as well as direct benefits to you. Through my involvement with committees I have got to meet lots of people from different sectors and backgrounds, which has taught me a lot about the profession and opened up other opportunities for me. Over that time I have been able to develop skills that I wouldn't have been able to do within the scope of my job roles - in my case this was event organisation, but it could be budget management (as a treasurer) or people management (as a chair).

Bethan Ruddock is an active member of the SLA (Special Libraries Association) and has recently been featured in a podcast where she talks about her involvement with SLA and how it has helped her - it's worth a listen. Though my experience is in different organisations, I agree with a lot of her points about the value of getting involved.

What can I do?

There are a number of different ways you can get involved, and they don't all involve a major investment of time - there are options depending on how much time you want to dedicate, including the following things:
  • Vote in annual elections - I believe every member should do this; they are member-led organisations so you should make the most of being able to have your say in how it is run. I was pleased to hear that initiatives like live streaming our election event helped encourage more people to vote in CILIP elections last year, but I'd still like to see more people voting.
  • Attend events - even attending events really helps support your organisation, not just financially but also so that your views can be heard by others in the organisation. Committees often need to represent their member's views and events are a great opportunity for them to understand your point of view.
  • Join a committee - there are lots of opportunities to join committees; numerous different groups within each organisation with different positions and vacancies, each with different responsibilities and levels of commitment. Sometimes vacancies are advertised, but often committees will have vacancies (and even if not, I'm sure they would appreciate a hand!) so if there's a committee you are interested in joining, contact them to see if you can help out in any way or even if you can just go along to one of their meetings to see what they do.
  • Nominate yourself for Council/President - if you're keen to really make a difference and dedicate more time to the organisation, you might want to stand for election to become a member of Council, or for President. Nominations forms for CILIP in 2012 will be available from September 1st for Councillors and Vice President.
That's just a few ideas. but I'm sure there are other ways too. If you have any questions (or other suggestions I've missed), please feel free to add a comment. 

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