Get Involved

A few years after receiving my MILS, I am still looking for the ideal position. Maybe the “perfect position” doesn’t exist but I am determined to work in a library or as an advocate for library issues. Until that happens I am doing my best to stay informed and active by writing (one of the reasons I started this blog) and volunteering. One of my LinkedIn connections posted a fitting quote from Jeff Goins’ The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do:

“Discovering your calling is not an epiphany but a series of intentional decisions. It looks less like a giant leap and more like building a bridge.”

I have my calling dialed in but I’m always looking for ways to give back to the community.  This post is devoted to some ideas and strategies that I have used to stay involved with my “calling.” While these examples are specific to librarianship, I think that the strategies can be used in any profession or anyone looking for some inspiration.

  1. Seek out local chapters of national organizations devoted to your industry or to a cause you are passionate about. How to find a relevant group? There is always Google, but a better way is to use public library resources. My local library’s website has a research page and with my library card I can access a research database called “Associations Unlimited.” This database contains local, national, and international organizations. The search is easy, just plug in some keywords and preferred location and a list of groups, including contact information, will generate.
    • The American Library Association (ALA) has several local chapters and divisions.  My local chapter, Colorado Association of Libraries (CAL), is one way that I stay current on issues such as reader’s advisory and eResources.  Joining Interest Groups is an easy way to join/view discussions.  Filling a position, such as chairperson or secretary, is an even better way to contribute to the group’s goals.
  2. Volunteer! I know, I know, time spent volunteering takes away from family and personal time. But it can become a family activity, and in this digital world, there are often virtual opportunities available.  Here are some specific ideas
    • Find a job board and volunteer as an assistant editor. I did this at I Need A Library Job Colorado (INALJ), while attending school. INALJ is a repository for information professional/library jobs. As an assistant editor, I located jobs and collected them on the site’s main page.  This allowed me to get a good idea of the opportunities out there and the best sites to find them.
    • Think about topics that you are interested in and/or are important to your profession and seek out ways to volunteer in that specific niche.  I recently saw a Call For Writers for LITA, a technology division of ALA and I was accepted! I am looking forward to research and writing about the intersection between technology and libraries.
    • Or think about groups you care about and would be willing to devote time to, maybe an environmental group or Planned Parenthood.  I am a huge fan of PBS, so I have been regularly checking for volunteer opportunities through my local Rocky Mountain PBS. Most recently, I reached out to them about a local archiving project. If it works out, I will be sure to post about the experience.
    • Virtual opportunities abound. The Library of Congress, for example, sometimes needs people to transcribe documents. This can all be done from the comfort of your own home.
    • Be an advocate for those in need. Many mid to large cities have groups devoted to the homeless, refugees, immigrants, youths that need mentors, animals that need foster homes, communities that need diverse voices for the neighborhood association, you get the idea.
  3. Contribute art. Love to paint, draw, sing, act, write?
    • Get together with friends to paint pottery.  Join a local chorus or a local production of a play.  My local library has an ideaLAB, with access to a recording studio for aspiring musicians or those interested in started a podcast. Keep an eye out for Call for Writers or Call for Papers, or just submit an opinion piece to a newspaper.

I am a big advocate of what Shonda Rhimes refers to as finding your hum (check out her Ted Talk here).  Your hum is that element of your life that brings you joy and inspiration. Or what Okinawans (residents of Okinawa, Japan, a region where the women, specifically, live much longer than other parts of the world), call “Ikigai” or “why I wake up in the morning.” Just a little research and an email expressing interest can result in hours of enjoyment, while helping out a worthy cause (be it your own happiness or supporting a group’s mission).

Happy hum hunting!

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