By Cynthia Berglez
Past Chapter President and Research Librarian at Ropes & Gray
I recently received a thank-you note from a colleague in my SLA chapter. She and I are both on the Chapter’s Board of Directors, where she contributes her personal time and her great ideas to make our profession richer. My colleague had asked for a letter of recommendation because she was up for a promotion in a university library. I told her I would be honored to write a letter for her.
Librarianship is not my first career. In my past professional life, there was no organization of colleagues to turn to for support or advice. Also, in my other career, there was even less stability than we librarians are experiencing now. Hard to imagine, I know. To be in a position to even be asked to write letters of recommendation is a privilege for me.
I joined SLA when I was still a library school student. When I realized that I didn’t have to practice this new profession alone, I couldn’t wait to meet my fellows and build my network. One of the first series of events I attended with SLA was the Neighborhood Dinners in April. This is still one of my favorite months in our calendar. It was easy to meet others with the discussion of food and neighborhoods to break the social barriers and my natural introversion. At one of the dinners I met a fascinating librarian and I asked if I could see her library. That tour became an internship interview without my noticing. Through the early years of limited job opportunities I was able to piece together a variety of part-time, temporary positions that gave me skills, colleagues, and experience. This was only possible through the connections I have made through SLA.
There is still a lot I don’t know about research, library collections, and database coverage, and every day I learn more. SLA has given me the opportunity to make friends, find jobs, and learn more about my profession and about myself. It still surprises me that people ask for my help in making connections, in job search, and yes, in writing letters of recommendation. And, as for my colleague who sent the thank-you note, she got the promotion.
When I tell other librarians about the work I do for the chapter, they are impressed. I don’t do this only because I’m giving and supportive, I do it because this is how I learn, make friends, and find jobs in a difficult economy. I do it for myself; however, as much as I give, I get so much more in return.
I hope you’ll consider the same. Do something for yourself, as well as your profession. Donate your time to your SLA chapter and get so much more in return.