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Gaining Professional Support through Your ALSC Membership

Being a member of ALSC can mean many things but for me it means always having a network of exceptional professionals, no matter where I am in my career. Through this professional network I have found my voice and how to use it, I have pushed myself to try scary things, and I have gained experiences I never would have anticipated as a library school student. In my early days our quarterly, Children’s & Libraries, helped me secure programming ideas. More recently I was selected to represent ALSC in the 2018 class of ALA’s Emerging Leaders. Each experience has been propelled by a previous experience and the constant theme here is professional support.

A few weeks after I started my first full-time librarian position, I was informed that the children’s librarian I had sought to work with would be leaving my library. I soon became the only children’s librarian of this library and I was petrified! Where was the teamwork I’d always longed for or any potential possibilities for mentorship? I was an ALSC member throughout graduate school but didn’t use my membership so much then. In my new role I found myself relying heavily on my ALSC membership to see what other professionals did. I eventually applied for the ALSC Mentor Program because I felt a bit lost and wasn’t sure if I was headed in the right direction.

With my mentor we studied ALSC’s Competencies for Librarians Serving Children in Public Libraries. Even though I had read these competencies before, analyzing them in depth changed my understanding of them, our mission, and how we aim to serve our public. The first pillar of our competencies, I. Commitment to Client Group, is probably the one that I carry the most in my career. As youth professionals we commit to children by understanding their developmental needs and differences, we take classes specifically geared for working with youth, and we learn the best tools for literacy success. Yet, there’s so much more to committing to our client group and part of that is being able to see the barriers that can potentially affect our clients and taking the proper steps to break them down, support access, and to advocate for our users and communities. My mentor was able to give me ideas for how I could do this in my own library system and lent a patient ear when I needed it.

At the completion of the program, I learned many things. First, I realized that I was on the right track all along but initially lacked the confidence to see it (imposter syndrome is real!). Secondly, I realized that I wanted more to my ALSC membership. The professional connection I gained with my mentor was just the beginning and I knew that I wanted this type of collaboration to last. Next, I knew the type of environment I wanted to work in and sought it. I now work with a team of youth services librarians in a supportive environment with people I met through…ALSC!

Jacqueline Quinn is beginning her first year on ALSC’s Membership Committee. She is a Youth Services Librarian at the Teaneck Public Library in Teaneck, NJ where she focuses on programming and collections for tweens and teens.

This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: I. Commitment to Client Group, VI. Administrative and Management Skills, and VII. Professionalism and Professional Development.

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