Give us a general overview of ALCTS, its mission and organization.
This is a big question but fortunately one that is well-documented! ALCTS, which stands for the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (pronounced uh-lex’), is a division of the American Library Association. Beginning as the Resources and Technical Services Division in 1957, ALCTS has been part of ALA for over sixty years. The division’s full history is available on the ALCTS website.
Our mission statement, adopted in 2006, states, “To shape and respond nimbly to all matters related to the selection, identification, acquisition, organization, management, retrieval, and preservation of recorded knowledge through education, publication, and collaboration.” We have a little under 2500 members.
Currently, ALCTS is organized into five sections: Acquisitions Section (AS), Cataloging and Metadata Management Section (CaMMS), Collection Management Section (CMS), Continuing Resources Section (CRS), Preservation and Reformatting Section (PARS). Learn more about ALCTS—its governance and ethos—on our website.
How did you get started with ALCTS? What is your favorite part of being an ALCTS member?
Back in 2007, I was at an ALA Midwinter Meeting, attending the ALCTS Networked Resources and Metadata Interest Group (today known as the Metadata Interest Group), and they were looking for an individual to be Blog Coordinator. It sounded like fun and also a good way to learn more about other program offerings at ALA conferences, so I volunteered! A couple of years later, a call went out for an E-Forum Coordinator, to manage the approximately monthly email discussions of different topics of interest. Again, it sounded like a good opportunity to learn about a variety of topics of interest to ALCTS members and also to network with individuals from across ALCTS and beyond. After that, I filled out the ALCTS volunteer form (highly recommended!) and opportunities continued to flow my way.
I’m sure this sounds clichéd, but my favorite part about ALCTS is the people. I have met colleagues from around the country who have turned into both friends and formed a core part of my professional network. Currently I am participating as a mentor in the ALCTS Mentoring Program, which has been helping me to learn as much—and possibly more than—my mentee.
Additionally, ALCTS has excellent educational and professional development offerings, and I’ve been highly satisfied with the webinars, courses, and in-person programming that have been developed under the auspices of ALCTS.
What are some good ways for new librarians to get involved in ALCTS? How does someone become a volunteer? How much time or work is involved as a volunteer?
We are always looking for interested volunteers. There is a cycle for committee appointments, where they are made in the spring, but you can volunteer at any time, as openings do come up. That said, there are different ways to get involved and some avenues you might take:
- For interest groups, if you go to a session at a conference, you can generally speak up to volunteer to get involved right at the end of the session. Interest groups have lightweight governance and provide an excellent way to focus on particular programming in your area of interest (hence the name).
- The volunteer form will get your name and interests recorded into a database of potential volunteers for committee assignments. The more information you put in there about your background and interests, the more your application will stand out. Even if you’ve never been on a committee before, we have short-term intern assignments to let you test the waters.
- Talk to people! Find work colleagues with experience, and let it be known you would like to get involved. Consider joining the mentoring program, participating in ANMIG chats, and attending other events. Getting to know ALCTS members could be particularly helpful if you are at a smaller organization.
Different appointments can have different levels of commitment. For example, interest groups tend to focus on planning one or two events a year, while working on the ALCTS Continuing Education Committee could mean a steady stream of planning and hosting webinars throughout the year. Being on an awards jury means some intense activity for a couple of weeks, but nothing the rest of the year. You can check with committee chairs on the level of time commitment. The majority of appointments do not require any travel or commitment to conference, although it is always nice to meet your fellow committee members face-to-face.
How can people get involved in particular interest groups or committees? What is the difference between an interest group and a committee?
See the three mechanisms I mention above, which are all ways to start to get involved.
Additionally, here is a bit more information about the types of groups. The basic difference between interest groups and committees are that interest groups are self-created and self-governed. They come together when ten or more ALCTS members decide they want to form an interest group, which is then approved by the ALCTS Board or Section executive committee. Typically, interest groups do programming and discussions, both in-person at conferences, and sometimes online as well.
Committees are established by the ALCTS Board or section executive committees to do the work of the association. Their work is guided by a specific charge and composition, and can happen throughout the year. Work on committees is varied, and can cover reviewing and setting programming, to publications, to budgeting, to member engagement, among other things. You can find committee charges and membership of ALCTS member groups and communities, and contact the current chair if you want to learn more about the committee (tip: if you click “login” in the upper right coner of the website and login using your ALA credentials, members’ contact information will be displayed to you).
How can ALCTS members get involved if they can’t attend Midwinter or Annual? What other activities does ALCTS provide outside of these conferences?
ALCTS offers a wide range of ways to be involved without conference attendance. The majority of appointments do not require any travel, and with online meeting technology, it is easy for committees to do their work outside of conference meetings. The mentoring program is also entirely virtual (unless of course you happen to be in the same city as your mentor or mentee). We also host the ALCTS e-forums, a series of approximately monthly email conversations around topics of interest to ALCTS members (although you don’t need to be a member to participate). You can register and attend a number of webinars offered throughout the year, or if you have an idea for a webinar you’d like to present yourself, you can do that too!
How can ALCTS help with my professional development?
ALCTS has excellent resources for professional development. In addition to the programming at in-person conferences, webinars, and e-forums, ALCTS offers a series of highly-rated web courses in core areas of technical services.
ALCTS has an active publication program, as well. We publish the prestigious journal, Library Resources and Technical Services, an online newsletter, and multiple monographs a year. We have guides to help you find your feet if you have new job responsibilities in acquisitions or collections. Additionally, if you find yourself taking on new selection responsibilities, the Sudden Selector’s Guide is a popular series designed to help you gain fundamental knowledge in your new selection area.
What resources does ALCTS have for current MLIS students?
ALCTS offers a discounted rate for students of only $15 above the ALA membership fee. It’s a great bargain! You will get discounts to online learning and access to the network of ALCTS members. You can participate in the mentoring program. Finally, as a student, please volunteer! As I indicated earlier, travel is generally not required, and you can serve a one-year appointment as an intern on a committee. It’s a great way not only to meet people in the profession and build your resume, but to help shape the future of what will hopefully be your professional community for years to come.
There is some discussion of merging ALCTS, LITA and LLAMA. How do you see ALCTS evolving in the coming years? What is your vision for the organization?
As newcomers to ALCTS, you might not be familiar with LITA (Library Information and Technology Association) or LLAMA (Library Leadership and Management Association). Last year we started conversations with these two other mid-sized functional divisions of ALA to see what kinds of synergies or cooperation we might be able to do together. As mid-sized divisions, we wanted to increase capacity and better support members’ career development needs, as jobs have changed and boundaries are more fluid within library positions. Ultimately, the Boards of the three divisions decided to explore the creation of a new combined division.
We recently held an online “visioning retreat,” where we found that our key values and goals are very much aligned. We have a lot of work to do together to see if a new division can be a reality, and any fundamental change like this would go before the membership for a vote. Obviously, this would have implications for the types of programs and activities offered by ALCTS, but our goal will be to keep the important programs as well as expand capacity, so I am confident opportunities to serve, learn, and network will continue to exist under a new structure, even if some of the mechanisms, groups, and names do change. Such a decision will require member feedback. To stay updated about the possible formation of a new ALA division and make your voice heard, please join the ALCTS/LLAMA/LITA Alignment Discussion on ALA Connect.
We will be having biweekly online discussions, virtual town halls, and in-person town-halls at the 2019 ALA Midwinter Meeting to give members a chance to weigh in. We hope you will participate! Expect to see more details shortly. If you do have specific questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
If you have any recommendations or ideas for ALCTS New Members Interest Group (ANMIG) events or activities, contact co-chairs Xiping Liu (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Rachel Turner (email@example.com). You can also follow ANMIG on our Facebook page and on Twitter @ALCTS_NMIG.