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MLA is my professional home

My first MLA committee appointment was in 1988.  I'd been a member for five years.  The last year in which I did not have some kind of official role was 1996.  I'm ready for a break.  I've enjoyed most of my MLA work, but when I stepped off the stage last Tuesday after finishing my term on the Board of Directors, it was with a light step indeed.

I'll continue working with the Ethics Task Force as it completes its recommendations, but once that's done (probably by the end of the summer or so), I would really like to have a couple of years where I don't have any organization responsibilities.   Next year, with the meeting in DC, I'm looking forward to going to Josie's dance recital on Saturday morning, flying to DC in time for the welcome reception, spending a couple of days hanging out with friends and colleagues, going to a few interesting sessions, and coming home on Wednesday.  (That plan will have to be altered if we go ahead with the Chicago Collaborative symposium, but I'll indulge in the fantasy for now).

This doesn't in any way mean that I'm done with MLA.  I've got another decade or so of active career and I fully expect that there'll be more association work for me.   I can't imagine it being otherwise.

I'm always taken aback a little when I come across medical librarians who speak of MLA as if it is something "other," or who question joining because they can't see what the immediate practical benefit is, or who complain about the cost.  I guess I was just brought up differently.

It was a given, when I went to NLM as a Library Associate (what's now called an "Associate Fellow") that I would join the association and get involved.  I accepted the notion that it was part of my professional responsibility.  It was about what I would give to the association and the profession, not what I would get out of it.  In that year, living in DC, my government salary was $16,500, my wife was working part-time as a department store clerk and I would no more have considered not paying my annual dues than not paying the electric and water bills.   This year, when I eliminated my travel funding due to the economic situation, there was no question that I would still go to the annual and chapter meetings.  To quote Sonny Rollins, "This is what I do."

And while personal benefits may have been the least of my reasons for joining back in 1983, those benefits have, in fact, been tremendous -- professionally, in terms of what I've learned, and in terms of the opportunities that I've had to influence the direction of librarianship in this most exciting of changing ages; and personally, in that almost all of my closest friendships have come about through the connections I've made in the association.   For heaven's sake, Lynn and I got married at a chapter welcome reception!

It's been exciting in the past couple of years to see an increasing number of energetic and creative librarians who have come to the field within the last five to ten years digging in and working to make the association responsive to the changing times.  It's been rewarding that during my time on the board, focusing on leadership development and the needs of new members and recent grads has been a top priority.   I've said many times that this is the most exciting time to be a librarian in the past 500 years.  We have opportunities that were unimaginable just a couple of decades ago.  MLA has been, and will continue to be, a significant force in making the most of them.  And I intend to be there.


Jim Brucker

Thanks for such an eloquent statement of librarianship and the core energy of MLA. I think we'll be challenged during these next few years, with shrinking budgets and library closures, to remind ourselves of the essential integration of the professional organization with the profession itself. It's during the hard times that the organization is most needed, and the annual dues should be seen as investment into our profession in general, not just the maintenance of a facet. Your words here are really motivating - thank you.

T Scott

Jim -- thanks much. I really appreciate the comment. As is usually the case with my posts, I didn't know where that one was going to end up when I started out.

Marcus Banks

It felt so strange to miss MLA this year, but I appreciated all of the blog posts, Twitter feeds, and YouTube videos. Several years ago, Scott, you wrote an editorial about how health sciences librarians are "sticky." That seems to be true today more than ever, and that's a good thing!

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