Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Introduction to libraries: Library Associations

Like libraries themselves, there are many types of library associations. Some represent all types of libraries, library personnel, friends of libraries and library trustees in a particular country. Others address the concerns and needs of a particular type of library and library personnel. It is important to become a member in a library association. While several associations of interest to library workers in Manitoba are highlighted, these would parallel similar library associations of interest to library workers in other jurisdictions. The Canadian Library Association maintains a comprehensive listing of library associations in Canada, by province and territory (plus a list of some major American library associations) in the Resources section of their Website. The specific page is: http://www.cla.ca/Content/NavigationMenu/Resources/Resources/ListofLibraryAssociations/default.htm
The National Library of Canada also maintains a listing of library associations in Canada at: http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/8/8/index-e.html

Association membership benefits
There are many benefits of joining library associations. The major benefits are:
1. Networking
2. Continuing education
3. Benchmarking
4. Acquiring new skills
5. Employment opportunities

Through association membership, meet other library workers in similar types of libraries or similar employment positions. This can be invaluable when faced with a large project, such as automating the library. The experiences of others enable you to be better prepared for the pitfalls to avoid and the level of planning required for such an endeavour. Membership in associations also increases awareness of the resources available in other libraries. This knowledge can enhance ability to provide quality information services.
Another advantage of networking is the fact that there is strength in numbers. It may be impossible for one individual to lobby for changes in copyright legislation, which reflect the needs of libraries. A coalition of library associations can have a far greater impact.

Continuing education
The field of library and information science is a rapidly changing one. It is impossible to learn everything needed to perform well in a position by obtaining a Library Technician Certificate or Diploma. Skills must constantly be upgraded as new technology develops and to be aware of new information resources. The need for keeping current is now called “life-long learning” and it often difficult to accomplish this on your own. To assist their membership in this task, most associations offer continuing education programs. They may hold an annual conference, host a series of workshops, or produce a journal and/or newsletter. Library associations are now beginning to offer extensive continuing education programs at a distance, using video-conferencing and Internet delivery methods.

Benchmarking is comparing your own situation to an existing measurable standard or guideline with a mind to improve your situation. For example, health libraries use lists of standard medical, nursing and allied health reference works and periodical titles to measure the quality of their collections. Library associations often produce salary surveys, which can be used to determine whether your library is paying its employees average, above average or below average salaries. Library associations also produce directories of libraries, which can be used to compare staffing levels, collection sizes and variety of services with similar libraries.Sometimes, if an existing standard or guideline does not yet exist (or is too difficult or expensive to find) for a particular situation, the library might have to do some of its own original research like conduct a survey. This need not be overly difficult, time-consuming or even scientific. Sometimes comparing your own situation to two or three other similar libraries (to ensure that you would be comparing apples to apples) is all you need to determine what your next step would be.For instance, if you suspected that your overdue statistics have been too high for the past several months, you could find two or three other libraries like your own (of the same type, similar size and clientele) to see what their experience has been over a similar time period. Their statistics would become your benchmark. You could plot your results on a graph (no. of overdues on vertical axis, time on horizontal axis) which would reveal how your statistics compare with the other libraries. If your overdues are significantly higher then you might ask those libraries what they do to keep their overdues at a manageable level (they might have something you do not, such as a theft-detection system). If your overdues are lower or about the same, you may decide that it is not worth going any further. Your research would have at least given you some piece of mind that your apparently high overdues are not that high after all!

Acquiring new skills
New skills can be acquired by serving on the library association executive or on committees. For example, by maintaining association membership records, you could learn how to design a database or create customized reports. By serving on a public relations committee you would gain experience in media relations. These skills enhance your ability to compete for employment opportunities requiring skills, which you might not acquire in a present position.

Employment opportunities
Another service provided by library associations is the announcement of employment opportunities in their journals or newsletters, on their home pages on the World Wide Web or listserv over the Internet , or on a recorded telephone message. Some employers prefer listing their vacant positions through library associations, to taking out an advertisement in the local paper, as they are reaching a more targeted audience. By belonging to the association, you may find out about employment opportunities before non-members do.

Types of library associations
There are four major types of library associations:
1. National library associations
2. Provincial library associations
3. International library associations
4. Specialized library associations
Some library associations may fall into more than one category.

National library associations
National library associations represent all types of libraries, library personnel, and trustees within a particular country. The Canadian Library Association, American Library Association and Library Association (UK) are three examples. A primarily objective of this type of library association is to lobby governments on such issues as funding of libraries, copyright and censorship. National library associations may have divisions representing particular types of libraries.
For example, the Canadian Library Association has five divisions.
1. Canadian Association of College and University Libraries (CACUL)
2. Canadian Association of Public Libraries (CAPL)
3. Canadian Association of Special Libraries and Information Services (CASLIS)
4. Canadian Library Trustee’s Association (CLTA)
5. Canadian School Libraries Association (CSLA)
In turn, divisions may have sections or chapters representing a specific geographic area or special service or type of library. For example, CACUL has the Community and Technical College Libraries (CTCL) section and CAPL has the Canadian Association of Children’s Librarians (CACL) Sect ion. CASLIS has chapters in Calgary, Edmonton, Manitoba, Ottawa, Toronto, and Atlantic Canada.For more information about CLA, visit the CLA homepage at

Provincial library associations
Provincial library associations represent the needs of all types of libraries at the provincial level. These associations often coordinate their lobbying efforts with the national association. The Manitoba Library Association (MLA) represents all types of libraries in Manitoba. Similar to the CLA, there are interest groups representing specialized areas and divisions representing geographical regions within the province. The MLA hosts workshops, conferences and produces an online newsletter and listserv, “MLA NEWSLIST”. To subscribe, go to the MLA Website home page and find the MLA Newslist page on the right. Ensure that the “Subscribe” box is checked off, enter your e-mail address in the specified space and click on “Submit”. You would then be added to the MLA NEWSLIST listserv. The MLA also includes job opportunities on its Website. For more information, visit the MLA Website at:

International library associations
International library associations represent the interests of libraries in more than one country. Consider the following three examples:
1. International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)
2. International Association of School Librarianship (IASL). It maintains the School Libraries Online Web site at
3. Special Libraries Associations (SLA). SLA is also a special library association which will be discussed below.

Specialized library associations
These associations represent a specific group of library personnel, such as the Manitoba Association of Library Technicians (MALT)
http://www.malt.mb.ca or Manitoba Library Trustees Association. They can also represent the interests of a specific type of library, such as the Manitoba Association of Health Information Providers http://www.chla-absc.ca/chapter/mahip/index.html, the Manitoba School Libraries Association, the Canadian Association of Law Libraries http://www.callacbd.ca or the Special Libraries Associations http://www.sla.org
MALT represents the interests of Library Technicians and library support staff throughout Manitoba. It produces a newsletter, sponsors a jobline and hosts workshops and co-sponsors conference events with other Manitoba library associations. MALT awards an annual scholar ship to a student taking the Library and Information Technology program at Red River College. MALT also produces a salary survey of library technicians throughout the province. For more information about MALT, visit
The Special Libraries Association has members from many different countries. It has divisions representing specific types of libraries or subject areas, and chapters representing specific geographic areas. The chapter of most interest to special library personnel in Manitoba is the Western Canadian Chapter (SLA/WCC). SLA now produces Information Outlook, which combines the features of its two former publications, Specialist and Special Libraries. The SLA’s homepage can be visited at
http://www.sla.org. SLA/WCC’s homepage is at the following address http://units.sla.org/chapter/cwcn/index.shtml

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