Tales from a Reluctant Student Leader: Take Our Jobs in 2017

Gather round, friends, for I shall tell you a tale:

Last February was a bleak time. Thanks to Facebook’s incessant “memories” feature, I can see that on this day, last year, I broke down and took a “mental health day” from work. Here’s why: I am located in Denver, Colorado, I am fast-tracking my degree, and I was taking four classes including the legendary one-two-punch of simultaneous 510 and 520. My work schedule is on a two-week rotation, which means that half the time I have Saturday and Sunday off and the other half of the time I work Saturday and Sunday from 8:30-5 and don’t have two consecutive days off. I’d pulled my first all-nighter since undergrad and tried to soldier on. I was breaking down. It was the Winter Quarter of my Discontent.

At this point, I pretty much deleted any and all emails about the upcoming student elections on sight. Who has time?  I thought. Leadership is for the less jaded. At that time, I thought I was the only MLIS student in Colorado (there are at least four of us spread apart). Some of my cohort-mates met over Google hangouts. We were all sick and sad and worn out. I felt completely isolated: no one around me knew what I was going through and no one who knew what I was going through was around me.

Elections came and went. I don’t think I even voted. And then on February 29, the now-defunct MLIS News listserv got an email. It was from the VP/Treasurer of sALA. I couldn’t remember if I’d met this person at Orientation. What was sALA again? Did they buy me some nachos a thousand years ago in the Seattle summer?

The email said that sALA was in danger of going extinct: no one had stepped up to any of the major leadership positions. There was an explanation of what sALA does, why it would be sad if it would go away, and ultimately a statement that maybe it was time for sALA representation at UW to end if students didn’t want it. There would be a write-in or the org would die.

That email really affected me. I don’t know if it was the onset of spring, the offset of the assignment load, or the outset of the realization that I’d be starting to apply for Big Girl Jobs in a year.But something now was telling me: reply to this email. I was feeling isolated, but the online events I’d gone to had helped me feel less like that. So…why couldn’t I be the person who helped create these events for fellow far-flung folks?

I volunteered to be co-president. There was no competition so I really bypassed the whole election process. But I’m really glad I did. Here’s some things I’ve taken away over the past year:

sALA has the perk of being national. We have a lot of really awesome student organizations and they all do great work. One awesome thing about sALA is that there is a national network of other sALAs and you have support from the ALA. Every year, sALA has an opportunity to send a student to the ALA Annual Conference with most expenses paid. There’s the possibility of doing a student exchange with chapters in Portland and/or Vancouver. There are great networking opportunities because you have the support of the local New Member Round Table. This is all very rad. If you haven’t been getting your network on, sALA is great for that, whether you’re local to Seattle or not.

You create cohort cohesion. This year our leadership team was coast-to-coast. I really got to know some very cool people over the course of the past year. In addition to getting to host fun things for the student body (like our upcoming panel, “The Post-Truth is Out There”), I got to, like, actually get to know people. I feel much more connected to my cohort and not quite as isolated after being a part of sALA.

That group project thing is no joke. I already worked in the library world so I thought I was immune every time professors trotted out the ol’ “once you graduate it’s all group work” argument. The difference between writing a paper with three other people and being part of a student leadership team is that running a student org is much closer to the professional realm. You all have the same goals but you’re very different people and you achieve those goals in a different way. You’re working on projects that require using your team’s best skills to provide something for your fellow students, not just your beleaguered TA. 

Leadership experience is invaluable.  In high school, I’d stepped up to leadership sometimes and been disastrous. In undergrad, I’d dropped out of student organizations when pressured to take up the mantle of leadership. After being in sALA I actually applied to a leadership institute through my state library association. You don’t lead only by being in a leadership position: you have to acquire and hone these skills. But once you have them, you’ll be better equipped to lead from where you are and you’ll have more opportunities available to you if you want to move up.

Sometimes all you can do is your best. I’m a perfectionist and a chronic over loader. Did sALA do everything I had envisioned us doing? No. Was a lot of that my fault? It absolutely was. But I’m happy with what we have accomplished. We facilitated a tour of SPL, we did a trivia night, we’ve done an online happy decompression session, we’re hosting a really rad panel next week, and we’re sending one of our own to the national conference. And on a self-involved level, I’m very proud of myself for being able to roll with the punches and not dog myself for not perfectly executing my vision. I’ve always been very self-critical and after being a part of this organization I can finally cut myself a break.

So there you have it. If you think you can’t lead a student organization, trust me, you absolutely can. And you should. This chance won’t come around again. Even though it was an impulse for me, even though I was already spread pretty thin, it turned out to be a really great decision. So please: take our jobs! Keep the wheels of sALA turning!

Check out position descriptions here and nominate yourself here through tomorrow, February 24.

Lauren Seegmiller
sALA Co-President


sALA is proud to present our next event: The Post-Truth is Out There!

What: Panel Discussion
When: March 1, 2017
Time: 6 – 8 pm PST
Where: https://uw-ischool.zoom.us/j/795675782

Come with your intellectual curiosity! Students will be encouraged to ask questions of our panelists after some discussion.


ALA Professional Tools

By Melanie Kay

Librarians are a resourceful bunch. I find that most of the time, sending a query out into a circle of librarian friends can solicit a plethora of useful and helpful answers. But where can one turn when they just can’t find the answers that they seek? There could be many answers to this- but let’s keep it on a non-cosmic level here.

The chic, modern, librarian-in-the-know can always turn to the ALA’s Professional Tools page!

If you’ve got questions, ALA has answers! On the Professional Tools page, there is an A-Z guide addressing the most frequently asked questions on the ALA website. The pages that the guide links to are quick and easy references that cover a wide range of topics including funding, diversity, censorship, reader’s advisory, etc. The Professional Tools page also has links to the ALA’s responses to the most Frequently Asked Questions About Books and Reading and the most Frequently Asked Questions from Authors and Publishers. ALA also provides resources to help librarians challenge censorship and promote intellectual freedom. To see what questions your fellow librarians are asking, be sure to check out the Ask the ALA Library blog.

Happy searching!

How to Win at a Professional Conferences

By Lauren Seegmiller

Once you start wading into the world of professional organizations, you’ll find that there are almost as many organizational conferences as there are acronyms for them.  

This year, I attended the joint conference of the Colorado Library Association (CAL) and the Mountain Plains Library Association. MPLA/CALCon. MPLA/CALCon 2016 was the third professional conference that I have attended. One year before, I went to CALCon 2015 and then six months ago I attended the Public Library Association Conference when it was in Denver. Even in the course of a year, I’ve learned a lot about attending conferences and I feel like every successive experience gets better and better.

Why attend a professional conference?

I mean, in a word: “networking.” When I first started working in libraries, I had hoped that my wildest introvert dreams would come true and my professional qualifications would speak for themselves. Surprise! The library world is just like anywhere else: interpersonal connections are important. Conferences are a great way to make those connections and get outside your organization. Even if you’re not on the job hunt at the moment (though one day you could be), meeting new people can give you an insider’s view into how things work in other systems.

Speaking of getting outside your organization, conferences are a way to keep up with trends, perspectives, and practices occurring outside your library. Some states actually require librarians to log the hours they spend doing professional development as continuing education credits and conferences can fulfill this requirement. But whether you need them or not, library world moves fast and so these presentations can be a great opportunity to see what’s happening now in your arena or some others you may want to explore.

Tips for Maximizing Your Time at a Conference

Read carefully. I’m currently a paraprofessional and at my first conference I wound up at more than a few sessions aimed at supervisors. Look at who is presenting and where they are from if it’s listed. If you’re from a large urban library with multiple branches, will it serve you well to see a presentation given by someone from a single, rural library? Sometimes you have to read between the lines to figure out the presenters’ intended audience and scope.   

Plan your sessions. If you can get ahold of the program ahead of time either through an app or on paper, take some time to note what interests you. I like to sit down with a paper program, read through, and annotate what I’m interested in. This also reminds me that there are times when I have to choose between sessions and to keep revisiting as the day goes on.

It’s better to fade away than to burn out. You don’t have to attend every single session. If nothing spins your wheels in the 11am slot, you’re under no obligation to attend. Conferences are tiring and you don’t want to yawn your way through a presentation and get nothing from it. I know that when I get tired that I’ve stepped on the train to Cranky Town. If you need more sleep, leave early or arrive late if you have to.

Remember that you’re being watched. Not to be all Big Brother-y about it, but people can see and are seen at conferences. You’re constantly giving an impression of yourself, so be conscious of it, whether that means how you dress, what you say about your current position, how much you have had to drink, etc. I pack a hand mirror and little flossers because there’s always something in my teeth. You can’t and don’t have to please everyone but remember that people do judge you based on appearance, behavior, actions, statements, and spinach-teeth.

Take care of your needs. I already talked about sleep, but it’s a big one, and so are other physical needs like hydration. You also have other obligations. All the conferences I’ve been to have coincided with my being a grad student, so I’ve usually got a bag full of homework with me. If you have an assignment around or during conference time, consider asking for an extension. If you need to give someone gas money so you can do your reading in the car, do it. If not having protein gives you a headache, pack some jerky (and some mints, for afterwards).

If you’ve been to a conference, leave us a comment with your tips. Also, check out what our friends over at Hack Library School have had to say about conference attendance!

Start of the Quarter!

Thank you to all of the new and returning students who attended iWelcome Week at MGH!

Since this week is Banned Books Week, each day we will be featuring a favorite Banned Book by one of our sALA Officers – This will be crossposted on Twitter and Facebook.

Monday: Lauren Seegmiller

Banned Book Monday

Tuesday: Matthew Goldman

Banned Book Tuesday

Wednesday: Melanie Kay


Thursday: Stacey Akahoshi


Friday: Emily Pearson


iSchool Welcome Week 2016

Congratulations to the incoming students in the MLIS program!

UW sALA will be hosting two events during iSchool Welcome Week.

Wednesday September 21 @ 5:00pm – Trivia Night with sARSL at College Inn Pub
Saturday September 24 @ 12:30 – Seattle Public Library Field Trip (Meet Outside Mary Gates Hall) We will travel together.

We will also be present at the iOrgs Fair as well as around campus. Please check your UW inbox and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for details regarding the iSchool Welcome Week agenda and meetup places. We hope to see you there!

You may find the iSchool Welcome Week schedule here.

sALA Mixer September 25th

sALA Mixer - Postcard

Attention new and returning MLIS students! As part of iWelcome Week sALA (the student chapter of The American Library Association) is hosting a social mixer at Big Time Brewery. Relax at the end of a busy week with some good conversation and free pizza!

  • What: Social Mixer
  • When: Friday September 25, 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM
  • Where: Big Time Brewery, 4133 University Avenue4133 University Ave, 98105

See you there!