What Can MLA Do For You?

I sometimes hear people saying, “I don’t belong to MLA because what has MLA done for me as a medical librarian.”  If you are looking for MLA to come in like a knight in shining armor to magically save your job, increase your salary, combat predatory pricing, and bring about universal health care, you are probably a disappointed medical librarian.   

I have gotten the most value out of MLA because of my involvement within MLA.  Did you catch that?  It was my involvement in MLA that began to add value to my MLA membership.  Not the other way around.  All too often in society we see a lot of reaction type of people and fewer and fewer action type people.  You can’t sit around and wait for things to happen and expect results.  Life is not a spectator’s sport, nor is your profession.

I know that is hard to think about in a field that tends to have more than its fair share of introverts among its ranks.  Heck, even the average extrovert can go to an MLA meeting for the first time and feel intimidated.  However the key to getting the most out MLA (the meeting AND the organization) is by getting involved.  I have had the wonderful opportunity to do some cool things like travel to places to be a speaker, sit on various committees, be on two NPC committees, and become a Board Member.  However I didn’t just land those gigs on my good looks.  I got involved.  Baby steps at first.  I started writing book reviews and my blog, then journal articles.  The book reviews let to greater writing confidence and the blog helped feed the topics.  Around the same time I became gradually involved in my local medical library organization, Ohio Health Sciences Library Association (OHSLA).  From there I started volunteer to work on projects or items as they came about.  It was that work that lead to the things I am doing today.  Without it I wouldn’t be where I am now.  Why? Because people wouldn’t know who I was and wouldn’t know what I could do.

You don’t have to start a blog to get involved.  (It would probably be a Pinterest board or Tumblr account now days.)  But you have to find those areas that you are interested in so that you can get involved.  Personally, I think the best way to get involved is to start with your local organization, Chapter, or a MLA Section.  Get to know people.  Volunteer to do some things.  You don’t always have to be going to the annual meeting to become involved.  There are committees that meet mainly via email.  Sections are always looking for section member volunteers to review papers for the annual meeting.  You can even teach a class all online without the need for GoToMeeting or some webinar platform.  The South Central Chapter just finished providing a FREE online class to MLA members https://sites.google.com/site/getmobilizedmla/home and the course instructors were from across the United States.  (I am willing to bet a bag of peanut M&M’s they did everything virtually and didn’t need to travel to MLA or another meeting to create the class.)

The times we live in allow us more opportunities to connect to one another and provide us more opportunities to become involved.  More and more things are done via email and using other online methods.  This should provide the individual with more ways to participate.  Only by getting involved and participating can you get the most out of your membership.  My MLA membership has improved my job, increased my salary and helped me become a better negotiator.  But it wasn’t the paper membership card that did that.  It is my continued involvement within the organization, the people I meet, things I learn, the opportunites and ideas discovered that has done that and continues do that.  Now I wouldn’t be able to do that without the paper membership card, but the paper membership card doesn’t do it on its own. 

I am going to badly twist a former United States President’s words, but it sums up my thoughts perfectly.
My fellow librarians: ask not what MLA can do for you — ask what you can do for MLA.

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