There’s been some vibrant and intense conversations concerning LIS ed in the last few weeks, one right here in on HLS. And in the spirit of HLS, in which LIS students feel empowered to take action and agency in their own education, I believe that student organizations are one of the best tools we have.
Do we have any Baby-sitters’s Club fans out there? Remember how the second chapter was always the story of how the Club was founded out of one of Kristy’s Great Ideas (the chapter you always skipped after reading two or three of the books)? Well, I’m a Kristy. I always have some Great Idea (or ten or twelve) that I want to get going, and being an officer in a student organization was a great place to make that happen. Being an officer gave some legitimacy to my projects, provided a reality check when the Great Idea was a No-Way-in-Hell Idea, and, best of all, put me in the situation of being able to support and contribute to the Great Ideas of other officers and students.
Student orgs, by their nature, are student-run. So if there is an experience or a resource that your program isn’t providing, student orgs can be the place to make that happen. They can respond to student needs much quicker than faculty or staff, and can be much more specific in their offerings. If a member of a student chapter of a professional organization, student members often get discounts on membership, conference fees, and continuing education webinars, as well as networking tools provided by the professional org. Service orgs not only give members a chance to put their education into practice, they also offer shining points on resumes. Special interest orgs– clubs for youth service librarians, letterpress groups, reader’s advisory book clubs– each gives students the space to explore topics that contribute to personal and professional development when the classroom doesn’t have the time or resources to do so.
Meeting the educational and professional needs that aren’t being met in the classroom. Networking and peer interaction. Resume gold.
So why do student orgs have such a hard time?
Talking to other officers, we all share the same problems. Getting students to serve as officers is difficult. Event attendance is low, and apathy is high. I understand that students are busy, but I think that it goes much deeper than that. When I volunteered for a library funding measure (through a student org!), much like our student groups, it was the same twenty or so people active and involved. Is this just the nature of involvement? How can we make people feel invested in the actions necessary for success?
Let’s make the comments section a type of brag book/wish list/gripe board. I would love to hear from people who are members or officers in online program student orgs, too! What is the best student org program or resource you’ve attended or offered? Does your program have any unique student groups? What services/programs/resources would you love your student orgs to offer? What about student orgs is difficult or doesn’t work? What have you done that worked well?