Hack Your Professional Organization

There is no better time than graduate school to join a professional organization. Many LIS organizations have special incentives in place to attract library school students. The offerings will vary between organizations, but this post should give you an idea of what to watch for.  


Professional organizations exist at several levels, including international, national, regional, state, and local. Smaller organizations may give you more opportunities to participate directly, but larger organizations will offer a broader spectrum of roundtables and sections. As a student, I have found national and regional organizations to be the most beneficial because I am still figuring out what I want to do with my career. Some organizations offer joint membership programs for library school students and support staff. This is a great way to make your membership dues go farther. Additionally, student chapters on your campus can be a great way to get involved with your regional and national organizations.

San Jose State University has compiled an extremely comprehensive list of professional organizations for LIS students. The list includes general national groups like the American Library Association and Society of American Archivists, but also specialized entities like the Music Library Association and the Association for Moving Image Archivists.


Membership in a professional organizations has several benefits for LIS students. Some of the tangible ones include scholarships, discounts on textbooks purchased through the organization’s store, access to job boards, continuing education courses, and (in some cases) tuition discounts at partner institutions. Other perks include opportunities to travel to new cities for conferences and learn about the field through scholarly journal articles. One of the greatest long-term benefits to membership is the chance to meet with peers, mentors, and future employers. Membership is also a great addition to your resume or C.V., especially if you make time to serve on a committee.


Many organizations offer discounts on membership dues and conference registration to students in ALA-accredited programs. While it can still be expensive to attend conferences, this is a great way to try out a few organizations before you have to commit to full dues.

Several organizations offer concurrent membership in specialized roundtables, committees, and divisions. These sub-groups serve as a microcosm of the larger organization, allowing you to engage more deeply in professional conversations and network regularly with seasoned professionals. Each group typically focuses on a specific interest, institution type, or professional status. You might consider joining a roundtable for records management, GIS librarianship, performing arts archives, or library support staff. Many organizations have groups that that cater to students and new professionals.

If you’re still skeptical about joining a professional organization, you can try it out for free first. Check your campus library for print or electronic copies of professional publications. Follow organization and roundtable accounts on social media networks. Join listservs to preview the professional conversation or follow conference hashtags on Twitter. Most importantly, talk with your professors and peers to learn which organizations they recommend.

Have you joined a professional organization in library school? Share your advice and experiences in the comments!

5 replies

  1. I’ve taken advantage of the joint membership (ALA plus my state organization, NCLA), and it really is a great deal! (I’ve also enjoyed being involved in the ALA student chapter at my library school.) Registration for conferences is usually cheaper as a student too, and the networking and learning opportunities abound.

    Resume review is also popular at library conferences. Both ALA Annual and Midwinter Meeting offer resume review sessions, and with some professional organizations, you can submit your resume for feedback online (without traveling to a conference) once you’re a member. (I have a mentor through one of my ALA divisions, and she’s given me valuable feedback on my resume, to boot.)


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