Advice for Participating in Student Organizations

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 4.18.25 PMWhether you are a new or a returning student at your program, you should join at least one student group or organization. Similar to Kathy Kosinski’s post in August 2015, student organizations are great to participate in. When you join a student organization there are several  opportunities to build your confidence, gain leadership skills, make new friends and so on.
Here at Indiana University, I joined the Society of Art Librarianship Students organization. SALS promotes professional development, facilitates networking among members, art librarians, and visual resource professionals, organizes informational talks by professionals, and visits fine art libraries. While this student organization is independent of the Art Library Societies of North America and the Visual Resources Association, many students pursuing careers in art librarianship and visual resources are active with these national associations.
When I joined the group I started off as the Social Media Coordinator, then became the Graphic Designer and this upcoming academic year I will be President. In Fall of 2015, we had a total of 6 members, we now have 10 members. I think the number of members went up because we started a better social media presence (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram), posting pictures of our events and activities. One of my favorite tools is Twuffer, it allows users to compose a list of future tweets, and schedule their release. I will say the size of our group works really well for us. We are able to schedule meetings easily (thank you, when2meet) and we support each other and our ideas for projects.
Here is some advice I would give to those who are in or just joining a student organization:

Support your peers and their projects or events that they would like to do. Not everyone will have the time to do everything but you should be willing to find a balance. SALS occasionally has bake sales, where we sell homemade buttons and baked goods in order to raise money. Not everyone is able to work the booth but most members always make sure to stop by to say hi. Our meetings are a great place to develop small and large projects, not all are able to be achieved but that’s okay. One of our group members proposed to hold a closing reception for an exhibition that was displayed outside of the Fine Arts Library. The member had no real idea of how he wanted to do it so we all came together and worked together to bring his idea to life.

Going off from what I mentioned above, collaborate with other student organizations and not just the ones within the library and information science program. Outside collaboration can be a great way to build new relationships. Take a tour of a local museum, archive or library with another student organization. SALS invited the Black Graduate Student Association to take a behind-the-scenes look at the IU Art Museum and view special items that were in the museum’s “Works on Paper Collection”.
This activity led to conversations about what services are available to students at the Fine Arts Library and museum. As library school students, we get so wrapped up in our library-land bubble  that we forget to share what amazing, sometimes hardly-used, services are available to other students.
Advocate for issues that are important to you or you feel should be a part of your LIS education. Recently, SALS decided as a group, to find a way to create a symbiotic relationship between art, librarianship, and diversity (ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, education, and religion). Our ongoing goal is to engage and stimulate conversation with other students, student organizations, and faculty within LIS.
This past March, SALS hosted a virtual watch party of the Derail Forum that was hosted by Simmons College. I’ll be honest, hardly anyone showed but we learned that this is an issue that needs to be brought into the spotlight, especially within library school. SALS has also created a zine, titled ART//LIB that is published online, for free by ISSUU. Each member contributes an essay, images or artwork, opinion editorials etc., with topics ranging from grad school advice to the issues of the digital divide.
Think Differently
Throw more than pizza parties and social hours. Take a break from the homework and look outside of the classroom. This is an opportunity for you to do something beyond your basic curriculum. Organize trips to visit local libraries, librarians or cities. SALS has taken trips to meet with academic librarians, museum librarians, and visual resource professionals. We also plan on host events for VRA’s Midwest Chapter in the fall. This shows the National and Regional organizations that your group has functioning students. Who doesn’t like to see students that active and capable of multitasking?
It is upsetting to see student groups that are not active in your program. Many of my peers and I also joined other organizations but due to a lack of leadership nothing has been accomplished within those student chapters. One of the main reasons I chose IU’s program is because of the Society of Art Librarianship Students. In the past, SALS has not always been steadily active and I acknowledge that student organizations have their ups and downs. But if someone chooses a school and is looking forward to joining a student organization and upon arrival finds out that it isn’t alive, it’s disheartening. Keeping student groups alive is vital to your program, LIS education and the student body.
For more ideas and advice on student organizations, check out Nicole Helregel list of Best Practices for Student Organizations.


5 replies

  1. Love the article! Do you have any tips for students doing distance programs? I’d like to participate in student groups, but my college is in another state.


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