Be the Face of Your Student Organization

Does your program have an ALA Student Chapter? At University of Iowa, our student chapter is called the Library and Information Science Student Organization (LISSO, for short) and I had the pleasure of serving as the Secretary this year. Unlike some of my classmates, I was never interested in running for student government in high school or college. However, after being out of school for a few years and keeping up with university news more, I not only understand the appeal of student government, but I see how important they are to a university or student body. So, why should you serve on student government?

You have the ability to make real change.

Do you hear a lot of critiques about school from your classmates? Student government is a productive way to address these concerns. In student government, you act as a liaison between the faculty and the students. Earlier this year, we sent out a survey about changes in the curriculum, and showed the survey data to our department. As secretary, I was able to serve as the student representative on the curriculum committee, and the president of LISSO was asked to attend every faculty meeting. As Anna-Sophia wrote in her post about social change in library school, you have the ability to make change within your program if you know who to talk to. If you are not on student government but want to contribute, talk to your officers. That’s what they’re here for.

You can network.

This year, the annual Iowa Library Association conference took place in a neighboring town. We, as LISSO, got to host a slew of Iowa librarians and meet a lot of different people from institutions all over the state. It was so much fun to get to know people and practices in the comfort of our own building. Plus, there were several opportunities to talk about jobs, as they knew we were students and we would be graduating soon. On LISSO, we’ve also reached out to libraries in the area and asked if we could tour in their library, or if we could connect students with practicing librarians to help them hone their application materials. Some of these connections turned into mentorships.

You can be social.

On LISSO, we had a social chair and a social committee this term, which meant we got to plan a lot of fun events. Some of our events were informational, like our Professionalism Panels in which we invited local librarians to come and talk on a specific topic, like resumes and interviews. Some events were just plain fun. We hosted “bad movie night” and went bowling a few times. We also hosted a beginning of the year potluck-style picnic at a park, and invited the faculty and staff to join us, as well as families and pets. It was a fun way to mingle and get to know the new students, and for the new students to get to know the faculty in a casual manner. To avoid burnout, the LISSO officers staggered our involvement with social events so that we could all get some time off. We also created a spreadsheet about what worked and what didn’t at every event, for the next year’s officers to use and reference.

You can stand out in an applicant pool.

Yes, this is kind of selfish, but also valid. Participation in student government looks great on a resume. It’s not enough to be a member of an organization anymore; you have to be active. Being on student government shows that you can work with others, you care about your affiliated institution, and you have good leadership skills. This translates to your future career as well. As UCLA alum Tammi Kim said in her interview at Hack Library School, “there is a lot of committee work in the [library and information science field]… and this is the best forum to get experience in that.”

If you don’t have a student government at your program, don’t fret! If your program is ALA or AASL accredited, it is super easy to start your own organization. If you’re not at an accredited school, you can still create a student organization or community group by contacting your department or your center for student involvement! Already on student government but don’t know where to start? This post on best practices from Nicole helped our group a lot. What are your experiences with student government?

Cover photo: “Faces” by Valerie Everett, depicting boxes with black and white drawn faces on them. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Chloe Waryan is a MLIS candidate at the University of Iowa. She entered into the library field by way of urban public libraries, as a patron, a volunteer, and eventually an employee. She now works as a technical manager for an academic journal. Connect with her on social media or her website.

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