When I went back to college to finish my bachelor’s degree as a prelude to going to library school, I had to pick a major. The first time around in undergrad I had nominally majored in English, but I hadn’t liked it much. It was time for something new! After a little thought I settled on History. Most of what I read for leisure was either history or politics, after all, and I couldn’t face listening to twenty-year-olds debate political theory.
Library school has been fun, but I’ve missed studying history. It’s even hard to do a little local history volunteering here like I did in my hometown, thanks to the hordes of archives and museum studies students. To be fair, I really should have come up with a more convincing argument why volunteer coordinators should put me on rotation. “I dunno, I just want to touch your stuff,” wasn’t as compelling as it could have been.
To scratch that history itch, I joined the American Library Association’s (ALA) Library History Round Table (LHRT). If you’re a student and already a member of the ALA, it’s only $5 to join the LHRT. That’s a bargain-basement price for all the benefits you’ll get, my favorite of which is a subscription to the peer-reviewed journal Libraries: Culture, History, and Society. In addition to helping you keep up with the latest in library history research, this journal serves as a handy prop for flexing on your classmates. Establish intellectual dominance in your seminars by working a recent LCHS article into your responses!
My second-favorite aspect of being an LHRT member is the opportunity to join committees. I like my human interaction to be as structured as possible, especially when it comes to meeting new people, so I honestly enjoy meetings. More importantly, service committee membership looks great on resumes, especially if you’re going into academic librarianship. LHRT has many committees to join, and opportunities specifically for students. Right now, I belong to the Recruitment and Public Relations Committee, which is tasked with increasing membership to the LHRT.
The LHRT issues awards, runs a blog, and maintains bibliographies. I’ll be forever grateful for library history bibliographies. I know the DDC and LC numbers for library history now, but in undergrad I had a heck of a time writing a historiography of library history until I stumbled across the LHRT bibliographies. There’s no variation of “library history” that will yield search results for the history of libraries.
Students can contribute to the LHRT blog, or review books for the scholarly journal. There are also many opportunities to present your work or otherwise get your name out there. Library history is a relatively small field, which makes it a little easier for new folks to engage with this group. You don’t have to be an academic librarian to get involved, either! Anyone with an interest in the history of libraries can join. Sign up today, and tell them I sent you.
Emily is in her final semester of library school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She would very much like a job, please.