So, within a week or so of returning to Australia last October, I found myself attending the ALIA NSW Library Unconference in Sydney. After 18 months working for the UN overseas, I thought I'd give the library industry another decent shot, and had a couple of good opportunities open up to get my foot back in the door of the library world. I figured that an ALIA event would be a good chance to get a feel for the professional community again.
There were a number of familiar faces - one of whom was a former colleague and now ALIA staffer, who encouraged me to join ALIA again. I promised that I'd join as soon as I'd landed a permanent job in the industry. I neglected to mention that it had been over eight years since I'd had a permanent job. But, on the whole, it was an interesting crowd - and I was surprised at how optimistic everybody felt about the state of the industry and the future of their careers. It was nice.
A few months later, I attended an ALIA event, where it was announced that ALIA were making some changes to their constitution - specifically "To endorse the principles of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19, and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals in response to the many challenges faced by the world today and into the future."
This was something new, and it certainly caught my attention - especially as somebody who had spent the previous three years immersed in work that was intrinsically tied to the SDGs. Furthermore, when I spoke at the ALIA conference in 2014, one of my main points was on the similarities between many of the core objectives of library and information work and capacity-building in the developing world.
With this inclusion in ALIA's core aims, it felt like they were making a very deliberate shift toward professional values that were already important to me.
At the same time, my career had taken a turn for the better, working in one of my top employers of choice, which I found enjoyable and stimulating and challenging in a good way - BUT - it's the kind of place where one can easily disappear into a well-insulated bubble that keeps its focus on internal operational functions.
So, for me, I now feel like ALIA involvement can provide that opportunity to make the connections between the operational work I do as a professional in the workplace and the opportunities to interact with the wider community, especially in the field of International Development. ALIA has its Asia-Pacific Spectial Interest Group (APSIG), and I'm curious to see how an increased focus on the SDGs will prompt further opportunities to perhaps form regional partnerships. And I'm keen to use these opportunities to connect with others who have worked with others who have worked in the space where libraries and international development intersects.
Furthermore, as a new employee in a large organisation, I'm hardly going to be an agent for substantial change in that part of my professional world. But getting involved in ALIA, once again I can pursue the areas of the industry that interest me that I wouldn't necessarily have the opportunity to pursue in my work.
It's not the most common reason for joining ALIA, but it's one that works for me. It feels like an organic convergence of everything that I've done in my career so far.
When I first joined ALIA, I did so because I thought it would be good for my career, that it would help me find a job, and that by banding together with other librarians, it would make us a more "serious" profession. I believed that all librarians should contribute to their professional community, supporting each other in career development and lifelong learning and, in the process, create innovation in their work and futureproof the profession. That's what ALIA membership meant to me back then.
Honestly, I don't care about those things so much anymore. But the idea of ALIA as a development organisation - in similar ways to IFLA with last year's International Advocacy Programme - that's definitely something that I can get behind.
That said - I got that permanent job, so I pretty much had to keep my promise and join.
Also, ALIA membership is tax-deductible. Strangely enough, also a deciding factor.