How strong local chapters benefit individuals, the chapters, and the entire organization

By Sheryl Ramer Gesoff

“Some of my best friends are members of the Special Libraries Association. @SLAhq @RockyMtnSLA @SLANewEngland

–Maria Hugger (@shinydoom) on Twitter, identifying her friends in the local chapters, as well as the organization

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This tweet makes sense, intuitively. Professional and personal relationships are formed at lunches, happy hours, book clubs, and board meetings organized by local chapters. These encounters happen repeatedly and naturally, and strangers turn into acquaintances, friends, and even co-workers.

What roles do local chapters play?

1. Positively influence careers.

Virginia Mattingly, president of SLA Kentucky wrote in an email to me: “What I most like about the Kentucky Chapter is its openness and friendliness. Since I joined in 2007, I’ve made wonderful friends and have advanced in my career because of the leadership opportunities they offered.”

Participation in local organizations is networking at its best. Behavior at events and around the boardroom table are better indicators of the strengths a person can bring to a workplace than any interview. Virginia works with a team of “wonderful friends” to make a chapter that serves her local community, and in return the community has helped her to achieve her career goals.

2. Improve the experience at the national conference.

SLA San Francisco Bay Region chapter tweeted, “Chapter members run in packs” at the international conference. The pictures below prove that tweet correct.

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These groups make the conference more fun and productive for everyone.

3. Support for local chapters — in person and on social media.

Members of SLA hear about other local chapters’ successes and become members — even if they are not local to the chapter. Kendra K. Levine from Berkeley, California, for example, is a proud member of SLA Kentucky because she heard about their programming and liked the members of the chapter.

Local chapters also support each other on social media. We retweet and favorite each other on Twitter. The New York City Twitter feed hosts a list of all the chapters and divisions who tweet, so people who subscribe can see all the tweets from the chapters and divisions.

4. Serve as “incubators” for other local organizations.

SLA NY President Marcy Winkler wrote that local chapters and divisions could “serve as a laboratory for programming and networking events.” Successful programming is celebrated and replicated by other chapters so local chapters can learn from each other. SLA helps spread these successes to everyone by fostering communication among the chapters.Some achievements of local chapters include:

— The New York City chapter held a “power networking” event where people sat across from each other at a table. One row shifted every 5 minutes, giving each person a chance to network with op everyone, one person at a time.

— For 13 years, members of the DC chapter have met to discuss non-fiction books.

— SLA Kentucky partners with the academic and special sections of the Kentucky library association to put on a joint spring conference. It will be held at the Jenny Wiley state park in Kentucky over several days.

— SLA Europe holds a full day of events just for new professionals.

— The Oregon chapter visited a wine library.

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5. Serve as incubators for individuals.

Local chapters also serve as incubators for individual members. I have never written for or edited a newsletter. SLA New York offers me the chance to try this new role in a supportive environment with Helen Sobolik and Daniel Barron. This experience will be an entry on my resume — who knows how it could affect my career? Activities like these benefit the organization as a whole: members like me are more likely to attend the conference in Philadelphia in 2016 because we feel affiliated with an organization that has such a positive influence on our lives.

Local chapters are both close to home and far away, and their strength benefits everyone.

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