ASSOCIATES (2005, July, v. 12, no. 1) -

ALA Membership as a Staff Development Initiative

Support staff have significant opportunities for professional development through membership in library associations. Membership has traditionally been a way to make essential connections that benefit one's work and personal life. However, many support staff do not consider association membership as a regular part of their career development. With encouragement from progressive directors and department heads, support staff can begin to see association membership as a vital, natural component of their professional journey.

Membership is an often overlooked staff development area. Studies have consistently shown that feelings of 'connection' motivate staff to perform better at work, have lower absentee rates and stronger personal identification with the success of projects. Look for ways to encourage your support staff to make connections with others in their field by joining a library association. Demonstrate that you believe in your staff by identifying ways they can personally contribute to a library association as a member.

Your state organization may have a special interest group for support staff. Local paraprofessional and support staff groups are often organized "by staff for staff" and can be an excellent venue for involvement. The American Library Association (ALA) recently lowered membership dues for support staff to $35.00/year, making membership in the national organization very accessible. ALA offers distance education and skills building workshops, support staff conferences, and opportunities for committee work. Information about support staff participation can be found at along with information about specialty divisions and round tables at

Membership can also be used as a staff appreciation technique. Consider gifting a yearly membership in ALA or your state association for an employment anniversary. Offer membership as a prize during National Library Workers Day or a staff appreciation day. You can encourage your board or friends group to provide membership as a non-salary benefit for key employees. Any efforts to encourage support staff in their career development will return dividends to your library through a well motivated, better informed, and more connected staff.

John Chrastka
Manager for Membership Development
American Library Association

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