Introducing ILA’s Students and New Professionals (SANP) Forum
September 1, 2020
Carol Ng-He, Arlington Heights Memorial Library and Anjelica Rufus-Barnes, Prospect Heights Public Library District
ILA is committed to supporting students and library workers who are new to the field. This is shown through its robust annual award program, which includes the Crosman Memorial Award recognizing library workers who are new or relatively new to the field; the Valerie J. Wilford Scholarship Grant for Library Education; and the Sylvia Murphy Williams Award, which provides support and encouragement to Illinois recipients of ALA’s Spectrum Scholarships. However, there has not been a year-round professional development networking group at ILA that targets students and new professionals—until now. Following the success of existing ILA forums in providing members engaging, dynamic, educational, and social platforms, a new Students and New Professionals Forum (SANP) is a natural progression.
SANP represents the interests of students and new library professionals in Illinois, provides a forum for students and new professionals to discuss issues of particular interest to their demographic, and encourages active participation in Illinois library organizations. Any ILA student or personal member who is currently enrolled at a college or university in a program related to the library and information field, such as MLS/MLIS, Library Technical Assistant Certification, school media program, a recent graduate, or has been employed in a library or an information service organization for less than seven years, as well as staff from ILA institution members who fit the above criteria, are welcome to join the forum. SANP aims to bond this demographic through providing timely support and practical leadership opportunities. The forum also strives to lift up the diverse voices in librarianship and advocate for best practices in student support and career preparation.
Launched in February 2020, the forum is the brainchild of Tamara Jenkins, ILA’s Communication & Engagement Manager. She suggested that the Association create a forum or committee for students shortly after receiving her position in 2018. However, it wasn’t until last year when ILA partnered with the American Library Association for its joint student membership program that ILA staff revisited Jenkins’s idea. “It was a great time to create something that would allow students to become more involved and more connected with ILA,” said Jenkins. Around the same time, ILA pondered how to enhance services for newer professionals who were no longer students. “...That stage can sometimes feel like career limbo,” said ILA Administrative Coordinator and then-SANP staff liaison Kendall Harvey. “We want to be able to provide resources for all ILA members, and we realized that this could be a way to better serve this particular demographic.” Adds Jenkins, “I believe all organizations should look to the future and question what they are doing to ensure sustainability for themselves and for the profession they serve. It only makes sense to give students and young professionals a seat at the table, because that is the future of the profession.” The Association started a petition for the formation of SANP, as well as the Small and Rural Libraries Forum, at the October 2019 Annual Conference. The petition also appeared on the ILA website and in our e-newsletter. More than 150 members signed it in support. A month later, the Executive Board approved the creation of both forums. In early January 2020, staff sent individual inquiries to some ILA members to determine who might have been interested in serving as SANP forum managers. Two candidates from neighboring libraries, Carol Ng-He and Anjelica Rufus-Barnes, accepted the leadership roles.
Carol Ng-He is both a student and a new LIS professional. Currently the exhibits coordinator at Arlington Heights Memorial Library, she is seeking her MLIS through San Jose State University’s online program. At the school, she became eager for opportunities to join a local community with like-minded people and grow her professional support network. As a veteran arts and museum educator, she believes it is important to be connected and engaged with a community of learning. She attended her first ILA conference in 2019. “I am always interested in finding ways to get creative inspiration that I can integrate in my work, and continuously learn from and collaborate with others whenever possible,” Ng-He said. “I am motivated to help others by creating meaningful, relevant, and accessible learning experiences to meet their needs.”
Anjelica Rufus-Barnes is a reference librarian at Prospect Heights Library District, a role she began shortly after graduating from Dominican University in 2018. Like Ng-He, Rufus-Barnes consistently seeks ways to learn from and collaborate with others in the field. While attending Dominican, she became a board member of the school’s student organization for library and information science. That led to volunteer committee work for ILA and ALA that has evolved from groups she was curious about in college to ones of present interests. “When I started graduate school, I had zero library experience and an uncertainty about how I would fit in. Participating in committees gave me confidence and helped me realize that it’s not how I fit in, but what fits me,” said Rufus-Barnes. “SANP can be a resource and outlet for students, recent graduates, and new professionals to figure out what fits them.”
Ng-He and Rufus-Barnes have been developing plans to build membership and organize initiatives to engage members. Current task priorities include establishing SANP’s branding and enhancing public visibility. A social media committee is being formed and marketing strategies are developed. Through support from the ILA staff, collaborations with other forums are underway to engage seasoned professionals in talks about career pathways and to develop networking events.
There are a few ways to get involved:
1. Log in to your ILA profile and update your forum interests.
2. Participate in upcoming SANP meetings via Zoom. Visit the
ILA website and select Students and New Professionals Forum
(SANP) under the Forum section for the date, time, and
3. Start and serve on a SANP committee.
4. Join the SANP Facebook page and/or Google Group to keep
in touch and stay current on forum activities.
As aspiring librarians and information professionals embark on their professional journeys, SANP can offer a safe, supportive and important space for them to grow and thrive. “I think, or I hope, that the ILA Student and New Professionals Forum will serve as an introduction to a professional association,” said Jenkins. “I believe that students and new professionals can gain relevant experience about their profession as well as learn about the inner
workings of a professional association.”
SANP Member Spotlight Q & A with Patricia Chavez
Patricia Chavez is a library research information specialist at the Library of Rush University Medical Center who received her MLIS from Dominican University in 2016. Here, she discusses her path toward her present role and why she is one of the original members of SANP.
Q: How has your experience been between graduating and receiving your first position?
A: A little bit of a wild ride, but very fun! I had begun an unpaid internship in archives while I was still in school, and I continued to do that after I graduated while simultaneously working full time in retail. About four months after graduation, I got offered a full time temporary job at the University of Chicago. I was one of two project assistants, and our main task was to help supervise the moving of books from one library to another. After that project was finished, I returned to the archives world as an Archives Assistant at DePaul University’s Special Collections and Archives. I spent two years there, and just began my current position as a reference librarian at Rush this past December. I'm really grateful that I have experience in both libraries and archives, and have enjoyed working in both!
Q: Why are you a member of SANP?
A: Networking is simultaneously both one of the hardest and one of the most necessary parts of librarianship. It is something that I have always struggled with, and going straight into other forums or committees with people who have been in the profession can sometimes be overwhelming. By joining SANP, I hope to be able to connect with others who are new to the profession in order to share experiences and advice.
Q: Why do you believe others should become active members?
A: For students, it's always a good idea to try and both get as much practical experience and make as many connections as possible, but this is not always easy. Even when there isn't a global pandemic going on (at press time), students often have other obligations such as work and family. SANP, I think, is a good, relatively low-stakes way to get connected with others in the profession. Because ILA is statewide, most of our meetings are virtual, which makes it easy for anyone to attend.
Q: Is there anything I should’ve asked you but didn’t?
A: You didn't ask about my cat! His name’s Alfie, he’s approximately two years old, and, despite me being a librarian, he is completely illiterate.