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Adventures of a New MLA Member

Hello there! My name is Jillian Silverberg, and I have been asked to serve as a guest columnist for MLAConnect. Over the course of the coming months, I will be sharing thoughts and experiences from the perspective of a new member to the wonderful world of MLA.

Before I begin, there three things that you should know about me:

  1. I work at the small but mighty health sciences library at Quinnipiac University. In fact, in just a few short weeks, I will be celebrating my one-year anniversary!
  2. My official title is research and instruction librarian, although I am also the official library liaison to Quinnipiac University’s School of Medicine (SOM).
  3. I was never supposed to be here.

Regarding that final point, I really mean it. I was supposed to be an archivist. Most, if not all, of my graduate school courses were focused on archival practices and management. Yet, while my schoolwork suggests the upward trajectory of a budding archivist, my professional experiences tell a completely different story. Below is just a sample of the jobs that I held both during and after graduate school:

  • Reference assistant
  • Electronic access, reference, and outreach librarian
  • “Floater” librarian (part of the reference services department)

You see a theme emerging, don’t you? And while it certainly took me a while, I finally started to see it, too. By that point, I had been working for a health sciences and pharmacy university as a reference assistant for almost three years, and those experiences really solidified the sort of library and information science (LIS) professional I wanted to be. Because of that position I realized the following about myself:

  • Academic libraries make me the happiest.
  • I enjoy providing reference and research services from both behind a desk and in front of a classroom.
  • I really like working in a subject specific environment—maybe this last point is specific to me, but I really enjoy knowing a lot about specific things.

And so, the would-be archivist changed course and focused on becoming a reference/research and instruction librarian, ideally in a health sciences or biosciences environment. Not entirely sure how to go about doing that, I decided the best way was to just plow ahead. Armed with nothing more than my working experiences and a “can-do” attitude, I dove in head first. Cue the montage of job applications and cover letters! Trust me when I say, it’s a long montage.

Jump forward to May 2018, and I received an email from Quinnipiac University extending a job offer for my current position. On July 9, 2018, I walked into my office in the Netter Library for the first time. I had made it where I wanted to be, but being completely honest, I did not know what to do next. My wonderful colleagues all had great advice and lessons to teach, but there was one sentiment that they all shared: I should get involved with MLA and its regional chapter, the North Atlantic Health Sciences Libraries (NAHSL).

My first real introduction MLA was through NAHSL, and it was quite the occasion. I attended their annual conference in October 2019. While I was initially nervous, any concerns or doubts I had were quickly forgotten by the end of the first night. Everyone was so inviting and friendly. By the end of the three-day conference, I had promised to join the planning committee for the 2020 conference. Saying I was hooked would be an understatement.

The desire to be a part of an active LIS-focused organization has been with me for years. As both a new member and an early career librarian, seeing such a strong sense of community and engagement was amazing. Not only did I finally find a place for myself in the LIS profession, I had found a community that was eager to have a new member jump aboard.

During NAHSL’s annual conference, I was encouraged to sign up for MLA ’19. After some time thinking it over, I took the jump and registered. And with that, the countdown to May 2019 began.

Next time: MLA from the perspective of a newbie and four tips for chasing away meeting fatigue.

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