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MLA as Your Professional Home

When I first joined the Medical Library Association in 2019, I was not prepared for all the association had to offer and all of the exciting and fulfilling opportunities that awaited me as a new member. I went to my first MLA Conference in the Spring of 2019 held at its headquarter city, Chicago, Illinois. It was my first ever trip to Chicago and my first out of state library conference. At the time, I was transitioning from hospital librarianship to my first ever academic librarian role and trying to desperately find my professional home within the Association. I had been a member of the Southern Chapter of MLA, TaBaMLN, and even the Florida Health Sciences Library Association or FHSLA, but never at the national level. It felt overwhelming to make the leap from regional/chapter to the national level.  One of my mentors, Shannon Jones, imparted helpful wisdom that spoke to me as a BINPOC librarian. To paraphrase, Shannon mentioned to me that the most important thing I could do was to find my professional home within our affinity groups. In 2019, special interest groups were in a transformative period and I had decided to join both the Latino Special Interest Group (later renamed the Latinx Caucus) and the African American Medical Librarians Alliance or as it is most known, AAMLA. As a mixed-race, Puerto Rican librarian, I sometimes wasn’t sure where to fit it in, in truth, it is something that other librarians of color with multiple identities and intersectionalities have to navigate in other professional associations.

Regardless of how I felt, I quickly realized that both groups welcomed me with open arms so much so that I had the opportunity to serve as a caucus leader in one and a committee co-chair in the other. Since 2019, both caucuses have afforded me a lot of great opportunities that have helped me grow personally and professionally. These have included leadership experience as the Latinx Caucus chair and later project leader and as the AAMLA Virtual Engagement Committee co-chair putting together year-long webinar opportunities with a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion topics available for free to library workers both in and out of MLA. I’ve also had the opportunity to grow my library workers network (que pasa mis frolleagues!) and learned about all the amazing things our members are doing across the country.

For me, MLA is an association of opportunities, because of its members. I’ve had great support from our BINPOC colleagues and have been grateful for all the activism that has taken place to make myself and others sit at tables that would have been impossible in the early days of the Association. We’ve come a long way and have a long way to go, but together we can continue to make those improvements. As past MLA President, Beverly Murphy shared during her presidency, “I am MLA, You are MLA, We are MLA”. So how will you take the association to the next level? What ideas and projects are you passionate about that could benefit not just other members but your communities? Colleagues? Patients? Providers? The next generation of library workers?

First, let’s remember to be engaged, vote now during our Caucus Elections period. Second, check out all that MLA has to offer and connect with passionate members who are working to make MLA better every day. Discover other caucuses, join a committee, work collaboratively within domain hubs, advocate and engage leadership, or consider making the leap and becoming one. MLA is as great as its members and its members are critical to ensuring we continue to elevate medical and health sciences librarianship into the future. Siguimos p’alante junto. Let’s go forward together.

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