This post is part of 23 Things for Professional Development.
I think my involvement with professional organisations is more intermittent than continuous as I tend to be intensely involved when there is a conference or other type of event to focus on e.g. blogging about CILIP Umbrella conference 2011.
I wonder if part of the reason is that I work in a generalist library which covers a wide range of subjects at undergraduate and taught postgraduate level. Most of my work involves management, and I develop those skills continuously and often blog about management. However, there is no other big issue or subject I have in common with other professionals. If I worked in a subject-specific library, I think I would feel more inclined to join a specialist group such as BLA or BIALL. For my current role, relationships within my institution and its broader organisation are the most important, and this is where I focus most of my efforts.
I was a member of CILIP when I was at library school and I am a member again now, but I did let that lapse for a few years in between because I could not see the benefits clearly enough to justify the cost, especially on relatively low wages at the beginning of my career. Perhaps this comes back to a breath/specificity reason: CILIP tries to be so many things to so many different people that sometimes it’s hard to see exactly what it is for. Similarly with Chartership, which I am currently working towards: the skills you have to demonstrate are described in very broad terms, because Chartership candidates come from a wide range of sectors and job levels. I come from a background in teaching, where the National Curriculum and exam board specifications are quite precise and fact-based, and with Chartership and its focus on description and evaluation, I have found it difficult to know if I am meeting the required standard.
In conclusion: although I am not very active in national professional organisations, I still believe it is important to share your knowledge with others and I do this via Twitter, blogging and by being an active member of local professional groups and committees.