About 12 years ago I worked in a rural high school. I was the librarian, with few clues about what I was doing, except that I rekindled my love for young adult books and I desperately wanted to share those books with anybody who would stand still long enough for me to issue one to them. We had a fantastic reading programme and I was luckily included in any discussions about reading and literacy in the school. In quiet times - there weren’t many - I spent my time looking on the internet for great ideas to use in my library and learning about research processes and learning to be useful to teachers. By accident one day I found the Listserv and then once I was installed on there I found out about SLANZA, which was in its very early days, and joined. School librarians, banding together for strength, trying to make good things happen for their colleagues - my kind of organisation!
Fast forward. It is 2004, I work in a different school in a city now and I have put my hand up to be the representative on the National Executive for our region. A bit scary! But also really interesting, challenging and oh my the people I met! And a new view of the organisation I belonged to, a view which showed frustrations and annoyances, but also so much fabulous work going on by reps from all over the country, work which just goes on, sometimes invisible to those off exec but always valuable and always working towards improving things for the members. And then, someone nominated me for an award. My school sat up and paid attention, the boss made a huge fuss, presented me with the certificate in front of the whole school and told everyone that they were the luckiest school in the country because they had me. Wow! A SLANZA award changed my reputation in the school, the perception of staff, and made the students think I was a little more awesome too. SLANZA award nominations are open now - they are one of the best things SLANZA does for it’s members. Recognising those who make a difference in their schools. Nominate someone who makes a difference to his or her school through the work they do in the library.
Now it is 2014, SLANZA membership is up for renewal again. There has been no rise in the cost of membership for 12 years. We work hard to keep this cost down by having a fantastic Major Sponsor in Book Protection Products, by having great Business Members who finance our Collected magazine. We work hard to keep the costs of the National Executive members down to a minimum and we always have done that. So sometimes, even though membership is only $50, people say to me, “Well what do I get for my membership?” This is what you get:
SLANZA awards - see above. And also Life Memberships for those who have contributed so much to SLANZA over the years.
Regular meetings with people who do what you do, who work at a similar coal face every day and who have the same kinds of problems as you. The chance to have a group of friends who work in your field, who can give you advice and who get together regularly for a catchup and a vent. You can’t get this online from any website, you can only get this by developing relationships, and for me that is the main purpose of SLANZA, relationship builder for school librarians across the country.
The Online PD - our third cohort is in their second week of the course. This kind of professional development is valuable because it is self paced, easy to fit into your day, has been developed for you by school librarians just like you, and is full of things we know you can use in your regular working day.
Collected magazine - smart, professional and full of great stuff that you really want to read. Lead articles by people at the top of their game in the school library world. Information you can use straight away and ideas straight from the school library world locally and internationally, and you get this three times a year!
Conference. Every second year you get the opportunity to hear luminaries from the international school library world, to go to workshops with fantastic practitioners, to attend a huge variety of events and opportunities and to network with school librarians from across the country. A SLANZA conference is an event of significance because of the fantastic PD you receive but also because of the connections you build. And it is very reasonably priced with great accommodation also reasonably priced to go with it.
Local Professional Development. The regional committees organise regular PD for you: sometimes a small event, sometimes something much larger. Visiting speakers, authors, workshops, information sessions and so much more. Usually free and always valuable. We are working hard to raise the levels of our profession through education and connection, and it’s working! Look how far we’ve come! Look at the amazing skills out in the school library community. In large part SLANZA has inspired that!
SLANZA study grants. This is a chance to study, to upskill professionally and to have the majority of the cost of a paper paid for. A long time ago I decided to do a paper, full of trepidation, and realised a) I could do it and b) passing was empowering!
Connections. Connections with other organisations, outside agencies who have goals which are similarly aligned to our own.
Most importantly for me: SLANZA gives me a community. Like minded souls. A feeling that every time a group of SLANZA members gets together, that we work for a common purpose, have common goals and are in this school library business for all the right reasons. I love my SLANZA friends, they come from small schools and large, they might even work in places which aren’t school libraries but which support school libraries. They are passionate, fun, and full of great ideas I can take away and use, adapt and make something else out of. It is a cool group to be part of. We do a great job of growing new leaders, encouraging people to step up and get involved and at local and national level it is wonderful that people are comfortable to do that in this community. Thanks so much to those people.
SLANZA has filled my days, evenings and life for a long time now. I work hard for this organisation because I believe it is valuable. Like all volunteer organisations it can take it out of you. It is the work I go to after work. But it is the work I like doing because for all of you reading this, who are passionate about school libraries, the work I do is for you.
Join The School Library Association of New Zealand, your school can afford that $50. Feel the passion, get better at your work and find a community! You don’t have to go to meetings to get heaps out of SLANZA, you just need to participate. Say yes to the opportunities we offer and get more awesome! A list of local reps are here; phone one up and ask any questions you have. Non members are welcome to come along to a meeting and give us a try, you would be very welcome, we know you’ll like us and that you’ll want to join in our community.