Magdalena Gomułka, Convenor of IFLA’s New Professionals Special Interest Group, encourages those beginning their IFLA journey to look to a SIG of interest as a starting point. Read more about the value of getting involved in one of the 12 IFLA Special Interest Groups. 

Why should new library and information professionals get involved in their local or national associations?

Volunteering in association work is a supplement to our professional life. My suggestion is: “Yes, try it!”, because being active in your network brings many benefits.

Those who take part in association activities will agree that interaction with other librarians can be rewarding experience, both professionally and personally.  You can learn more about new trends and changes in cultural institutions, learn about library projects and share stories.  This knowledge can make your work easier. And what’s more, you can meet interesting librarians and build relationships because library associations bring together people from a whole library sector such as librarians and directors of various types of libraries, editors, architects, personal data controllers and NGOs.

I received a lot of support from the Polish Librarians Association as a new professional. When I had a special task to invite Polish librarians to participate in an international networking project, my association helped me to promote this idea among members. I remember that the results were impressive and many librarians took part in this initiative. And what is the most important here, thanks to my library association I could get involved with IFLA.

How can SIGs be an entry point for new professionals to get involved with IFLA?

Special  Interest Groups (SIGs) are good places to start international collaboration. First and foremost, anyone interested in getting to know more about IFLA but who may not be an IFLA member, is eligible to nominate themselves to one of the SIG committees. These groups are focused on a specific topic, such as big data, library publishing or artificial intelligence or new professionals. If you have a library topic of interest, you will be able to join formally or informally to share your knowledge and experience.

I’ve started to get more involved in IFLA in the New Professionals Special Interest Group (NPSIG). This group  was created to welcome new information professionals to the field, in spite of their age. You can be a new professional  in many moments of your career, for instance when you organise your first flashmob or publish an article in English on a blog.  I think it is an amazing committee because all NPSIG members have different skills as well as years of experience, so in the results, we can learn a lot from each other.

SIGs have fewer members than Sections so it it allows for the possibility to get to know more about other colleagues and strengthen relationships in the group. Moreover, you can be closer to SIG activities, taking part in many tasks and presenting your ideas easily.

What are the benefits SIG offer for new professionals?

When New Professionals were preparing to organise a virtual NPSIG Business Meeting in 2020, we wanted to show what we learnt and got from our cooperation in the group. Our brainstorm activity revealed a list of benefits, the primary being that the SIGs offered good learning and networking opportunities. In NPSIG we like to organise unusual projects and extraordinary events where we can use our skills and knowledge from work in public, academic, specialist and school libraries from different countries. It is an opportunity to promote diversity in the LIS field and to provide a source of information. What’s more, international cooperation helps us to develop our social, language and cultural skills. All in all, this cooperation is free!

How did you get involved with IFLA?

My IFLA journey started with the IFLAcamp in Wrocław, Poland. The New Professionals SIG was looking for local librarians who could help them organise the event. The IFLAcamp is a one of the satellite meetings organised a few days before WLIC, the IFLA Congress; participation is free and the camp gives participants an opportunity to meet librarians from other countries and to share their experience. The Polish Librarians Association recommended some librarians from Poland and I was one of them. I decided to help them, and we organised an amazing camp as well as library visits on bicycles and a flashmob on the main square in Wrocław.

Getting involved with IFLA is also an interesting experience for me. When I was a LIS student, I was learning about IFLA history and reading IFLA publications about public libraries, cataloguing and bibliography because Polish librarianship really took a lot from international cooperation developing work methodology. At this time I’ve never thought I could be a part of this community but life can be surprising.

Anything else to add about your experience volunteering with IFLA?

Thanks to the IFLA International Advocacy Programme, I found out about sustainable development. I’ve read a lot of publications about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and took part in regionally collaborative webinars on sustainable development.  Because there were not so many polish-language SDG resources, through this experience I feel prepared to help Polish librarians in promoting sustainable development and showing how they can use this knowledge in advocacy work.