There are, at a glance, dozens (possibly hundreds) of professional organizations for LIS professionals. The scope grows slightly narrower, however, when it comes to museum and archive related organizations, which are of particular interest to me, with my personal goal of a historically-oriented career. When it comes to those key areas, two organizations that jumped out at me from the listings were the Society of American Archivists (SAA) and the American Alliance of Museums (AAM).
Of the two, SAA is probably the better known. In their own words (available in the “about SAA” section of their website, www.archivists.org) their mission is to promote “the values and diversity of archives and archivists. We are the preeminent source of professional resources and the principal communication hub for American archivists.” They also write that they help archivists to “achieve professional excellence and foster innovation to ensure the identification, preservation, and use of records of enduring value.”
The benefits of being a full member (which costs between $50-250 a year depending on your income) include the opportunity to hold office or appointed positions in the Society or to vote in elections or on any matter that comes before the Society as a whole. You can also become a member of sub-units of the Society, and you are eligible for a number of services and benefits. These services include access to The American Archivist journal, the Archival Outlook newsletter (containing latest news on the field), discounts on titles from the SAA bookstore, registration for the SAA Annual Meeting (which they describe as “the premier educational and professional networking event of the year”, and registration in continuing education workshops around the country. Members can also enter into the mentoring program as well as section and roundtable memberships. Students get all of the same benefits (for $50 a year) except that they cannot hold any elected offices.
SAA’s publications, as mentioned above, include The American Archivist, a semi-annual journal that discusses developments in the field. They also issue the Archival Outlook, which is published bimonthly and covers the work of the SAA’s various subgroups and reports on news that is relevant to the profession. Additionally, they have a bookstore full of guidebooks on best practices and ethics (which, again, are sold at a discount to members). In terms of the organization’s main activities or priority’s, they are largely focused on keeping abreast of changing technology, promoting diversity, and promoting public awareness.
Unlike the SAA (which has been knocking around since 1936), the AAM has effectively only existed for a year. It is the product of a massive overhaul of an older organization, the American Association of Museums. Possibly because of its comparative youthfulness, the AAM’s website is somewhat less informative. Nevertheless, they do state their mission fairly clearly in the “About Us” section of their website, aam-us.org. It is to “nurture excellence in museums through advocacy and service.” They further add that they support more than 20,000 museums by developing standards, providing resources and career development, and advocating for museums.
The benefits of being a Professional member of the AAM (a status that costs $90 a year) include online access to professional resources, professional development programs, access to 22 different professional networks, and a membership card that allows the member free admission to the various museums who are members of the AAM. They also offer career development resources and programs, the opportunity to present at their annual meeting, mentoring opportunities, means of staying informed (newsletters and magazine subscriptions), and discounts on development programs, attendance at the Annual Meeting, and on products in their bookstore. Members are also eligible for fellowships. Student memberships (costing $50) include all of the above benefits, except for the access to professional networks and a subscription to the print version of Museum Magazine (they still have electronic access).
The AAM has several publications, including the AAM Press, which publishes professional literature for/about museums that are sold in the organization’s bookstore, several e-newsletters, Museum Magazine, which addresses issues and challenges that face modern museums, and Exhibitionist¸ a peer-reviewed journal. Among their chief activities are programs such as the Center for the Future of Museums, which they describe as monitoring “cultural, technological, political and economic trends of importance to museums,” equipping “museums to help their communities,” and building “connections between museums and other sectors.”
My reasons for choosing these two organizations, as previously mentioned, are because they relate to the two fields in which I am chiefly interested. They are also both at the national level and, in my view at least, represent authorities within the field – which is something I can respect. In all likelihood I will ultimately end up joining one or the other of these organizations, probably based on which field I eventually decide to concentrate on. Their benefits seem broadly similar and, at least at a glance, genuinely are benefits that would be of considerable use to me in the future.
… If nothing else, I love the idea of gaining free admission to all those museums.