Avenues uncovered by volunteering

Our Volunteer Co-Captain Steven Chang has written about his volunteering experience and how it led to his position as Senior Research Advisor at La Trobe University and Editor of Health Inform Journal. 
My first experience of volunteering in the GLAM environment was for the Health Libraries Inc (HLI) conference 2014 in Melbourne. At the time, I had just dived into my first ever position as a librarian at Western Health, and I was hungry to learn more about this new environment by getting involved. As a result, this opportunity popped up in the right place, at the right time, and was a great way to dip my toes into the health library world outside my immediate workplace.

The responsibilities I took on at the HLI conference were humble tasks in supporting the registration desk, live-tweeting the event, and handing out the microphone during Q&A discussions following the main presentations. Although it’s preferable to choose responsibilities that suit your personality and skills, I would argue that the mindset and attitude you bring is much more important. It’s much easier to network, know where you’re needed, and make connections with interesting people if you are open to asking the right questions and introducing yourself to organisers and delegates. You can also gain a valuable appreciation of the immense work that goes into running conferences by being involved behind the scenes, which gives you an extra layer of perspective for future professional development events, whether as an organiser, speaker, or attendee.

It’s 2017 now, and things are very different for me. I’m nine months into my new job at La Trobe University Library supporting researchers in the academic world as a Senior Research Advisor. My volunteering for the HLI conference inspired me to become a dedicated committee member for the association. I continue to be involved today, as my subject liaison responsibilities in the health sciences dovetail nicely with HLI’s focus on health librarianship. I’m now the chief editor of HLI’s biannual journal Health Inform, which provides plenty of challenges and opportunities to complement the lessons I learn in my day job – and I still pitch in to help the fantastic HLI committee team with the conference every year!

In short, the moral of the story is that volunteering can open up a range of avenues and networks that you might never come across otherwise. So if you’re keen on giving it a go, why not apply to volunteer in Canberra for NLS8? I might (definitely…) be biased, being the co-captain for managing the volunteer team for the symposium, but I was at NLS7 and I think this is a wonderfully supportive and welcoming environment to volunteer for a day or two and make new friends!

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