So, for this Thing, I'm looking at my professional networks and organisations.
CILIP / CILIPS
I was never a student member, and only joined in the first place because 1) my employer paid the fees, and 2) my line manager at that time was heavily involved in the Scottish branch. The same pretty much applies now as the reasons for me maintaining my membership! Oh, and also because I'm Chartered now, and if you leave CILIP, you lose the Charter (which is fair enough - there's no point having a qualification that shows your commitment to your own and others professional development if there's no-one checking you're doing what you say you're doing) .
What do I get from CILIP/CILIPS? Well, currently, not much. As a Chartership candidate, I attended a session on the process, and I've attended occasional events organised by CILIP, where I could squidge them to kind-of fit with my internal Appraisal goals. I get the CILIP info email on library related news, but as my job involves keeping up to date on most news, I've usually already read the articles that are linked to by the time it comes in, and the journal is almost always of no interest to me, as it's seems to be just about public and academic libraries. I know they do lots of good things, but none of them are currently of any real use to me. I think the lack of relevance of CILIP for me at the moment is because I work in a specialised sector, and other groups already fill the role for me that CILIP seem to do for public and academic librarians.
However, I'm planning to register as a Mentor for Chartership candidates soon, so by being involved in that process I may feel that I'm both more useful to CILIP, and that they are to me. As Loopy says, CILIP's one of those things that you get back what you put in. For me, I've mainly not been putting anything in with CILIP.
BIALL (British and Irish Association of Law Librarians) is an excellent and very active group. I'm a member because my workplace pays for my professional fees, which is great, as it allows me access to the Journal of Legal Information Management (lots of articles relevant to legal information professionals), the newsletter (updates on BIALL and supplier activities), salary surveys (great to pass to Higher Ups, to show where your salary sits when compared to other professionals with similar responsibilities and experience), and there's also an email list. The email list does often seem to be the backup plan for people posting initially on lis-law, in order to try and get as many responses as possible to queries, rather than the first port of call, but this is probably because not all legal information professionals are BIALL members. Finance issues mean I've not been able to attend a conference since 2008, but when I have been able to attend, the conferences have been informative, fun, and given me a great chance to make contacts outside the Scots law field, and to put names to the faces of the people whose names I've seen around the internet.
Hopefully, I might be able to attend the next conference...or is it my boss' turn? I may have to suggest a game of Stone, Paper, Scissors to settle matters...
The SLLG (Scottish Law Librarians Group) group is, for me, the most useful of the professional groups that I'm a member of. Plus, I'm on the Committee, so I have no choice but to be heavily involved*! Again, my employer pays my memberships fees for this group, but seeing as it's only £15, I would be a member of this group regardless of who paid the fees.
It's aimed at trying to fill the need for legal-sector specific training for information professionals in Scotland, has a quarterly newsletter, a members email list, and additional regular social events to encourage face-to-face meetings. Which is lovely - letting you put a face to a name....as long as you're better than me, and can remember which face goes with which name. This is not my strong point! Name badges are often my salvation.
Since it's a small group, it feels quite friendly and approachable, and the email list allows members to ask each other for help on topics which may be specific only to Scots law.
According to a Twitter post from CILIP Info earlier this week, my CILIP membership also means I'm a member of IFLA. I had no idea! I think I'm also a member of some CILIP Special Interest groups, but they can't have made a big impact on me, as I can't remember which ones they are!
What Do I Get From It?
So, those are my "formal" professional groups, and I definitely get different things from the membership of each one. I suppose it just shows that no professional group can ever be able to do "everything".
I'm quite happy to be a member of all of these, although my involvement level varies significantly between none with BIALL, some (and soon to be increasing) with CILIP, and total with SLLG. I also see that, as I have progressed in my career, I've become more involved in the organisations I feel I can be useful in: first, with the SLLG, and now also with CILIP as a Mentor.
It's also meant that my CV, which might otherwise just have shown very little other than the work I do in my firm, could now show me with extra professional qualifications (yay for gaining extra bits of the alphabet after my name!), the skills to organise training events, lots of great contacts throughout the legal and general information profession, and a commitment to helping others develop the skills they need to progress in their careers. Quite a change from "I do this at my desk all day" I think.
*Also, I'm therefore contractually obliged to report that it is The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread. And actually, I do pretty much think that. Apart from the fact that we don't usually have any home baking activities in the SLLG. Yet.