Membership Pro Tip: Online Communities of Practice

Looking for a no-cost benefit that informally brings your members together so they can brainstorm, collaborate, and learn from one another in an accessible, productive way? Here’s one way of doing it.

Members of the American Association of School Librarians often work in the only library in their school or district, so they don’t have many opportunities to connect with other like-minded professionals. And although AASL has in-person meetings to facilitate those connections, a lot of its members who work for public schools can’t get the funding to travel and attend conferences out of their states.

To get a better idea of what would help its members, AASL’s membership engagement committee conducted member surveys, which revealed that opportunities for informal networking and learning was a high priority for them. In response, AASL recently launched a new member benefit: online Communities of Practice (CoP).

How Does It Work?

The CoPs provide a gathering space for members to discuss, share, and learn around central topics. The initial topics are digital and technology tools; diversity, equity, and inclusion; information literacy instruction; literature and reading promotion; and teacher collaboration.

Each CoP has about 50 to 60 members and will develop its own organization and structure and assign volunteer roles as needed. The only requirement AASL has is for the CoPs to hold a meeting during the second week of July.

The membership engagement committee serves as the liaison for the groups to make sure they’re running smoothly. Each year, the committee will assess the CoPs to see which ones are thriving and which ones aren’t and then consider new topics to introduce.

Why Is It Effective?

The communities, which are very organic in nature, spur interaction among members so they can discuss professional passions or challenges, share best practices, curate resources, or develop new tools.

“Having the opportunity to connect with other school librarians—regardless of location—to talk about what’s of interest to them or get feedback on something is really the value that we bring,” said AASL Deputy Executive Director Allison Cline.

What’s the Benefit?

As many associations grapple with fewer staff and resources, “this is a great option for a less formal, more fluid, no-cost membership benefit,” Cline said.

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Lisa Boylan

By Lisa Boylan

Lisa Boylan is a senior editor of Associations Now. MORE

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