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Recognizing Membership Success: Examples From Ontario Library Association

In September 2011, I had the pleasure of meeting Beckie MacDonald, M.L.I.S at the CSAE (Canadian Society of Association Executives) National Conference & Tradeshow in Saskatoon, SK.

In September 2011, I had the pleasure of meeting Beckie MacDonald, M.L.I.S at the CSAE (Canadian Society of Association Executives) National Conference & Tradeshow in Saskatoon, SK.

Over several subsequent conversations, Beckie shared with me how their association’s engagement, in terms of attendance at events, paying memberships, etc., is on the rise. This certainly piqued my interest, as many organizations are facing the exact opposite. Beckie agreed to share her trade secrets and success, which I’m sharing with you today:

Ontario Library Association

The Ontario Library Association (OLA) is the oldest and largest library association in Canada supporting those who work in and/or support all forms of library and information workplaces. Its key purpose is to provide members with networking opportunities, educational programs and a voice on provincial issues pertaining to their field as well as services and products that support the field. With 12 full-time employees and one part-time employee (and with the help of approximately 500 volunteers) OLA manages close to 5,000 members.

Appealing to younger generations has been a hot topic for some time. When I asked Beckie what OLA is doing to remain relevant and connect with younger generations, she gave the following two tactics as examples:

  • Social media buy-in: OLA gets the importance of social media and utilizes multiple staff members to monitor social media accounts and engage in conversations with current and prospective members
  •  Collaboration and education partnerships: OLA has established great relationships with the educational programs in the province of Ontario to be present and engage with the students of the field. The association offers a reduced fee for membership to students and provides full membership benefits.

OLA also offers career-specific services to students, including résumé critiquing, mock interviews, and mentoring. Students are invited to the association’s annual conference, where they also have a unique opportunity to engage and learn from those who are experienced. They run what they call a “Human Library” where the “Human Books” – those members who are in high-level or unique positions – can be “borrowed” by members for a 20-30 minute conversation to hear their story. This is especially effective for students.

Member reaction

How have OLA membership reacted to the use of social media and outreach to students in the area? According the Beckie, the response has been very positive. Members have shared appreciation to the increased accessibility to staff members as well as the increase in methods of communication (via traditional channels and social media).

Communicating the increased engagement across all departments within the organization has increased staff-buy in as well.

To view the OLA interview transcript in its entirety, click here.

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