July 2021 | Ben Miller

We are proud to highlight our members who commit their time and resources to helping Wisconsin libraries and librarians thrive through their work with the Wisconsin Library Association. Each month, we will be sharing their stories and hope you will be inspired to learn more about our programs or get involved! 

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Ben Miller | July 2021

For which library, institution, or organization are you currently employed? If you are retired, what was your former organization?
Library Services Team, Department of Public Instruction

How many year(s) have you been a member of Wisconsin Library Association?
11 years

What has been your favorite or most impactful function or event of WLA?
I look forward to the Fall conference every year. Especially this year. I think the 2021 conference is going to be one of the most memorable as we start to reconnect with each other again after a long year of doing things virtually.

How has being a member of WLA impacted you or your career?
When you work in a library, it can be really hard to see beyond your local community or county or system. I remember getting invited to lunch at one of my first WLA conferences. I didn't know the people I was supposed to meet outside of listserv messages. When I showed up, I realized that the WLA community is incredibly open, welcoming, and collaborative. It helped me realize that there are so many great library workers out there willing to lend their expertise and share their experiences. A simple lunch made me realize that I wanted to help libraries connect on a bigger level. 

Do you have a library role model (in Wisconsin or elsewhere) that has provided you with inspiration or guidance? Please share a little bit about it.
My first library job was doing system administration work at the Missoula Public Library in Montana. My immediate supervisor took me aside one day and let me know that he expected me to submit a proposal to the state conference every year. He didn't expect me to present every year, but thinking through and submitting a proposal became part of my job. I've taken that mentality with me in every library I've worked at. Presenting at conferences has probably taught me more than the attendees. Having a deadline for a presentation allows me to make space in my day to do research and take deep dives into topics I normally wouldn't consider to be core to my day-to-day work. But I find that after I present, I'm able to incorporate the concepts and things I've learned in the process back into my work.

Do you have any advice for new WLA members?
Step outside of your comfort zone. Use WLA as a place to learn something new or try out a new type of work. Submit proposals for conferences, jump in with a SIG, or volunteer to be on a conference committee. You'll expand your network and gain valuable experience in your professional learning path, no matter where you are in your library career.