Here at Hack Library School we talk a lot about ways to further our LIS educations outside of the classroom, including pursuing part-time work, completing internships and practicums, joining student and professional organizations, and attending conferences. These kinds of experience are essential for shaping professional interests and developing skills. Throughout my time in library school I’ve tried to consider new opportunities to learn and grow as a librarian-in-training, and I want to share an option that I hadn’t thought about until more recently: joining a committee.
Initially, the idea of joining a committee sounded a little scary to me. Up until a few months ago, I had a fairly formal mental image of committees; I imagined intense, stately people talking about intense, stately things (when I thought about committees at all, which wasn’t too often). I hadn’t really considered the possibility of taking part in a committee as a student, so when one of my supervisors suggested that I join the conference planning committee for the librarians’ association at UNC, I was a little taken aback. But, not wanting to turn down an opportunity, I decided to give committee work a try.
My experience on the conference planning committee has been really great so far, and certainly not the intimidating endeavor I might have imagined. During our first meeting I realized that a committee can be as simple as a group of people trying to figure something out and get something done. Not scary, right? Too often I imagine that the professional librarians around me have everything together and know exactly what they’re doing all the time. Serving on a committee has been a good reminder for me that even the most brilliant librarians are constantly figuring things out. We all experience new challenges and problems to solve all the time and I think that’s a good thing.
Getting involved on a committee is also a great opportunity to work with people you might not meet otherwise. Committee members often hail from a variety of departments and bring lots of different experiences and perspectives to the table. I think that we, as students, have valuable ideas to add to that mix.
If you’re interested in committee work, but not sure where to start, here are some questions to explore:
Are there any committees to join within your LIS program? Your school probably has committees for faculty review and hiring. Check in with your program/school administrator for more information.
Does your campus library system have a student advisory committee? Perhaps they would take another grad student next semester.
Is there local librarians’ association for your campus, consortium, or region? The Librarians’ Association at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, for example, has multiple committees, including a program committee, conference committee, and professional development committee.
Are you a member of a state, regional, or national professional organization? They have lots of committees and, as long as you’re a member, I believe many are open to students. Check out the ALA Committees and information for students to find out how you can get more involved in ALA.
The possibilities for committee work are very broad: take part in a project, help plan an event, contribute your thoughts to solving an issue, or serve as a liaison between students and professionals or faculty. Librarians do a lot of problem solving, decision making, and planning by committee, so I think it is an important opportunity to consider while still in school. Have you ever been on a committee? What was it like? Let us know in the comments.