Committing to Committees

One of the best ways to become professionally involved and build skills while in library school is to join a committee. Committees are made up of members who are engaged in making decisions that will make a significant impact on their organization and fellow colleagues. There are a lot of benefits to volunteering on a committee. Committee volunteers spend their time connecting with professionals around the country (or globe), developing leadership skills, acquiring knowledge or learning new skills, advocating for their profession, and creating and achieving goals. I’m currently on three committees and serve as chair on one so I feel like I’ve developed a good idea of what it’s like to serve on a committee and what is required of its members. If you have thought about joining a committee and want to know what it’s like, this post is for you!

The first thing you should know is that committing to a committee takes a lot of work. This will be the biggest obstacle for graduate students who already struggle to balance some combination of working/assistantships/interning/volunteering, schoolwork, personal life, and more. Although committees can provide a wealth of professional connections and are worth the time commitment, you need to be prepared for the amount of work it will require and be honest with yourself about how much time you have to spare. If you truly do not have the time, it’s better to wait until your schedule is more lenient than risk making a bad impression on your fellow committee members. I say this not to discourage you, but because I think it’s important to be honest. It’s been harder than I thought to commit to committees while working as a full-time visual resources curator and going to graduate school part-time, but it’s not impossible and it is important to get experience doing these types of activities while in school.

I’m going to highlight my experience serving on the Atlanta Emerging Librarians planning committee to give you an idea of what you might expect as a committee member. AEL is a division of the Georgia Library Association’s New Members Round Table and we plan events for library students and new professionals in the Atlanta area. The committee is made up of four members and we serve January-December. We are responsible for all aspects of planning events, including deciding on the event timeline for the year, the theme and title of each event, inviting potential speakers, booking a venue, marketing for the event, purchasing coffee and other snacks, social media, determining next year’s committee, and more. Since we have so much responsibility, we really have to work together and communicate if we are going to be successful. The work we do involves reaching out to senior professionals in the field, which can be intimidating, but it helps me to break out of my shell.

We have planned two events so far, with a third event scheduled later this month, and will do the annual Mingle with the Admins in December. We decided the theme for the year would be “The Future of Librarianship” and each event would focus on a different aspect of that topic with about three or four speakers. The most recent event we did this year was titled The Future of Librarianship: Emerging Technologies All New Librarians Must Know. Our speakers presented on topics such as 3-D printing and open educational resources. A yearly tradition, the Mingle with the Admins event in December is a terrific networking opportunity for students and job-hunting professionals to meet library directors and administrators from all over the state of Georgia. While most of our work has followed in the footsteps of former AEL committees, but with our own unique touch, we did something new and exciting this year. We hosted a daylong tour of special libraries in Atlanta, including the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and the CNN Library. We were able to get special behind-the-scenes tours and information not available to the general public. AEL has been a fun and rewarding committee and I know that the work we do makes a real difference and forges a community among the library professionals in Georgia.

If you’d like to know more about committee work, check out HLS writer Julia Feerrar’s post Committee Work: Not So Scary After All. If you are interested in joining an ALA committee, the deadline to apply this year is November 7. Good luck!

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