Categories
Thursday Thoughts Uncategorized

To serve or not to serve. Is that the question?

My view over the bay in Mackinaw City as I write this post.

Summer is winding down. My college hasn’t started classes yet. My college holds fast to the after Labor Day start. While public schools and other colleges around us may have returned to campuses this week, we are enjoying a rare moment of peace before a busy fall semester begins. At least, I hope it will be a busy semester with students in the library and all over campus. The past two years have been too quiet while we’ve persevered through the pandemic.

Personally, I’m using these last few days to prepare for upcoming committee work, both at my college and for the profession. As I drove up to Mackinaw City for my first visit to the Mackinac Island, I had time to think about why I volunteer. Of course, some work committees are required because of my position as a Library Director. But others are purely voluntary and what you might call passion work.

For example, I’ve been a member of our Civility Committee for a few years now. I’m happily anticipating the next year on this committee as we return to in person events and projects, even though our meetings will likely still remain virtual. We work on things that bring people around the campus together to discuss topics related to civility, such as the aptly named CiviliTeas.

On ACRL side, I am beginning my term with the ACRL Membership Committee this year. As the vice-chair for the committee, I’ll be learning as I prepare to take over as chair next year. I’ve avoided chair positions for many years because of the workload. If I do something, I prefer to be able to commit fully and until the pandemic forced me to slow down some, my life had lost balance. The past two years have allowed the opportunity to reevaluate things and set some new priorities. I’m very excited to take on a new challenge and I have a great chair to work with this year.

This post isn’t meant to encourage people one way or another to volunteer for committees, although there are many opportunities within CJCLS, ACRL, ALA, and your state organizations. I realize we all have different priorities and our lives may not allow for committee work. Some of us may be required to serve on professional committees to meet tenure requirements. (I’m grateful I have no such requirements.) It can be thankless and time-consuming at times.

But there are also benefits. I have met some very intelligent, creative, and kind people across libraries of all types. They have often inspired me to try new things and see different perspectives. We share our challenges and our triumphs. By being a committee member, I’ve found a community. It’s also given me a chance to feel that I’m doing something valuable beyond my day-to-day work. The benefits and rewards generally outweigh any downsides; at least for me.

I’d be interested to hear what you get out of volunteering for committees, either at work or in the profession at large.

2 replies on “To serve or not to serve. Is that the question?”

I enjoyed reading your article, Jill! I like how volunteering with regional and national associations allows me to meet and share ideas with librarians both in Michigan and across the country. I have gotten new ideas that I have used in my work and also feel more connected with the larger community.

In my current job, I’m not required to serve, but I find it rewarding. I never want to feel like I’m on an island in my own library; staying in touch with colleagues from all over helps me keep a sense of perspective and learn about what’s happening elsewhere. Sometimes those connections bear fruit in unexpected ways: information sharing, the writing of a letter of recommendation, news of a job opportunity, etc. At times, I’ve backed away from volunteering when work became too overwhelming, but I always end up seeking a new opportunity sometime down the road.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *