Friday, December 13, 2013

Letting go, or not

I subscribed to Audiofile to prepare myself for my Odyssey Award service, and in my second issue (December 2013/January 2014) found an article entitled, "Listening with Your Odyssey Ears." It was an interview with Ellen Spring, the 2014 chair. I found the article interesting -- it alerted me to the existence of the award manual, for example. But perhaps most interesting was the phrasing of one of the interview questions, I suppose from Priscilla Grant, the article author, "What keeps you serving on ALA committees?"

Spring's answers are similar to my own -- it's fun and rewarding! And I know in a lot of professional settings, that sort of participation is expected. But I guess I am beginning to seriously question why I devote so much time and money (and I've never had any financial support for library conference, except for being able to take off from work, which sometimes seems like ample support enough) to trying to buoy things along, when I could use the money for cosmetic surgery or capital investments of some sort or another.

I've noticed, ever since my first professional committee involvement, that some people agree to be on committees and then don't do much. Or anything, really, in the most egregious cases. Maybe committee membership is how they get institutional funding for their conference-going. But why would you return that acceptance form, or even submit a volunteer form, if you really didn't have the time to devote? Some organizations and divisions seem to have more of an issue with this than others, but the reality is that every position these inactive members are occupying could potentially go to someone more engaged with the work. Some people complain that a handful of individuals dominate professional organizations, but frankly, I prefer that to no-shows.

I am on one committee now, not an ALA committee, chaired by someone who hasn't done anything much towards the group mission, but she has some good members who pick up the slack. And guess who's running for president of that organization this next year? The do-nothing chair.

I'm not sure why this makes me so mad. After all, getting other people to do everything is a skill in itself. Heaven knows I wish I was better at delegating, letting go, and not worrying about every little thing. But I do predict the do-nothing chair will continue on in this same way and, if elected, other people will be pressed into service. I personally may have to do some fancy dancing to avoid it, but I see it coming from a mile away... 

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