From the Office
As I started to think about this article, I decided to veer from the path I have been down with my last many articles and turn to something more practical. So here is a reprint, slightly edited, of an article I wrote in June 2006. The second part will follow in December. –CW
Volunteering: Part I of II
Now is the time to begin to think about volunteering for a committee. At Midwinter, the Leadership Development Committee holds its Volunteer Forum on Saturday morning at 10:30. This is a great chance for you to meet and talk with the new appointing officers: the ALCTS President-elect and the Section and CRG Chairs-elect.
One of the most frequently asked questions that come to me in email (or even in person) is how to get appointed to an ALCTS committee. Not surprising, since that is maybe the most visible way a member can serve the association. Volunteering is not very hard. Getting appointed is somewhat harder and can be the source of much frustration and bad feelings. So in this first installment about volunteering, I am going to talk about committees, both division and section.
Volunteering and then getting appointed to a committee is a time-honored way to serve ALCTS, add some useful entries to your resume, get to know people, and maybe launch an association volunteer career that will lead you to committee chairpersonships or higher office. The hardest part I have observed (and know first-hand from my own experience) is getting that first appointment. ALCTS, by and large, has many more such opportunities than any of the other divisions, save ACRL. Still we cannot accommodate, in any given year, every one who desires a position. The appointing officers (the President-elect and the Section and CRG Chair-elects) try very hard to do so, despite the perception to the contrary.
Yes, it is true that many committee positions go to more experienced members. Many times there are reasons for this; in some cases there is no reason. In some more cases, there is not anyone who wants to be appointed to a particular committee and the appointing officer relies on colleagues to fill those slots.
Let us take a look at some committees in regard to getting that appointment. The committees I have chosen illustrate specific requirements that are useful in order to get an appointment to and serve on that committee. It is only a sampling.
CCS Committee on Cataloging: Description and Access, better known as CC:DA. This is without a doubt the most requested committee in ALCTS. The reasons are many but its prominence in the revision of the cataloging rules and its stature in the cataloging community go a long way to make it so. The people who are appointed to CC:DA have many years of experience in cataloging and rule interpretation. To be frank, it is probably not the committee to which a newly minted MLS will be appointed. CC:DA members are a virtual who’s who in ALCTS leadership and among the more influential catalogers.
Subject Analysis Committee of CCS or SAC. SAC, along with MARBI, are two other cataloging related committees that are highly sought. Like CC:DA, these committees require many years of experience and specific knowledge. The other sections have their popular committees, too.
The Division level committees often are overlooked because ALCTS members tend to think and act on their volunteering at the section level first thereby almost ignoring the really rich possibilities of serving on a Division committee. The Division committees are sometimes replicated in varying degrees at the section level and some are unique to the Division level. Here are a few.
The Publications Committee has responsibility for overseeing and managing the ALCTS publications program. It is sometimes believed that vast years of experience in publications is required to serve. Although that might be useful, there are members of the committee who do not have many years of publishing experience, but rather possess other traits that make them valuable, such as a critical eye, good evaluative skills, expertise in an subject area, and the like. The Program Committee also fits this category.
The Leadership Development Committee is one of those committees that members often forget, yet is instrumental in providing leadership training to just not ALCTS but to all of ALA. The requirement: be thoughtful and willing to work to develop such programming. The members vary greatly in experience and years of service. The International Relations Committee is one more such example.
Organization & Bylaws Committee. No one usually volunteers for O&B. Boring, you may say. This is one for the governance junkies out there. Process is good on this one. Here are a few more committees that are not real flashy that you might not think about: Planning (yes, even though we just went through a whole planning process, the work goes on) and maybe Fundraising (you really have to like to ask people for money), and probably Budget & Finance (you need to know what a budget is and be able to read financial statements).
There are many, many more committees.
So here are some ways you can improve your chances of landing a committee appointment and why I am writing this now rather than in August.
Fill out a volunteer form and submit it. More importantly, fill out the form completely. You would be surprised how many forms we get with only the person’s name, contact information and one committee preference. There is space for you to tell us about yourself. Use it. Remember that the appointing officers may not know you.
Go to the Volunteer Forum on Saturday at Midwinter. This is a great chance to meet and greet the appointing officers.
Write to the appointing officers and let them know that you are interested. Certainly do not overdo it, but it helps for them to know in what you are interested. It also helps to discuss with them what openings exist.
Do not turn down an appointment for a committee you did not list. There are openings on every committee. There are committees for which there are few volunteers. The appointing officer may be asking you to accept one of those positions.
Do not be disappointed if you do not get your preferred committee the first time around. Remember my examples. Be flexible. See #4.
If you are new to ALCTS, have not held an appointment in many years, want to jump to a new section, or want to move to a division committee, seriously consider accepting an Intern position. This is a great way to get appointed as a regular committee member in the next cycle.
Go to the committee meetings and introduce yourself to the chair. Then mention that in your volunteer form. This works. It happened more than once this year that a person did just this and was appointed to that very committee.
With very few exceptions, we do not do the “pay your dues” thing in order to get you on a committee. It is not really “pay your dues,” but more that we need a particular type of knowledge and experience. This is a past, current, and probably future misconception. But as we all know, perception IS reality.
Finally, if you do not hear from the appointing officers about your volunteer form, let us know. That includes me.
Not to belabor a point, if you have questions, need help or advice, or just want to discuss a committee appointment, you can contact any of the appointing officers or me.