NMRT Committee Service: An Opportunity to Learn, to Lead and to Link to Professional Colleagues

By Kim Copenhaver

As the Thanksgiving season draws near, the opportunity to reflect upon people, places, and opportunities for which we are indeed truly thankful seems to be part of the annual holiday tradition. The investment that pays the greatest dividends for my own professional development is service to the profession via membership in committees sponsored by the New Members Round Table (NMRT).

NMRT provides a supportive infrastructure that allows each member opportunities to lead, to learn, and to create and shape the profession through active committee service and involvement. Most importantly, committee service allows for the development of strong and strategic connections to colleagues and the chance to enhance knowledge and increase leadership skills in different areas of the profession. NMRT committee service has allowed me to explore different aspects of librarianship to get a feel for new areas of responsibility that I might have an interest in. Lucky for me, my very first committee assignment was to serve on the NMRT Orientations Committee. This was a great introduction to all that NMRT has to offer and allowed me to meet and work alongside both current and future leaders of ALA and NMRT, including current NMRT President, Emily Prather-Rodgers. My year of service on this committee led to a position on the NMRT Membership Committee where I capitalized on the knowledge that I had gained the previous year and promoted the value of NMRT membership to future members. The following year, in an attempt to strengthen my own scholarly writing abilities, I applied and was selected to serve on the NMRT Endnotes Committee. This was a fantastic opportunity to strengthen my own editorial abilities and assist colleagues new to scholarly writing. I have found this aspect of committee service personally and professionally rewarding and have continued to serve on this committee, being asked to take on the position of vice-chair this year.

Currently, there are more than 27 NMRT committees that span all aspects of librarianship. Detailed descriptions of committee work and responsibilities are available via the NMRT wiki  and reviewing the charge of each committee is a great way to gain more information about the responsibilities required of individual committee members. Calls for committee volunteers typically take place each February with notification in late spring. Once available, the NMRT committee volunteer form may be accessed and completed online. Committee members serve one-year terms beginning July 1 of each year through the annual conference of the following year. Many committees do not require conference attendance, but there are a few that require attendance at Midwinter and/or Annual Conference, so contact the current chair if you have questions regarding conference attendance or the specific duties and responsibilities of each particular committee. Some committees will focus on planning programs or workshops for conferences; others will work on program coordination such as the Resume Review Service or NMRT Mentoring program; others will serve as editorial boards for NMRT publications (like Footnotes!); while some groups will focus on discussion forums, membership activities, and governance. There truly are opportunities that touch all aspects of the profession. You must be a dues paying member of NMRT to hold a committee position, but committee meetings are open to anyone. This inclusionary policy is a hallmark of the NMRT experience. Contacting the current chair of a committee you are interested in and requesting permission to audit the next regularly scheduled committee meeting is a great way to gain exposure to the work being done by that committee and to demonstrate your interest in future membership.

Committee service on behalf of NMRT has given more than it has ever asked of me in return. Connections to colleagues in all areas of librarianship have expanded my perspective and allowed me to think creatively in regard to issues or opportunities in my own library. Committee leadership positions have allowed for growth in leadership skills and enhanced my ability to serve as a leader on campus-wide committees at my own institution and library committees in other divisions of ALA. Most importantly, however, the ability to work collaboratively with colleagues that I respect to implement change on behalf of ALA and NMRT via annual committee service has been the ultimate reward, and for that I am truly thankful!

Kim Copenhaver (copenhka@eckerd.edu) is the Behavioral Sciences Liaison and Access Services Librarian at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, FL. Eckerd College is the only private undergraduate liberal arts college in Florida and is located along the shores of Tampa Bay.