10 May 2012

Join a committee and develop your transferable skills

Guest post by Margaret Irons

Becoming a member of the committee of the Academic & Special Libraries Section (A&SL) of the Library Association of Ireland (LAI) has been very beneficial for me, both professionally and personally.

If you are looking for a new challenge or a 'hands on' way of gaining professional experience and support, then I can highly recommend joining a committee and getting involved. Certainly it takes commitment and work, but the benefits make it all worthwhile and it is an invaluable way of developing your transferable skills. It is also a great addition to your CV.

I joined the committee in 2007, about 6 months after I had taken up my current role as Librarian at the School of Celtic Studies, DIAS. Joining was vital to me for gaining valuable access to a network of like-minded librarians. I also thought it was time for me to offer some of my own skills to a vibrant and rapidly growing Section. Working in a specialist research library is both challenging and fulfilling, but occasionally it can become isolating and introspective. So in order to combat that, I decided to look outwards to gain extra knowledge, experience and perspective from colleagues in other Academic and Special Libraries in Ireland.

The primary function of the Section is to provide a forum for discussion on issues relevant to academic and special librarians and information professionals. We carry out this remit through the provision of seminars, workshops, talks and visits. The task of the committee is to perform these functions on behalf of our members.

From 2009-2011, I took on an Officer role and became Secretary of the Section.
My duties as Secretary included (among other things):
  • working closely with the Chairperson and the Treasurer of the committee
  • maintaining communication with members of the Section via the A&SL Discussion list, website and social media
  • preparing an annual report of the Section's activities to be presented at the AGM and also a report to be included in the Annual Report of the LAI
  • maintaining an up-to-date membership list
The committee generally meets once a month. Our meetings take place after working hours and we conduct our communications mainly through email and online project management tools.

As a committee we work pretty hard and always aim to do our best for our members. However, we also have tons of fun and enjoyment. So it all balances out. I now can say that I know a myriad of experienced peers in this city, and nationwide, whom I can call on with any library related query I can think of. I have also met many new people through out networking events and our Annual Seminar.

So, if you have even once thought of joining a committee that is of interest to you then I can highly recommend it. Although I work in a specialist research library with one library assistant, I feel like I have many colleagues and work as part of a vibrant library team.

Below I have outlined just some of the professional and personal benefits of being part of this committee.

Professional outcomes:
Team work Learning how to work effectively with people you don't actually work with.
It is a voluntary committee. Commitment is personal. You get back what you put in.
Project management as part of a team
Five annual seminars later and I feel like I could do it with my eyes closed (or could I!?)
Events/ informal evenings
Planning smaller events also takes time. Dealing with caterers, organising venues, speakers, attendees etc.
Officer/ secretary role
Being secretary offered an even more in-depth view of the structure and workings of the committee and highlighted the value of communication both internally and externally.
Learning to work remotely with the team.
Learning to communicate effectively with our members.
Learning the importance of social media, online communications and keeping up-to-date with developments in this area.
Sourcing and working with sponsors for our Annual Seminar.
Learning the importance of our Section's logo and brand and promotion of both.

Personal outcomes:
Learning how to network is not as cringey as it sounds or as difficult. Librarians are a friendly bunch. Don't be shy. Come along next time and even our AGM is great for networking (I promise). Networking is extremely important and beneficial.
Knowledge transfer
Just being around and working with some of the other committee members is amazing in itself. We work in such different types of libraries and come from many types of educational and working backgrounds. A dynamic and diverse bunch indeed.
Needless to say I have made many new friends.

Getting involved in the LAI at A&SL committee level is a great way of learning and developing new skills, building networks and keeping up to date with current developments.

These are all my own personal and professional outcomes from the past five years on the committee. They may differ for everyone. So why not join a committee and work towards developing your transferable skills. I can certainly recommend it!

1 comment:

  1. Great post Margaret, thanks. I am sure there will be a queue of people volunteering at the next AGMs :)