Friday, August 3, 2018

From The Other Side - On Being A Board Member

Back in May I wrote about being appointed to the Board of Trustees for my local library to finish out a year of an unexpired term, in order to feel more connected to my own community and gain some perspective from the administrative side of things. It's only been three months, but so far it has been a very surreal experience! 

Let me explain. I work in another, much larger, public library system as a part-time paraprofessional where there is a huge divide between librarian and non-librarian, and full-time versus part-time. So as a part-time non-librarian, I'm pretty near the bottom, and have always felt very anonymous and invisible. For the most part, I have no voice, nobody really cares what I think or recognizes what I do, except immediate supervisors and co-workers (which is probably why I'm drawn to blogging, to have someplace to express all my deep thoughts 😉). That's just how it is, and I imagine that's fairly typical of most larger libraries/systems. Sometimes it's frustrating, but mostly I try to accept my place in the hierarchy.

But then I go to my local library to meet with the director, and get a tour of the library and introduced to everyone as a new board member and treated like a VIP (ironically this same library did not even interview me for a clerk position I applied for 6 years ago 😆). At the board meetings, not only am I free to express my opinion, my input is sought after and valued. At the last meeting we did the director's annual performance evaluation, and later on we will be reviewing and revising library policies and setting the tax rate. I mean, this is REAL stuff, and I have a say in it!

It just feel so strange to be in a position that has some real authority to effect change, and where I have a voice. Half the time I feel like an imposter and that I don't belong there, and the thought is always in the back of my mind "why are they asking my opinion, don't they know I'm just a peon?", but I just keep reminding myself I'm there as a library user and long-time community member (who just happens to have a deeper understanding of library operations than most), and in that capacity I have every right to be there and not only the right, but the obligation, to voice opinions and ask questions. But it still feels very surreal at this point!

One side benefit, is that as a board member, I already had all the information I needed to do my community analysis paper for the Adult Services class I took this summer in the form of circ stats, patron survey results, Edge assessment, strategic plan, budget reports, etc., and using this library as my profile library for my class helped me get more familiar with all the information I need to be aware of as a trustee, so that worked out nicely! 

The time commitment is not huge; the monthly board meeting lasts about an hour and I spend about half an hour reviewing the reports before the meeting, and I try to drop by a library event each month. I am also working my way through several webinars required for trustee certification. It is a great way to give back to your community and the profession, as well as see things from a different perspective, so if anyone else is considering it, I would say go for it, especially if you have the opportunity for a short-term commitment by finishing out someone else's term like I did to see how you like it. But don't be suprised if sometimes you feel a bit like Alice!

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