Thoughts on Board/Committee Work

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Our new  2016 Youth Services Section (YSS) board for the Wisconsin Library Association met recently in our first in-person retreat (maybe ever!). To start us off during an afternoon of brainstorming and reflection, we took the time to learn about our responsibilities as members of a statewide board.

I volunteered to guide the group through our responsibilities as board members. As the YSS rep on our WLA board, I've developed some knowledge on how our association and unit work.  I've also thought alot about the reasons that group work like board work, committee work and even group projects and staff teamwork can be so hard.

Depending on the circumstances, some people consider their service a step up the ladder of fame; some people let others do all the heavy lifting; there always seems to be one or two who appear AWOL much of the time; people lose the thread of continuity and make up stuff; guidelines or bylaws or org manuals are ignored. I could go on but we've all been involved in group work and can share a horror story or two.

It doesn't have to be hard.  But I think before we say yes to a board or committee, we need to consider our responsibilities to the group. Here's what I suggested make for stronger group work on a board level.

·       Get to know website, blog, organizational and leadership manual - we will be smart;  we won’t get lost in myths; and we can use our knowledge to contribute to wise decision making.

·        Be an information sharer –not hoarder  - make sure the chair knows what is happening as well as other board members on projects we each work on; consider how to let members of the organization know what the board is doing through unit newsletters and/or social media (blog, FB group, Google community, etc) as well as through state library networks like system workshops or other communities. Be transparent.

      Communication and sharing ideas/opinions critical - step up at board meetings and participate even if we feel shy or hesitant. All opinions and contributions are vital.

Strong teamwork results in amazing results - what can we each add to push youth services forward. Volunteer to help or recruit others to help in moving services ahead.

You are not alone  - other board members offer amazing support system to help us be successful and do meaningful work. Ask for assistance.

Make your dreams come true - what projects do you think the organization's members would benefit from? Suggest and work towards them! And look for organization members to help you (rather than just board members) to give meaningful work to recruit for leadership.

Step outside of  your unit and get to know other association members and committees (our tribe is great but we get more done the larger our networks are).

·        Servant Leadership  - How do we serve? Serving our members as a board member with a big picture view rather than our own own narrow interests or expertise areas means we serve the organization and not ourselves.  Leading from behind by offering a hand up and a shoulder to stand on for sister/brother board members and unit members makes everyone feel strong.  Thinking of ourselves as a true representative of all unit members and not just service as a personal step up a ladder.

·      Own your leadership role - when at meetings at the our libraries, in our systems and community, don’t just intro ourselves as "So and so from such and such library" but also as board member  of our unit or association.

·      Encourage membership  - we are ambassadors and our interactions with other youth serving staff invites people to participate and feel welcomed.

·       Step up to the plate  - we may need to step into a leadership position if someone resigns or leaves state. Board work has larger responsibilities that we can fill to keep the unit vital and functioning (always remembering above- we are not alone).

·       Making up missed meetings  - We all have to miss a meeting or two. If this happens, read over the minutes asap  and contact the chair to ask what WE can do. Don't consider a missed meeting as "Get out of board responsibilities" moment.

These simple approaches can really make a difference in successful board and committee and being part of a successful working board/committee.  

What else makes board work successful?  Tips welcome!

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