Friday, May 9, 2008

Going Local

I had my first meeting with the ACRL-NW board this morning--I'm a new Member-at-Large--and I have to say, I'm pretty excited. Not only do I know a lot of the board members already (including a friend from my graduate program and one of my mentors from the UW Engineering Library, where I worked in grad school), but even though we were videoing in from four locations (it was my first videoconference!), it felt like we were all in the same room. This group has a really pleasant synergy and I'm looking forward to working with them.

Running for the regional chapter board was a deliberate attempt to get more local with my professional service, as is my volunteering with InfoCamp 2008 this fall. I'm wrapping up a stint on a national ACRL committee, and while it's been interesting work and I've learned a lot about how the organization does its business, when the call for nominations to ACRL-NW went out I realized that I wanted to concentrate my efforts more locally. Here's why:

I like working with people in person. This might seem odd to say, since my first board meeting was a videoconference, but the difficulty with national committees is that you see each other twice a year--and maybe not that often, if people don't show up. Then, depending on how active your committee is, you might not do anything between conferences, not even via e-mail.

I like contributing where I live and work. This informs my community volunteer work as well; I look for opportunities in my own neighborhood, where I can get to know the people and how the community functions. I don't think I'll go for national service again until I'm established enough in the profession to feel like the national organization is my community.

Environmental conscientiousness. It's another argument for allowing virtual committee participation: air travel is one of the most polluting forms of transportation out there. ALA conferences regularly attract 10,000 to 20,000 attendees. I'm not going to drop out of participating in ALA, nor of going to ALA conferences entirely, but required attendance at two conferences a year because of a committee appointment was starting to bother me.

Getting to know local professional colleagues--and future colleagues. This is a really active area for librarianship. We have a library school, dozens of universities, several public library systems, and an active information architecture/knowledge management community. With such a wealth of professional knowledge and expertise nearby, it's less necessary for me to go farther afield.

Between this, South Sound Librarians, and InfoCamp, I've got plenty to keep me busy on the local scene for awhile. And it feels like what I do will have a bigger impact. One might well accuse me of big fish, small pond syndrome, but small ponds are where you find some of the richest ecosystems. What's in your professional backyard?

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