Tuesday, January 17, 2012

When to Say Yes, or "Another Committee? Are You Crazy?"

I'm writing this the day before the first meeting of a new committee on which I'll be serving. Yes, I'm already on three campus-wide committees (one of which hasn't met in 2 years - it's my favorite), two library committees, and a partridge in a pear tree. Yes, I am the same person who told you to avoid death by meetings and to avoid burnout. On the other hand, as my director told me, you've got to know "which hill you want to die on," and the idea behind this new committee is important to me - both personally and professionally - so I volunteered, despite my busy schedule. 

It will get in the way of other projects, but I asked myself some questions about this committee, and knew it would be worth the hassle. What questions did I ask? Well, since you insisted, here they are:
  1. Do you have a choice? One of my current committees must have a librarian. If I hadn't accepted the committee assignment, my boss would have been the one to fill the gap. That's what's known as a no-brainer, so I'm on the committee.
  2. Do you have time for it? If no, can it wait? Some of my projects are "Summer Only" because of how all-consuming they can be. Similarly, I've passed on committees that were interesting because I knew they'd take up too much time.
  3. Would it be politically advantageous? Non-library search committees are a pain and tend to obliterate even dreams of free time, but helping another department by being their token outsider is never a bad idea. That goes double when it's an administrator asking for my help.
  4. Will it look good on your resumé and/or annual report? I detest public speaking when the audience is made up of my peers, but I've started doing it regularly because it looks good. 
  5. Even if you otherwise wouldn't need to be involved, ask yourself is it important to you or just so interesting/fun that you feel you have to? Refereeing late night dodge ball is hard on me since I'm normally in bed by 10 PM and the event always starts at 9:30, but I always volunteer because building relationships with students outside of the library is important to me. And trust me, watching undergraduates take dodge ball that seriously is always a fun time.
If I can't come with good answers any of the above, I say no. This is more difficult than sounds, but it's necessary sometimes. So choose your yeses wisely, otherwise this could be your epitaph:

What about you? How do you pick which projects you'll pursue?

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