22:4 (2007:12) Guest Editorial: Why I Didn’t Volunteer and Why You Should

December 5, 2007 at 3:10 pm | Posted in Guest Editorials | 1 Comment
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Erika Ripley, Co-Chair, Program Planning Committee

My first NASIG conference was at Trinity University in 2001. I was new to librarianship and to NASIG. I knew a few other attendees before I arrived in San Antonio, but I admit to feeling a little lost at the conference. Everyone else already seemed to know each other. During the conference, I introduced myself to the people sitting next to me in programs and at meals. By the end of that weekend, I knew a few more people and I felt a little less new.

One conversation from that conference has stayed with me, though. At lunch one day, I asked someone at my table about volunteering for a committee. She discouraged me from submitting an application. She told me that I was too new, that I would not be appointed because nobody knew me. Unfortunately that seemed all too reasonable, and I knew she had served on NASIG committees for many years. I don’t know what would have happened if I had volunteered that year because I didn’t submit an application. However, I have learned since that being new or unknown needed not to have been an obstacle. When I did volunteer the next year, I was placed on a committee.

I can only speak from my own experience, and I know that it isn’t universal. I have no doubt that people who would have been active contributors have not been placed on committees after volunteering, and they may not know why. Every year is different though. The number of members who volunteer and the number of places open on committees will naturally vary. I do know that in recent years, most volunteers have been placed on committees.* Precisely because every year is different, each year can be an opportunity to get involved.

We all know the expected benefits of committee work. Participation in NASIG offers those professional development and networking opportunities that we all need. I’ve met people that I enjoy working with and seeing at conferences. Even so, with 600+ attendees at the conference, I still have to introduce myself to people nearby at programs and meals.

Every bit as important as the professional development and social benefits though, volunteering has made NASIG more relevant to me. I care more about issues that affect the membership because I feel more like a part of that membership. I would particularly encourage those of you who are new to NASIG to get involved however you can. Who knows which might be the most valuable benefit it will bring to you?

*[Ed. note: According to NASIG President Char Simser, all who submitted volunteer forms last year were placed on committees. But NASIG’s migration to the new technology platform could affect the size of some committees in the future.]


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  1. Great piece Erika! I have also found that by volunteering I’m actually getting to know NASIG people in a way that simply attending the conference doesn’t permit. I wish I hadn’t been so hesitant to introduce myself at previous conferences but, not really knowing anyone, I found it very intimidating. I felt like such an outsider that I didn’t even consider attending some of the impromptu social events. I might get braver and attend some of them in Arizona since my volunteer experiences have made me feel much more connected!

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