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Community

I’ve checked in on #reverb10 fairly consistently, but I haven’t pulled together the gumption to sit down and write blog posts. Part of it is that Christmas is coming up (with me behind on crafting!), I’ve been doing other writing projects, and I think I’m fighting off some kind of illness. The other part is that some of the prompts have been hard to apply to professional life, and I do consider this primarily a professional blog.

“Make” (December 6) could be applied to creating a social media presence for my library—I didn’t do it alone, but I did spearhead it and do a lot of the shaping of the team and our message. The “marketing plan” we used to get started—which was really more of an implementation plan—was entirely my doing. So I arguably should have written that post. I spent the evening cross-stitching instead.

“Community” (December 7) would have been written about the Alaska Library Association (AkLA), if I had the chance to sit still long enough that day to write it. Since neither of the intervening prompts (“Beautifully Different” or “Party”) is all that applicable, I think I’ll write about that now…

I moved to Alaska last September and started my job last October. It seems longer than that—it’s been a very busy year—but that’s all the longer it’s been. Lucky me, 2010’s AkLA Annual Conference was slated to happen in Anchorage in early March. Being a techy type—and working in the same department as the would-have-been Technical Coordinator of the conference, had he not become President Elect—the [other] conference chairs felt like I might be a good choice to serve as Technical Coordinator/Tech Committee Chair. (The title changes depending who is talking, it seems. Knowing now what I did not know then, I’d definitely suggest “Chair of the Technical Committee.” Mostly because “chair” and “committee” imply “people will help.”)

That’s something AkLA does fairly often, apparently—finding out about new librarians showing up in the state and putting them on (or in charge of!) committees. So the choice probably seemed more obvious to them than it did to me—I had some serious hesitation about taking that on, being so new to the state, and what if I messed something up? You know how it goes, I’m sure. But I did, because I was flattered to be asked and because, if I didn’t, who would? I took the would-have-been Chair’s notes and … sat on them for a few months, too intimidated to do much with them. Which was fine; I was waiting on other committees, anyway. I got going later than I probably should have, but early enough to pull it all off, if I may say so myself, rather well.

To make this story shorter than it’s starting to look, I’ll just say that it was a tremendous learning experience, putting together something that big. I’d had no prior experience with event planning, as far as setting up contracts with hotels and things like that, but for a number of reasons, I got to be in on those meetings. I learned how to make decisions in the face of numerous unknowns. I learned not to believe the Conference Chair when she says the conference is out of money. ;) But most importantly—and most relevant to the topic at hand—I got to work with several people from other Anchorage libraries, in the process of gathering equipment, and I had the chance to meet, at least briefly, many people from the Alaskan library community.

I didn’t get to sit in on many sessions—running around doing setup and dealing with technical problems kept me too busy to really benefit from the conference’s content—but I learned a lot about AkLA as a community, in doing my work. I got thanked, often profusely, for doing what usually tends to be a pretty thankless job (if the equipment works, nobody notices, but if something breaks, the world’s ending—not so with this crowd); people stepped in to help when they sensed I was running low on steam; people proved to be very resourceful in solving their own problems; and people were laid back when, for some reason or other, I couldn’t give them exactly the setup they’d hoped for. The group was overwhelmingly pleasant. Further, although I was too new to really be part of the established comraderie I sensed, it was clear that it wasn’t just a conference; it was a community getting together, exchanging news, enjoying each other’s company, and learning from one another.

I left conference convinced that AkLA is a strong community—and one I was really looking forward to being part of. Maybe I’m part of it now? I don’t know when that line is crossed, when someone is part of a community, rather than an outsider looking to join. Since conference ended I’ve attended one AkLA-Anchorage meeting—they happen at 4pm on Thursdays, often off of the bus routes from my work, else my attendance would be better–I’ve given one kind of AkLA-related talk; I’ve submitted a session proposal for our next conference; I am running for AkLA office; and I attended an outside event with a few other AkLA members, so I kind of hope I’m in now. I’m really trying, anyway. And I’m looking forward to seeing everyone again—and actually getting to attend sessions—in Juneau next March.

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