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Reflections on Being a Committee Chair

June 1, 2011

Happy Wednesday and Happy June, dear readers! I hope you are having a lovely start to your month. We actually have sunshine today, so I’m happy. Today I just want to share with you some of my reflections on my time spent as a committee chair and then send you off with a tech article that should be shared with everyone you know.

Yesterday was the last Academic Senate meeting of the academic year which was the end of my duties as the Chair of the Academic Senate’s Committee on Research. As we are wrapping up our Spring Quarter, I wanted to share a few things that I’ve learned that will hopefully help you in your committee work, even if you are never foolish enough to become a committee chair.

First, as many of you probably already know from first-hand experience, committees take a lot of time. It’s not the meeting time, but the preparation time that seems to eat up large portions of days. And if you are Chair, you will spend even more time preparing for meetings. But what can really make or break committee work, in my opinion, are the people on the committee. As Chair, it was my job to facilitate meetings and make sure everything ran smoothly and efficiently because everyone is super-busy and no one likes to have their time wasted. Which brings me to this great post by Lifehacker, use compassion to combat difficult coworkers.

I was extremely lucky to have an amazing bunch of faculty members on the committee this year, but I’ve also been on committees with warring egos and clashing personalities. In either situation, dealing with people with compassion and consciously relaxing so as to not start from a place of defensiveness has really helped me facilitate positive interactions, even with very difficult personalities, in my opinion. I really do believe, and this has been borne out by this year’s amazing amount of work that we accomplished on the committee, that coming into a room with a positive energy will make other people more positive and willing to work together. Being Chair was a ton of work, but it was also incredibly satisfying to have productive meetings and get people motivated to work together.

This article on how the Internet changes everything–except four things that was linked to by Stephen’s Lighthouse also reminded me of working on a committee this year, especially points 1 and 2.

Customer experience and humanizing technology are just as important for committee work as they are for businesses and libraries. Being approachable, available, and actually caring will always make for a good customer experience and a good interaction with a committee chair. Also, even though I love shiny technologies, it’s the people that actually matter. For example, the Academic Senate uses a fully functional, but incredibly clunky content management software program to distribute information and store documents. I, of course, had to send in documents to share with the senate that way, but I also made it easier on my committee members by emailing documents and sharing Google Docs.

So for incoming chairs next year, good luck. It will be a wild ride, full of work, annoyances, victories, and lots of laughs. Remember to keep your sense of humor, don’t pontificate, and for goodness sake end your meetings on time, if not early. Do those things and you’ll be fondly remembered as a great committee chair. Bringing cookies occasionally doesn’t hurt either.

Okay, so now on to the article that you should share with everyone, top 10 simple privacy tricks. Once again, Lifehacker has come through with an article of simple to implement tips that will have an immediate, positive effect on protecting your privacy.

To end with something fun, check out Joy the Baker’s recipe for whole wheat garlic knots and enjoy some garlicky goodness for dinner this week.

Take care, read a lot, and I’ll be back on Friday with some more thoughts on libraries, archives, and technology. Allons-y!

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