It isn't as if I don't have a pretty good idea of the inner workings of the Board of Directors of the Medical Library Association. During my six years as JMLA editor, which coincided with Lynn and Nancy both going through their terms on the Board, I've become pretty familiar with the issues and the processes and the challenges involved.
Still, sitting through my first board meeting (as a guest -- the newly electeds are invited to attend the winter meeting, but we can't vote on anything), was illuminating. Not that I learned anything surprising, or that the dynamics were very different from what I expected, but just that it was interesting to see which issues drew the most attention, and to see how things are addressed.
Volunteer organizations are strange creatures. They run off the drive and energy of the terminally overcommitted, so there are never really enough resources to bring to bear. People gather at meetings and make proposals and plans and fully intend to follow through, and then they get home and back into their real jobs and responsibilities and all their good intentions are for naught. And then people get frustrated and angry and impatient. Frankly, it's a wonder we get anything done at all.
What I might actually be able to contribute is still unclear. Each Board member serves as liaision to one or more committees and task forces and I don't have my assignments yet. There are certain issues facing the profession that are important to me, so I'll be looking for opportunities to push those. There was talk at the meeting about how we can incorporate some of the social networking tools to increase the capabilities for members to get involved, so we'll definitely see more activity in that area. But more fundamental is how we think about what we do and what we're trying to achieve -- individually, as an association, and as a profession.
I continue to believe that these can be great days for individual librarians who are willing and able to look critically at what they do, and aren't too worried about stepping outside of their comfort zone. My involvement with MLA has been a great help to me, mostly through the people that it has put me in contact with over the years. It is, after all, an association. A gathering of people committed to working together to achieve some things they can't achieve on their own. Sometimes we're successful, sometimes we fail. Always our reach exceeds our grasp. I like it that way.