Time wasted or time invested?

Yesterday afternoon was our kinda-monthly Library Council meeting. Most academic libraries have a Library Council or something like it: a group made up of ¬†all librarians and/or academic staff in the Library, meant to discuss and make decisions and/or recommendations on matters relating to the academic work of librarians. (This description is probably over-generalized and over-simplified, but I didn’t want to just say, “a bunch of librarians”).

Here at the McGill Library, Library Council was only recently (i.e. in the last few years) reinstated, which means that we are still in the process of figuring out the nuts and bolts of how it will work and the role it will play in the Library. This means that a fair amount of time in these meetings is consumed discussing process, procedures, rules of order, etc. Quite frankly, this kind of thing drives me crazy, not because I don’t think it is important (although I don’t think it is as important as some others feel it is), but mostly because discussing these things ad nauseum in large groups violates one of my guiding principles, and that is the value of abstraction. In this case, there are other people who have more experience, knowledge, and interest in drafting these policies and procedures, and I trust them to be able to put together a draft for the rest of us to review, comment on, and move forward for adoption. I am entirely comfortable abstracting the entire process and letting it run under the guidance of others.

My point here isn’t to get into the tangle of issues that have brought about the current state of our Library Council, but rather to point out that for the most part, I usually feel that the 1.5 hours per month I spend in Library Council is not the best use of my time.

But sometimes great things can happen. Back in October, we passed a motion in support of open access. Then yesterday, we passed a motion in support of Dale Askey, a librarian from McMaster who is being sued by a publisher for having criticized the quality of their publications on his blog.

In the grand scheme of things, passing motions alone will not change the world. But being able to make even these small things happen at the Library is important, if only because they point to the fact that we are starting to have a mechanism by which librarians can come together, discuss issues, and then decide upon a collective course of action.

So it is these small things that remind me that maybe after all having to spend 1.5 hours each month trying to make Library Council work is worth it after all. After all, if we can achieve these things in our current state, just imagine what we’ll be able to accomplish once we get past the start-up phase and start to tackle some of the bigger challenges we face!

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