Earlier this summer, Melissa Rabey reflected on her experience so far on the Printz Committee. While I think a number of us one day aspire to serve on a selection committee, we may not be ready to make that kind of commitment yet, or we might feel like we don’t have the experience within YALSA to do so–but there are other ways to begin your involvement within YALSA. For new members especially, a task force can be a good way to try out professional service, so I thought I’d talk about my experience on the YALSA Mentoring Program Task Force.
The call for task force members went out a few days before I graduated. I’d been looking for avenues for getting more involved in YALSA, and a task force seemed like a manageable way to start. I’d applied for the mentoring program itself, too, so I made sure to mention that in my task force application. When I was asked to join the task force, I was told I just needed to recuse myself when my own application came up, but that I could still evaluate the other applications and help match proteges and mentors (and it turned out that one of the other members of the task force was an applicant to be a mentor!). Soon after the mentoring program application deadline passed, the chair of the task force emailed all of the members asking us to introduce ourselves to one another, and we began our work.
One thing that makes a task force a good place to start for people who are looking for their first way to get involved with YALSA is that many of them conduct their business entirely virtually. We did all of our work by exchanging emails and chatting via Skype, which was a great way for a group of people across the country with varying schedules to be able to collaborate. Of course, there are pitfalls in communication done primarily by email, but it opens task force work to people who can’t afford to travel and lets members work asynchronously.
Since task forces have a specific project to carry out, task force work is also usually done over a shorter timeline than a selection or process committee. We began our Mentoring Program Task Force work in early July and submitted our final recommendations at the end of August. If you’re anxious about how to get started with your YALSA involvement, a few months is a great trial period to see how you like it.
Joining a task force–or serving in any capacity with YALSA–is also a fun way to get to know your fellow YALSA members. Especially if you’re a new member, I think that trying to jump into a huge crowd of people you don’t know to make connections and friends can be intimidating. A task force is a good way to narrow that crowd to a friendly few and to start to put personalities and faces to the names you may have seen on listservs. While I’m not going to be able to make it to Midwinter this year since I’m going to the YA Lit Symposium in November, I’m hoping I’ll be able to meet up with some of the other task force members at future conferences.
I was a little nervous heading into my first professional involvement experience, but I had fun and I’m proud of the work we did. If you’re thinking about getting involved with YALSA but you’re not sure where to start, keep your eye out for calls for task force members. You’ll likely be able to work virtually, it’ll be a relatively short and easy introduction to serving within your professional organization, and you’ll come away from the experience with new connections and maybe even friends. And once you’ve got one task force under your belt, you’ll be ready for another opportunity to get involved!