During my final year of my PhD program in the School of Information at Florida State University, I decided to take a risk and apply for the YALSA Board Fellows program. Having been out of libraries as a practitioner for a few years, I felt nervous about applying to a program that seemed out of my league. But the risk turned out to be worth it as I began to meet people from a range of backgrounds within YALSA who inspired me to become a better LIS researcher and librarian.

At first, my fellowship seemed daunting. Not only did I add another project on top of my dissertation, but I also immersed myself in a position that required quite a bit of outspokenness and willingness to contribute my own ideas, critiques, and concerns to a well-spoken and passionate group of individuals who made up the Board. This is not an easy task for those who (like me) tend to write instead of speak and find public speaking to be an overwhelming experience. As an introvert, I find it easier to not share my opinions (at least aloud) and to sometimes allow the thoughts and opinions of others to drown out my own. However, by taking on this fellowship, I grew as both as public speaker and critical thinker. I’m still quiet and shy, but I’ve found the smaller discussions and breakout groups that we took part in as a board a less intimidating step towards public speaking.

As part of the fellowship, I conducted a year long project, focusing on a specific project that could be of benefit to the YALSA Board. Figuring out my project took more time and thoughtful reflection than I expected. Having little experience with board work in general, I couldn’t quite see how I could contribute meaningful content to an already functioning and relevant board. Eventually, I settled on a topic: resources the Board could use to build stronger relationships with funders. Through my project work, I dug deeper into how a board functions and the many aspects necessary to nurture the work of a board. This is one of the many reasons that I appreciate my time on the YALSA board. Without this project, I wouldn’t have an awareness of board work and the difficult elements that contribute to a successful board. I hope that as I grow in my career I can continue to offer my services to YALSA either through committee or board work. Knowing that I am offering my skills to a board that has the needs of its members, organization, and profession foremost in its view is exciting and meaningful.

While at the beginning of my career as librarian, I only causally participated in ALA; instead, mostly working within my local community’s service opportunities; As doctoral student, I found myself more and more interested in the work of ALA and its divisions. I first applied and received the ALA Student-to-Staff grant, giving me the chance to work behind the scenes during the ALA Annual Conference 2013. This spurred on a greater desire to serve in ways I had previously been intimidated to initiate. First, I took baby steps by serving on one YALSA committee. After that I moved onto working on taskforces and other committees, taking more of an active role as I gained experience. This all eventually led to applying to the YALSA Board Fellows program during the fall of 2015. To my surprise, I received the fellowship, giving me the chance to attend ALA Midwinter and Annual for board meetings and introducing me to welcoming and encouraging librarians from across the country.

It’s no small undertaking to serving as a YALSA board member. Monthly meetings, e-mail sessions, conference meetings, and committee work required a significant amount of my time each week. My previous committee service had only partially prepared me for the workload. Yet, despite the intensity of board service, being a YALSA Board Fellow not only increased my love for librarianship and service to youth, but also provided significant opportunities for me professionally that I may not have encountered otherwise. In honesty, I believe I have my current position as a Post-Doctoral Fellow is a result of my experience as a YALSA Board Fellow. So much more came as a result of my fellowship than I ever imagined possible. If you would like to learn more about the YALSA Board Fellow program, please visit http://www.ala.org/yalsa/awardsandgrants/yalsa_fellows_program for more information.

About Abigail Phillips

Abigail Phillips, PhD, is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences at Utah State University. You can find her by e-mail: abigail.phillips@usu.edu or on Twitter: @abigailleigh.

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