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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Confessions of a Caterpillar Secretary - Guest Post

My experience as the secretary of the Graduate Library and Information Science Association (GLISA) was a pivotal time of growth and challenge. It symbolized evolution, metamorphosis, even. I was a reticent, pupal pupil, thrust from my cocoon of complacency & fear & excuses by some light flattery & a call to duty. I crawled through my tunnel, strewn with the leaves of seemingly endless papers (See what I did there with "leaves"?), enchanted by the faint glimmer of a promise. A promise to break the monotony of school work, the anonymity & disconnectivity that online classes can sometimes create. To my work-worn eyes, that promise was the sun…the GLISA sun! The sun was luminescent with creativity, collaborating, liaising, scribing, planning, & building relationships within the organization & the community at large.

You're thinking I'm a kitschy drama queen, right? Before you strain your pupils with the side-eyes & eye rolls, you should know some things about me. I am the consummate hot mess. I am a serial procrastinator with the MO of Amelia Bedelia meets Mr. Magoo. I am chronically tardy, allergic to outlines, & find structure claustrophobic. Holding an office, being accountable to members on a scholarly & professional level, is not at all ideal for my, erm, unique skill set. And I somehow managed to ROCK it. GLISA was the firm boot that kicked my flabby bottom out of my comfort zone, & I learned immensely from my time as secretary.

It's funny how much I enjoyed my term, seeing as I didn't want to be a secretary at all! I was gunning for web advisor because I loves me a good Facebook post & am uber social. When I discovered that position was already filled (by the fabulous Raquel Williams, who was much better suited for it), Dr. Richey convinced me to go out for secretary. The GLISA game kind of chose me...& being secretary was the best thing for my time commitments & personality. My duties consisted of:

  •  Arranging a mutually agreed upon time & date for monthly meetings.
  •  Sending out reminders via Google Calendar.
  •  Taking thorough notes during the meetings; disseminating the minutes within a week after each meeting.
  •  Reaching out to organizations for to scout potential donors & recipients.
  • Partnering with community organizations to further the mission of literacy; make GLISA's presence known.
  •  Brainstorming ideas for the semesterly community service project.
  • Writing 2 focus pieces for the semesterly GLISA newsletter.

The aspect of leadership I most feared was time management. If my life were a type of music, it would be a freestyle rap. During the fall semester, time was especially scarce, what with taking 3 graduate classes, 2 small kids, & a full-time job. The magic of GLISA is that it keeps students involved without being all-consuming. It helped to regard GLISA as a hands-on, add-on project rather than another class. I set aside time on breaks at work or on the weekends. And by setting aside, I mean casually nibbling at notes & pecking out ideas on GroupMe. I did not let it become a stressor, & really, there was no reason for it to be. GLISA didn't have a rubric or grades - it was a collection of plucky chicks on a like-minded mission. Really, it was a way for us to decompress, share articles about issues that affect librarians & job searchers, trade witticisms, & sharpen our professional teeth. And there were brunches & happy hours for the locals.

My secretarial duties majorly enhanced my organization skills. Setting the meetings & checking multiple communication outlets kept me accountable. Of all my activities, taking the minutes was the most intense & rewarding. Relaying your thoughts while simultaneously listening & responding to, then recording the thoughts of others will put hair on your chest. Being the scribe has informed me when leading meetings at work. I also learned how to use a number of helpful tools, like the GroupMe texting app & conference callings through Blackboard Collaborate.

My creativity was on TEN in GLISA! Because I wasn't so bound to the day-to-day processes as a president or vice president, I used that freedom to fling pixie dust on what could’ve become a staccato school org! I developed Season's Readings, a book drive where we collected children's & teen literature for young people in local shelters. I wrote a really cheesy jingle to market it to donors. Marrying the blazing sun logo with a book & torch, emblems of scholarship, I designed a cool pin. If you are an "ideas man" with questionable strategizing skills who bristles at strict structure & don't particularly enjoy telling people what to do, consider being the secretary. Fun projects abound to soothe the squirrel in you.

If you have a heart for community outreach, this is your gig! I wanted to make sure that we performed true service that would impact those in need and endure past our big date. By selecting three shelters as recipients, we got to make our giving personal & interactive.  We were able to see first-hand the depth of the need in our very own neighborhoods. And we sparked relationships that would open the door for future collaborations. The best part? We made founding donations for THREE mini-libraries!!! When I called each place, I had no idea they were establishing lending libraries. I just knew it was hard for low income families to access quality books when school was closed. When Project Row Houses showed us the space for their library & we saw all the kids on site who would benefit from our donations, it was one of the proudest, most gratifying moments of my career. There was something really fulfilling about meeting up on that cold, rainy Saturday to bring some GLISA sunshine to oft-overlooked communities.

I’m one of the least put-together people you don’t know, but I’m really proud of the work I did with GLISA. I discovered strengths I didn’t know I had, and I made the secretary position my own. I would totally sneak in the back door for another term, but seeing as I’m not a student anymore, that presents an ethics issue. So I’m calling you out. Sign up for secretary and put your signature stank on it. Arise, chubby caterpillar, take your wings, and fly toward the GLISA sun!

Nekeeta Borden was the GLISA secretary before graduating in December 2015. She is currently a Librarian I for Fort Bend County. Scholarships and awards Nekeeta has won include: 2015 Literacy Matters Minority; 2015 E.J. Josey; Published in the Winter 2015 Black Caucus of the ALA News Journal "What's Old is New Again: Traditional Library Services in the 21st Century" (Vol 42:1); 2014 D. Genevieve Dixon; 2014 Michelle S. Lee Endowed; 2014 Janeway, Texas Library Association.

1 comment:

  1. Nekeeta, your flowery prose is so suited for its own book! Please make sure I get a signed copy upon publication!

    Thank you so much for letting readers know about the nature of the Secretaria Long Wing.

    Congratulations on your new job!

    ~Christine D.