Turf Wars: Stepping on toes in Libraryland

I always like to joke about the number of committees I sit on. Librarians love to complain about the number of meetings we attend, and of course meetings are just the time consuming playthings of committees. (I suppose teleconferences/webinars are the time consuming playthings of groups that meet at a distance.)

Maybe this is old hat to most of you, but I had a realization about all of these committees last week at SLA 2010… they set up turf wars. There’s a couple ways I’ve seen this manifest – either it’s the same people in variations of the same committee, each with a slightly different scopes and missions, or it’s different people in different groups trying to assert themselves in same area, vying for supremacy of a narrow strip of libraryland. Turf wars are the logical extension. A very wise librarian, in the middle of a committee meeting that was trying to distinguish itself from another committee meeting, said that the problem was, “[we’re] stepping on each other’s toes, and somebody’s going to get hurt.” They’re right though I think the hurt and pain is sort of what keeps us in check.

Someday, when I finally make sense of the tangled mass of committees that feed upon transportation librarians, I will go into gory details, but for now I’ll just stick in vague generalities.

The funny thing about libraryland turf wars is that the stakes are usually fairly low. Occasionally, the committees are working on something big that matters, that will have a legacy that will actually leave an impact, but overall I think it’s all pretty incremental and low. That’s not to say things don’t matter, but the perspective is off. I am often guilty of drawing my personal lines in the sand in preparation of some sort of battle, but upon reflection I realize that not getting my way is not the end of the world. (Though this also plays into my personal belief that you have to be the change you want, or “put up or shut up.”)

Maybe I just need a better separation of work/life?

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