Putting Yourself Out There – Getting the Courage to Apply for Professional Awards and Leadership Positions

Putting Yourself Out ThereWe all get the emails.  You know, the ones asking for nominations for professional awards or recognition.  Or the ones from professional development or networking groups practically begging for new members to apply for the leadership team.  How many end up in our trash?

We all have our reasons.

We aren’t sure that we’re known enough in a large-scale or longstanding group like YALSA or our state organizations to make an impact, or to win over other “more-deserving” candidates.

We don’t think we have the experience required to do a good enough job, or that we haven’t been in the profession long enough to have “earned” recognition.

We feel like we don’t have the time to commit.

Well what if I told you, that while those are all valid concerns, they shouldn’t be enough to stop you from stepping out of your comfort zone?

The coolest thing about library work, especially teen services,  is how our knowledge comes equally from both training and experience. What’s even cooler, is that we all can have vastly different experiences, at very different points in our careers.  Your everyday, could be ridiculously eye-opening and beneficial to someone else.  Taking a key position in professional networking groups allows you to not only share those experiences, but tilt the direction of teen services.

This past year, I finally mustered up the courage to accept a position in one of the local networking groups in my area.  While my nerves got the better of me going into the meetings, I soon found that my perspective, as the lone teen services person, was not only welcome but seriously needed.  My role was to plan the programming for our bi-monthly meetings.  Knowing what I would have wanted to see as a new teen librarian in our group’s service area, I could immediately see an opportunity for more teen-focused topics on the calendar.

This year, as I start my second year as part of the leadership team, I’m glad to see more teen services librarians are looking to attend our meetings.  I truly believe that by enlarging the range of our programming topics last year, to include more that addressed tweens and teens, I’ve helped to open that door and show others that the group serves our demographic also.  I’m hopeful that when it’s time for us to get new members this year, we can expect to see other teen librarians step up.

So what about those award nominations?

Most librarians are humble by nature.  We really like what we do, and often don’t really take a lot of time to pat ourselves on the back, or just acknowledge how much work we’re accomplishing on a day-to-day basis in the lives of our patrons.  As teen librarians, we have the unique advantage of affecting young people at a very pivotal point in their development.  Our programs and listening ears help enrich youth in ways that are different from teachers and parents because for many teens, we’re the only adult they know whose sole purpose is to build on their interests.

A couple years ago around this time, I learned that I’d received an award from my state organization for my work with teens.  When the call for nominations first circulated, I had all the thoughts mentioned above.  Armed with my doubts, I too deleted the email and wished good luck to whomever would surely win.  When I learned that others had nominated me, I was shocked that they didn’t share my concerns.  I’d thought at the very least, I was simply doing what all other teen librarians were doing.  To learn that others thought I was going beyond that scope, was humbling.

Could the same be said of you?

Are you taking it for granted that your work in this field isn’t notable and deserving of recognition?  If you are, I encourage you to step out on faith and confidence.  What you feel is “no big deal” could be important for another teen librarian who is questioning his or her impact, to see.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *