“Board of Directors”: Before joining the Music Library Association, I used to think of this term as describing folks in business suits meeting to discuss quarterly reports at long conference tables on the top floors of skyscrapers. I wasn’t entirely certain what Boards of Directors did, but I was fairly sure that I, as a music librarian, wouldn’t ever be on one. But thanks to the pilot program to incorporate a student or early career member into the MLA Board of Directors, I’ve since discovered that whether or not they wear business suits, Boards of Directors can be comprised of friends and colleagues who truly care about the organization they serve and are involved in the daily, hands-on work to make it run efficiently and effectively. And even when they’re discussing quarterly reports, they can also have fun and make a positive impact by supporting others in their profession!
As the inaugural Student/Early Career Representative to the Music Library Association’s Board, I served from Spring 2020 through Spring 2021. During that time, I joined the Board’s Planning Committee and contributed to initiatives like the establishment of dependent care vouchers to support conference attendees, updating the MLA code of conduct, and work to help the organization handle pandemic planning and the first-ever all-virtual annual conference. In all of these endeavours, the Board eagerly requested my feedback as someone new to the profession; they were strongly committed to incorporating the ideas of newer members and to meeting the needs of students and early career professionals in all projects and plans. Though I wasn’t a voting member of the Board while I served – after the three-year pilot program concludes, the Board will decide if the position should be established as a permanent voting role – each member of the group made it clear that my voice was an important part of all conversations and decision-making activities. The Board meets for mini-conferences several times a year and also corresponds regularly through email, but these meetings always felt like getting together with friends rather than professional obligations. I looked forward to every Board meeting because they meant collaborating on projects that would support our colleagues and honor the good work that each member of our Association does every day.
Through reviewing regular committee and officer reports in preparation for Board meetings, and by contributing to the publication of the Association’s cumulative annual report, I learned a lot about how MLA functions and the important work happening from one end of the organization to the other. I was grateful to have an opportunity to develop my understanding of the work being done by dedicated music library staff all over the country, and this experience introduced me to new colleagues who I may have never otherwise met. In serving with the group of dedicated professionals who made up the 2020-2021 Board, I felt that my efforts to represent our organization’s student and early career members were recognized, valued, and amplified. Though the Student/Early Career Representative position does require time and dedication, its importance in making our Association an inclusive and equitable one can’t be overstated.
In Fall 2021, the MLA Nominating Committee will be sending out a call for Year 3 Student/Early Career Representative to the Board Pilot Program nominations. Since the Year 1 and Year 2 positions were filled by myself and Ellen Ogihara, both early career librarians, the goal in the coming year is to find a student to take on this role. More information about the nomination process will be forthcoming, and in the meantime, I welcome and encourage anyone interested in pursuing nomination for this position to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
From thinking of a Board of Directors as a mysterious body at the top of a skyscraper to learning that they can also be a group of friends who are just an email or Zoom meeting away when questions or concerns arise, my understanding of this organization and my role in it has come a long way. I hope that, in the future, many of our Association’s newer members will be inspired to pursue this opportunity to represent their colleagues, and to add their voices to the chorus of those working hard to support MLA members everywhere.