Too Many Library Committees

Megan Hartline —  May 20, 2013 — 1 Comment
Image of three business people in "See No Evil" poses: hand over ears, hand over mouth, hand over eyes

See No Committee

Librarians love committees. They foster brainstorming, build group consensus, and divide up work. All too often, however, even the most congenial, well-intentioned committees somehow lose steam. Instead of getting work done, committee meetings turn into meandering discussions.

How can we prevent death by committee, while still getting in touch with that beautiful hivemind?

I like to run committees like a task force. A task force offers advantages beyond just sounding more energetic than a blah committee. Even if your action-packed commando group still has the word “committee” in the title, you can incorporate these elements to keep your group ticking along like a task force:

  • Mission and scope
    This force has a task, and it’s a clearly defined one. Task forces can name a desired outcome, and easily put aside activities that are out of scope. Committees can start expanding the scope addressing a whole range of topics.

  • Time bound
    You may have been on some indefinitely active standing committees, but you’d never catch a task force standing still. Once that task is finished, the group can dissolve. Once your original mission is accomplished, consider whether you need to keep meeting under the same guise

  • Actual work
    Task is in the name for a reason. Task force members often work individually on finding potential solutions, then come together to identify the best path. You could sign up for a committee and never do independent work, but once you’re on a task force, you’re in for some productivity.

Committees are just fine; I love these comfortable discussion groups as much as the next librarian. The next time you want a super-charged work group, however, give it a jolt of energy by calling it a task force rather than a committee.

Megan Hartline


Megan Hartline (@awrybrarian on Twitter) is a librarian in Denver, Colorado. In addition to librarianship, Megan's background is in nonprofit leadership. She would love to visit your library to talk about management, workflows, or customer service.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Can Shorter Meetings Improve Your Library? « Library Lost & Found - March 1, 2016

    […] a reason long meetings (and committees, which schedule even longer meetings) are common in libraries. Libraries value harmony, […]

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