How to Avoid Being the Notetaker

Eva —  April 12, 2016 — 2 Comments

Meeting table with mobile devices and hands writing in a notepad

As the library director, I attend a lot of meetings with other community leaders. These are meetings of equals. If at some point we realize that someone should be taking notes, however, more often than not eyes will turn to me.

I get it, but I have come to resent this in the same way that I resented being in science class and having everyone look at me expectantly when the teacher asked a particularly tough question. Just because I’m Asian doesn’t mean I know all about science, and just because I’m a woman and a librarian doesn’t mean I’ll default to being the notetaker.

I should point out that I’m currently serving as Secretary of my homeowners’ association and Secretary on the board of a library collaborative. These situations are different because I intentionally signed up for them. In the meetings I’m talking about, it’s not a formal committee or board meeting, and as the (usually) only library representative, my priority is advocating for and communicating the services of my library.

If my head is down and I’m taking minutes, I’m distracted from participating fully in the discussion. I stymie myself, though, because my helpful nature makes it difficult for me to turn down the request to take minutes.

I’ve done some observations of other women in similar meetings, and I’ve discovered a pattern in the ones who don’t get asked to take notes. My first inclination when sitting down at a meeting was to take out a pen and paper. I noticed that the women who don’t do this are passed over when “We need someone to take minutes” comes up. They still get the look, but people’s eyes continue past when they see that these women have no note-taking tools.

So now when I get to a meeting I don’t immediately take out a pen or notepad. I have them, of course, because I’m a planner like that, but they stay in my bag unless I really, truly, desperately need to write something down. This method eliminates any awkwardness about appearing uncooperative by saying no when you clearly already have a pen and paper out.

If you try this, let me know in the comments how it works for you!



Eva Davis is the Director of the Canton Public Library in Canton, Michigan--not Canton, Ohio, or Canton, Massachusetts, or Canton, Mississippi. (It is an easy mistake to make.) Eva honed her supervisory and management skills working in customer service, research, and publishing before heading to graduate school at the University of Michigan School of Information. She became a librarian in 1998. She was an intern and then the teen services librarian at the Plymouth (MI) District Library before moving to the Ann Arbor (MI) District Library, where she was Head of the Youth Department at the Downtown library, Head of Youth Services for the system, Head of Branch Services, and finally Associate Director for Public Services. Eva has held her dream job as the Director of the award-winning Canton Public Library since 2008. She received the Michigan Library Association's Frances H. Pletz Award for Excellence in Teen Services in 2003, and is a graduate of both Leadership Ann Arbor and Leadership Canton, where she learned that she is moderately Affiliative according to MAFF, her color is "Green" on the Four Color Personality Test, and her Myers-Briggs Type is INTJ (although she has worked diligently and consistently on improving her Sensing, so she now leans ISTJ). Follow @CantonLibrary and @EvaDavisCPL on Twitter. (Photo credit: Susan Kennedy)

2 responses to How to Avoid Being the Notetaker


    What happens if, when asked you just say something like, “I’d prefer not to be the notetaker. I find it distracts me too much from participating in the meeting?” Like you, I don’t always want to be the note taker, but I like to have a pen and paper out at meetings. Sometimes the thoughts that occur to me during a meeting or the important takeaways for my particular job/project are different from what is important to the group and they are not necessarily going to be reflected in the official meeting minutes. I know declining to be the notetaker could potentially come off as unhelpful or uncooperative, but if you give a reason and say no in a positive way, it seems like it is something that other meeting participants should be able to accept.

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