The power of participation

Irene Hoffman

2016-03-17 Hoffman participation

I just got back from the OCLC EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) Regional Council meeting in Madrid, Spain. It was a great conference with more than 300 attendees from 31 countries. The theme of the event was “The Selfie Generation,” and you can see a ton of fun selfies and other pictures that our members, staff and guests took throughout the week.

At this meeting, OCLC members connected with each other and learned how library users’ needs and expectations are changing. We also had a chance to discuss OCLC services and research work and share what’s going on in members’ libraries and within their communities. This type of engagement stimulates lots of new ideas, encourages future-thinking and allows us to explore solutions together.

At OCLC Regional Council meetings like these, we also get to talk about something that’s unique to OCLC: member representation and voting—the power that OCLC members have to shape the future of the world’s largest library cooperative.


The difference makes a difference

OCLC Global Council elections for 2016 are taking place until March 29. This means that every OCLC member institution, through a designated representative, gets to vote for library representatives who will help guide the future of the cooperative.

That’s easy to say—but it’s a big deal. And it makes a big difference. Because OCLC isn’t run like a publicly traded company or private, for-profit enterprise. We’re beholden not to owners, but members. And our members are represented worldwide by 48 delegates across three geographic regions: the Americas, EMEA and Asia Pacific.

The Regional Councils represent library interests in each region. They also have the important responsibility of electing six of the 14 members of the Board of Trustees. The Board guides the vision of the cooperative, shaping OCLC’s strategy and goals. It also fulfills the fiduciary duty of protecting OCLC’s shared assets and investments, is responsible for recruiting and working with the OCLC President and CEO, and for monitoring the cooperative through a dedicated audit process. This means, in a very real way, that librarians’ voices drive us forward, and that voting has a real impact on our work and direction.

But to get the most of that privilege requires commitment. Just like voting in any election, you have to show up to cast a ballot—you have to speak in order to be heard.

Make an impact

Take a look at our current Global and Regional Council representatives. Women and men from all kinds of libraries, from countries around the globe. Do you know them? Maybe you see something in their faces or biographies that speaks to you or that reminds you of…you! I certainly hope so. I’ve had the chance to work with many of these great librarians for many years, and I can tell you one thing they all have in common—they care about the OCLC cooperative and its future.

If the idea of contributing to the future of OCLC is new to you, there are many ways you can be involved, participate, amplify your voice and contribute to the broader community. How can you get involved? How can you share your ideas and thoughts? There are many ways to join the conversation:

  • Attend an OCLC Regional Council or Member Forum
  • Discuss OCLC products at an advisory group meeting
  • Participate in an OCLC pilot program
  • Provide background for a member story
  • Work with OCLC staff on an idea or suggestion
  • Participate in an OCLC Research activity
  • Host an OCLC event at your library
  • Run for a seat and serve on a Regional Council committee
  • Nominate yourself to run for one of the six OCLC Board seats elected by Global Council
  • Speak at a professional meeting on how OCLC services have enhanced services to your users and community
  • Get to know your local, regional delegates and tell them what you think
  • Talk with a Global Council delegate about the impact their participation has had on members and on OCLC.

There are many paths to being involved, and to sharing your expertise and ideas. While we (like you) keep up on the latest technologies, we are also mindful of the broadest needs of our members. Our goal is to work in your interests—both in offering product solutions that increase effectiveness and efficiency, and exploring research and industry trends that help you stay aware and informed of the ever-evolving landscape of the work of libraries. We stay current to better serve our members so that you can better serve your community. Which is our long-term commitment.

For us…and for you.

What can you do…today.

As you read this, ask yourself the following:

  • Are you interested in working with librarians from all over the world?
  • Do you like the idea of being involved in early-stage library research?
  • Are there changes in library services you’d like to see made in the future?
  • Could other libraries learn something from your library, your co-workers or your users?

If you answered “yes” to any of those, think about the path I described above. You don’t need a certain number of years of experience. You don’t need to be a manager or director. You don’t have to work at a big library or have a huge budget. All you need is a desire to help make the future brighter for OCLC and the library profession as a whole.

Ask around at your library to find out who your voting representative is and make sure this person votes by Tuesday, March 29. Check out the slate of candidates for Global Council 2016. Initiate a dialogue within your institution to determine the vote that’s right for your library.

And, then, determine your path to get involved. Send an email to any of the current Global Council members and ask them how they got started. Or shoot me an email at hoffmani@oclc.org. We welcome your engagement, and we’ll get you started.

Because OCLC is only as different as you make it, which is a great opportunity both for the cooperative and for OCLC.

PS: If you’re a voting representative for your institution… don’t forget to vote!