Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Why meetings?

Do meetings have a value?

Someone recently raised the question of meetings; why do we have them, why do we have so many, could a meeting be avoided by using some other method of communication – and so the list goes on! Made me feel a bit guilty having a meeting for the cataloguers whilst this concern was still live – although thankfully the issue wasn’t raised by the cataloguers themselves.

Our team of cataloguers is quite small and so we don’t find it at all difficult to discuss things with each other as and when we need to, as and when issues or concerns, problems or queries actually crop up, so you would be right to ask why we have meetings. The cataloguers work a variety of days / hours so it’s not always possible for every cataloguer to liaise closely with every other cataloguer so it is a legitimate way of catching up with what each of us is doing, especially when we have a variety of projects on the go, and when change is in the air.

We try and have a meeting about once a term and for each meeting we produce an agenda and a set of notes / action points. This ensures that we don’t wander form the point and therefore don’t spend more time than necessary away from the work of cataloguing.

I think the person who raised the question about the value of meetings may not have thought through just what exactly is the purpose of meetings. Sometimes meetings are to inform staff of where we are, other meetings are set up to discuss a specific issue and either make decisions or recommendations, whilst others are for getting a specific group of people together to talk about issues – to name but a few reasons for meetings.

The real value of meetings though is determined by what people get out of them, and this is often directly related to what they put in! Sitting in the corner quietly muttering about this meeting being a waste of yours and everyone else’s time ensures that it really will be a waste of time as you are not engaged in the what's going on. If you talk to your paper on a specific topic you can easily generate conversation and discussion by the meeting attendees and thereby take away with you a lot from the meeting.

Coincidentally, around about this time, Andy posted on the World Needs More Badass Librarians blog about the Five laws of library staff meetings: sticking to these should ensure that your meetings are worth the time spent on them! Brilliant stuff, the five laws being:

1. Ensuring that Meetings are for use(ful purposes)
2. Every staff member, the right meetings
3. Every meeting, the right staff members
4. Save the time of the attendee
5. The meeting is a growing organization

I would add to this the benefit of face-to-face communication which can often save time compared to protracted, often misunderstood email communication.

Of course, I suppose one could apply the same criteria to the value of external meetings / training sessions / briefing sessions etc. stressing the added bonus of a wonderful opportunity to network with a different group of people who will lead you to new ideas, new ways of thinking and new ways of developing. Invaluable.

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