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I have a confession to make: I’m not looking forward to judging the entries for this year’s SLA Europe ECCAs. In fact, I’m starting to wish that I hadn’t put so much effort into promoting them; hadn’t encouraged so many people to apply. Why? It’s not because I’m jealous of younger (and probably prettier) librarians muscling in on my territory. It’s not that I want New Orleans all to myself. It’s not because other people’s achievements will send me scurrying away to weep into my cardigan. No, it’s because I’m on the judging panel. I have to help make this decision. And frankly that scares the bejeebers out of me.

Let me make this clear: I am on the judging panel. I do not make the choices myself. And if we are tied, there is Someone Else who will make the final decision. But I’m still scared.

Part of that fear is because I’m still a fairly new professional; still rather unsure of my professional footing; still astounded that anyone thinks I should be allowed to have a say in these things. But the hard parts are the price of the fun parts. I got to swan around telling everyone how fantastic the ECCAs were and how everyone should apply and now they are and I have to deal with making the hard choices.

And they will be hard choices. The applications we’ve had so far have been of a fantastic standard, and we expect many more before the deadline. We do have objective criteria to judge on – don’t worry, your chance doesn’t rest purely on my whims! – but I don’t know how good I’ll be at applying them. I’ve never done anything like this before: never judged; never interviewed; never had to give marks for anything (except to 5-year-olds for maths, and that’s a whole different kettle of poo). How do I know I can be objective? I know some of the people who are applying. Even with their names taken off, I know where they work/study, papers they’ve written, presentations they’ve given. Just how difficult is it going to be to discard all I know about them, about their talent and what they’d get out of the award, what they’d give to SLA in turn, to forget all that and just judge by what’s on the paper in front of me? I know that’s what I have to do. I’m just saying it’s not going to be easy.

Winning one of the ECCAs last year has made an incredible difference to my professional life. How do I deny others that chance? How do I say ‘no, sorry, not you’? I know that I should be thinking of it as giving 2 people an amazing opportunity, but right now I can’t stop thinking of the others who don’t get it.

That said, it’s not just me. I have wonderful colleagues on the panel who I trust to steer us through to the right, albeit difficult, decision. And there always has to be a first time, I guess. (you see? I’m so distraught I can’t think of anything better than that really lame cliche. It’s taking its toll!)

If you’re thinking of applying for the ECCAs please, please, PLEASE don’t let my whining put you off! I’m having a ‘poor little me’ moment, but really I want the judging panel to have a very difficult job. I want us to be overwhelmed with incredible applicants. I want to give two fantastic people a fantastic chance. And I want everyone who applies to know that, simply by applying, they’ve done a brilliant thing. They’ve stepped forward and asked to be counted. They’ve shown commitment to the profession, and to their personal development. I wish we could send everyone to conference, but as that would require the help of some whimsical millionaire with a passion for effective and professional information provision, you might just have to settle for the promise that I’ll buy all unsuccessful applicants a pint. Scant comfort, but tasty beer 🙂

[ps I spent ages trying to get a heavy metal quote into the title somehow. I really wanted a variant on ‘Fear of the Dark’ but the best I could come up with was ‘Fear of the Quark. Rest assured, if I ever have occasion to blog about particle physics, that will be my title :D]

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