Working with Core

As chair of a committee or interest group, you have a responsibility to work with Core staff and leadership. This includes being proactive about asking for help.

Understanding Core and Its Governance

Even with our section structure, Core has a fairly flat hierarchy. You can ask questions of any officer on the board, including the president, and feel free to show up to any meetings unless they are explicitly closed.

Learn more about the Core Board. The Board consists of

  • President
  • Vice-President/President-Elect
  • Executive Director
  • Immediate Past-President
  • Core’s Councilor on ALA Council
  • Seven directors-at-large
  • Parliamentarian (ex-officio, Chair of the Bylaws and Organization Committee)
  • Budget and Financy Committee Chair (ex-officio)
  • Diversity and Inclusion Committee Chair (ex-officio)

Be sure to read, or at least skim, the Bylaws, especially the sections on committees and interest groups.

Core Staff

The Core staff are professional association staff who work out of the ALA headquarters in Chicago. Just as librarians are professionals with training specific to libraries, association professionals have training specific to managing and promoting the work of the association. Core has seven staff members. Their names and contact information are available on Core’s website, and it’s a good place to check when you’re not sure which staff member to contact about a particular topics.

Each committee has one or more staff liaisons who will help you with the practical matters associated with getting your committee’s work done. Make sure to note who your staff liaison is and communicate with them early and often. Because Core only has seven staff members, they rely on you, the member leaders, to get work done and be proactive.

Understand the Official Charge and the “Real” Story

Each committee has an official charge, which you can find on the committees list. Make sure that you read this and understand what it means. Charges are not always clear to the uninitiated. Ask for clarification from your Core Board liaison and past chairs if necessary. Be able to explain it in plain English to your committee members and other Core or ALA members. Starting with clarity about what you need to accomplish will aid you in planning your committee’s work.

If you feel your committee’s charge does not accurately reflect your committee’s work, you can work to update the charge. Committee charges are reviewed periodically by the Bylaws & Organization Committee, and a committee can suggest a change in their charge to this group at any point.

That said, the “official” charge may not tell the whole story. There may be some unwritten traditions and rules in your committee that may or may not be worth preserving. You can usually find this out from past chairs, members, and Core staff. Just because something has always been done a certain way is no reason to continue, but if something works, it may be worth it to continue. Make sure that you document “unofficial” procedures for the future. Your committee’s ALA Connect group might be a good place to do this.

Make sure that you understand the history of your committee. Read past meeting minutes on ALA Connect. Set a time to meet the former committee chair at an ALA conference or have a phone/online conversation. Ask for documents relating to procedures and the committee’s work, and ask what worked and what didn’t, and why. As above, this will help you define the charge for your committee, but it will also help you avoid making mistakes. If the immediate past chair is not available, you should plan to have such a conversation with your Board and staff liaisons.

Working with Other Core Committees

Talk to other committee and IG chairs during your term (committee chairs have access to the Core Leaders group in ALA Connect). These are your colleagues who are facing many of the same issues as you are. Be sure to watch for announcements for the virtual orientation for chairs every July.

Your committee or interest group may have ideas for programs or services that it could offer. In many cases, you will need to work with another committee to ensure your idea can be accomplished in an efficient manner. If you aren’t sure, ask your Board liaison if your idea should be handed off to another group for approval or completion. All committee and interest group chairs are automatically members of the Core Leaders group, and this is another resource for finding out how you can work with other groups.


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