It is imperative to establish early, frequent, and consistent communication with your group in order to complete the work required. There are some minimum requirements for communication, but you should reach shared expectations with your group for what additional communication will help. You will be the chair from 1-4 ALA years, which typically run July through June (there are a few exceptions that run on a different term cycle due to the timing of their work). If you don’t start working with your group until September or October, you’ve already lost 1/6 of your year! So make sure you get started sooner.
Sample Timeline for an ALA Year:
- July 1: You are now officially chair of your group. Be sure to introduce yourself to the members of the committee/IG and get to know something about them. Find out what type of communication works best for them. Start a welcome/introduce yourself thread in your ALA Connect group. Note to the group the Connect email address for sending message and the URL for viewing the group, which will be included in a welcome email you as chair will receive from Core staff.
- Weekly or monthly throughout the year (depending on the group): Send a message to your group with project updates or discussions.
- Between August-June: Have a Zoom meeting, conference call, Google Hangout, or some other type of group communication each month or as needed to make sure projects are on track.
- In September, December, March, and May, be sure to fill out the quarterly report form to update the Board and staff on your group’s progress. Staff will send a message to the Core Leaders group each time these reports are due.
- If your group has hard deadlines or milestones, schedule more virtual meetings as necessary to make sure the work is completed on time.
- June: Annual meeting. This meeting takes place at the ALA Annual Conference, but in-person attendance is optional. Your committee/IG can meet at Annual during the 10:30-11:30am slot on Saturday morning if you want to have a face-to-face meeting, but you can also choose to hold your last meeting virtually in June.
Plan to use your Connect group’s email address for most group work in between meetings (you can find it listed on your group’s Connect home page). In addition to ALA Connect, you have access to the Core Blog, the Core Members Community in ALA Connect, the Core Central announcements list (staff can send an email to it on your behalf), Core Twitter, and the Core Leaders Connect group (which includes both committee and IG chairs). We’ve also provided some tips on selecting which communication tool to use when working with your group.
As you create documents with your group, ensure that you are storing your documents in the correct place. Working or collaborative documents should be posted in your group’s folder in Core’s Google Drive. Documents that will be made available to the public should be posted in the Public Core Documents library on ALA Connect. Archived versions of documents and reports should be saved in your committee’s Connect group in the library. See this tip sheet for more information on document management.
That said, your group’s members may have other ways they also like to communicate. Do what works, but make sure that you document these discussions where others can access them in order to maintain openness, transparency, continuity, and a historical record in Core and ALA.
There are a few types of meetings you will preside over as chair. The major meetings may include one at Annual Conference, and that should be a high priority for you if your group decides to meet in person. But most of the work that you do will take place in between those meetings, and you should plan to have a few additional meeting times throughout the year via online meeting software or some other method. No matter what type of meeting, remember that ALA has an Open Meetings Policy, which states that meetings (virtual and in-person) are open to all ALA members and members of the press, unless the meeting will be discussing private information about specific individuals or institutions. There are specific rules surrounding closed meetings, which you should make sure to follow if you are chairing a committee which might be affected by this. Award and nomination jury meetings are always closed to protect the privacy of applicants and nominees. Contact the Core Office if you have a question about whether a meeting should be open or closed.
As chair, you will preside over the meeting. You don’t need to be formal in your approach to running meetings, but remember that ALA uses Robert’s Rules of Order if you need some guidance on meeting procedure. A brief reference sheet for using these rules is available. For tips specifically on presiding over virtual meetings, see this document on facilitating virtual meetings.
Other things to keep in mind:
- Notify committee members of the date, time, place, agenda, and goals to be achieved. Post this via email to your Connect group.
- If your group needs action or direction from the Board, fill out the Board Request/Report Form (20kb Word Document) and send it to Kerry Ward at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also use this form to submit reports, whitepapers, or other projects your group has completed that need to go to the Board.
- If you want to use Zoom for your meeting, you can reserve the Core Zoom Room.
Scheduling In-Person Meetings at ALA Annual
Where possible, committee work should be structured and delegated so that it can be done in advance of regular committee meetings. To whatever extent possible, in-person meetings at the ALA Annual Conferences should be used to examine progress in planning committee activities, outline future activities and assignments, and evaluate past activities, not to actually do work that can be done in advance of the meeting. Whether you meet in person at Annual or virtually in June, approach this as your wrap-up meeting to prepare the next chair to hit the ground running with all of the information they need.
Meetings, programs, or managed discussions planned for ALA Annual Conferences should be scheduled according to the timeline and guidelines set forth in this handbook. Use the timeline to provide a suggested timetable for important planning benchmarks and as a guide to steps in planning for programs and/or meetings at Annual. Generally you will need to put in room requests for Annual by February.
If you plan to hold programs or managed discussions, be aware that there are specific deadlines and criteria you must meet. Work with the Core Office as soon as possible after the Annual Conference to ensure you meet these. Detailed information on proposal submission and specific deadlines will be provided to committee and interest group chairs each year via the Core Leaders Connect community.
It is also important for chairs of committees and interest groups to watch for emails coming from Core staff, which will contain additional information about deadlines for program proposals and meeting room reservations, as well as links to ALA meeting planning documents for the upcoming conference. Proposals for Annual Conference plans are due as early as August for the upcoming year, so advance planning is critical from the start of each Chair’s term.
After the Meeting
In general, all records should be posted on your group’s ALA Connect page. Post the meeting minutes as soon as possible after the meeting. Make sure that you have identified in advance who is keeping minutes for the meeting! Notify your group’s members via your Connect group when you have posted items. If there are particular Core staff or Board members who need to be consulted, it would be a good idea to send the information to them as well.
Special Considerations for Interest Groups
Interest groups are much less formal than committees. Anyone who wants to can participate, and interest groups can accomplish a great deal if properly managed. Interest groups are a great way to work with people outside of Core or with people who want to get involved with a group but don’t have the interest or ability to serve on a committee. Past interest groups have created a toolkit for implementing makerspaces in libraries, Patron Privacy Checklists for Libraries, and other resources that go beyond one program at ALA Annual each year, so be bold in discussing what your group wants to accomplish.
- Make sure that the members of your interest group feel like members by communicating with them regularly.
- Determine a reasonable timeline for how often you’ll start new discussions or send posts to your group (weekly, monthly, etc.). Make sure it’s easy to find current information about projects, discussions, or programs. You may want to communicate more heavily closer to conferences, but make sure that there is fresh content throughout the year.
- Interest groups are welcome to hold a Core e-forum every year on a topic of broad interest within their given area.
- Encourage open feedback and reach decisions by consensus where possible.
- Encourage members to “scratch their own itch” and provide them the resources to be successful in creating a program or service of value to Core and/or the library profession.
When You Are No Longer Chair
Schedule a handoff meeting or phone call
A great way to help orient a new chair and preserve continuity of leadership for your committee is to reach out as soon as possible to the incoming chair with an offer to meet or exchange messages and answer any immediate questions the new chair has regarding their first steps as your successor. Be ready to pass on the documentation from your time as chair to the new person at this first meeting or exchange, and provide your contact information so that you can be a resource to the new chair. This handoff meeting both preserves the legacy of your leadership and allows the incoming chair to keep the group moving forward in the transition period.
The items you should handoff to the new chair include:
- All files and documents (make sure to organize them);
- A short summary of the activities of the past 1-4 years of the committee;
- A neatly organized and complete ALA Connect space for the committee.
Be a resource
The past chair is expected to be available to the incoming chair as an important resource for procedural and historical committee information. While you are not expected to do any of the work of the committee, it is a great gesture to reach out periodically to the new chair for the first several months to make sure things are going well. Schedule a phone call or coffee date (if geographically feasible) to talk over the work of the committee.
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