It is imperative to establish early, frequent, and consistent communication with your committee in order to complete the work required for your committee. There are some minimum requirements for communication, but you should reach shared expectations with your committee for what additional communication will help. You will be chair of the committee from 1-4 ALA years, which run from the end of the Annual Conference, with the Midwinter conference as a mid-point. If you don’t start working with your committee until Midwinter, you’ve lost half an ALA year! So make sure you get started sooner.
Sample Timeline for an ALA Year:
- July 1 (or whenever ALA ends): You are now officially chair of the committee. Be sure to introduce yourself to the members of the committee and get to know something about them. Find out what type of communication works best for them.
- Weekly or monthly throughout the year (depending on committee): Send a message to your committee mailing list with project updates or discussions.
- Between August-October: Have a conference call, Google Hangout, or some other type of group communication to make sure projects are on track for Midwinter.
- January: Midwinter meeting.
- Between March-May: Have a conference call, Google Hangout, or some other type of group communication to make sure projects are on track for Annual.
- June: Annual meeting.
Plan to use your committee mailing list for most committee work in between meetings. In addition to ALA Connect and the mailing list you have access to the LITA blog, LITA-L, LITA Facebook, Twitter, and Wiki sites/feeds, and the Litachair email list (which includes both committee and IG chairs). Links to these communication tools and instructions for setting up your committee’s email list can be found on the orientation tip sheet page. See this document for tips on selecting which communication tool to use when working with your committee.
As you create documents with your committee, ensure that you are storing your documents in the correct place. Working or collaborative documents should be posted in LITA’s Google Docs instance. Documents that will be made available to the public should be posted on LITA’s WordPress instance. Archived versions of documents should be posted on ALA Connect. See this tip sheet for more information on document management.
That said, your committee members may have other ways they like to communicate. Do what works, but make sure that you document these discussions where others can access them in order to maintain openness and transparency in LITA and ALA.
There are a few types of meetings you will preside over as chair. The major meetings are at the Midwinter and Annual conferences, and those should be a high priority for you. 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 conference call 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.
As chair, you will preside over the meeting. Use your own style if you prefer, and remember that ALA uses The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure (aka Sturgis) rules of order if you need a fallback. A brief reference sheet for using these rules is available here. 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, and agenda of meeting, and goals to be achieved. Post this on the committee mailing list and Connect page.
- If funding is needed, prepare and submit budget requests to the LITA Board of Directors
- Send a message to the LITA-L listserv stating the time and place of the meeting and mention that participation is welcome. Determine in advance of the meeting what virtual participation will be possible and publicize this as well.
Scheduling In-Person Meetings at ALA Midwinter or 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, meetings at the ALA Annual Conferences and Midwinter Meetings 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.
Meetings, programs, or managed discussions planned for ALA Midwinter or Annual Conferences should be scheduled according to the timeline and guidelines set forth in the LITA Manual. Section 5 of the LITA Manual provides a suggested timetable for important planning benchmarks and should be used as a guide to steps in planning for programs and/or meetings at Midwinter and at Annual. Generally you will need to put in room requests for Midwinter by October, and 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 LITA Program Planning Committee 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 Groups Chairs each year via the Chairs’ Community in ALA Connect and at Joint Chairs Meetings at ALA Midwinter and Annual (which are always scheduled for Saturday from 8:00 to 10:00 AM). It is also important for chairs of committees and interest groups to watch for emails coming from LITA staff, which will contain additional information about deadlines for program proposals, meeting room reservations, as well as links to ALA meeting planning documents for the current conference. Proposals for Annual Conference and Midwinter Institutes plans are both due as early as July for the upcoming year, so advance planning is critical from the start of each Chair’s term.
After the Meeting
The official instructions in the LITA Manual are out of date. In general, all records should be posted on the committee’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 committee members via the mailing list when you have posted items. If there are particular members of LITA staff or the board 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 LITA or with people who want to get involved with a group but don’t have the interest or ability to serve on a committee.
- Make sure that the members of your interest group feel like members by communicating with them regularly.
- Document your available channels of communication (ALA Connect, mailing list, social media, etc.), and determine a reasonable timeline for updating those channels (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.
- 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 LITA 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 former 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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