As chair of a committee or interest group, you have a responsibility to work with LITA staff and leadership. This includes being proactive about asking for help.
Understanding LITA and its governance
LITA is unlike other ALA divisions in that it 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 board structure and duties. The board consists of
- Executive Director
- Immediate Past-President
- LITA’s Councilor on ALA Council
- Seven directors-at-large
- Parliamentarian (ex-officio, Chair of the Bylaws and Organization Committee)
- Financial Advisory Committee Chair (ex-officio)
Be sure to read, or at least skim, the Bylaws and Manual, especially the sections on committees and interest groups. Not everything in the Bylaws or Manual is correct or up-to-date, so make sure to double check normal practice with someone else.
Another handy and not well-known enough page to read over is the LITA History. This will explain why things have evolved the way they have, and help newer members to know what more long-term members have done in the past.
The LITA 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. LITA has two staff members. Their names and contact information are available on LITA’s website.
There’s also a page on the LITA Documentation site for when you’re not sure which staff member to contact about a particular topic.
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 LITA only has two 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 website. Make sure that you read this and understand what it means. Charges are not always clear to the uninitiated. Ask for clarification from your LITA Board liaison and former chairs if necessary. Be able to explain it in plain English to your committee members and other LITA 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 the Bylaws & Organization Committee 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 former chairs, members, and LITA 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 old 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 former chair is not available, you should plan to have such a conversation with your Board and staff liaisons.
Working with other LITA Committees
Talk to other committee and IG chairs during your term (committee chairs have access to the chairs mailing list). These are your colleagues who are facing many of the same issues as you are. You should attend the Committee and IG Joint Chairs Meeting (always scheduled for Saturday from 8:30-10:00 am at Annual Conferences).
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 Chairs Committee, and this is another resource for finding out how you can work with other committees.
- Surveys of LITA members need to be reviewed by the Assessment and Research Committee. See this document for more information on creating and distributing surveys.
- Changes to your committee’s charge or your interest group must be approved by the Bylaws and Organization Committee. Ideas for new official relationships should also go through this Committee.
- Ideas for educational programs should go to the Education Committee. Your committee or interest group is free to develop the content in consultation with this Committee, who will help with scheduling, marketing, and logistics.
- Programs related to the ALA Annual Conference should go through the Program Planning Committee in their regular call for programming, the timing of which is listed in the LITA Manual and will be widely publicized.
- Ideas for new content for the LITA website and online communications should go to the Web Coordinating Committee.
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