How to Start an ALA Student Chapter

This page is designed to help you start an ALA Student Chapter.

The first ALA Student Chapter was created in 1980 at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Each Student Chapter has its own character and purpose. ALA Student Chapters enhance students' ALA membership by providing leadership and programming opportunities on the campuses. See Directory of student chapters for links to Student Chapter websites, current President and Faculty Advisor contacts, and more.

Directory of ALA-accredited master's programs in library and information studies
The directory, available in four unique formats, provides information about library and information studies programs that are accredited by the American Library Association (ALA). The ALA Office for Accreditation publishes the directory annually, and provides the opportunity for programs to update their entries when information changes.

| Who is Eligible to Form an Official ALA Student Chapter? | Who Is Eligible to Participate? | What Are the Benefits of Starting an ALA Student Chapter? | I've Decided I Want to Start an ALA Student Chapter. What Are the Steps? | After Your Group Is Founded | For Further Information |

Who is Eligible to Form an Official ALA Student Chapter?

ALA student members at the master's level and beyond are eligible to form official ALA student chapters at schools offering ALA-accredited programs of library and information services, or a master's degree with a specialty in school library media from an NCATE/AASL-accredited program.

Is it possible to have a student chapter of AASL, for example?  We have an ALA student chapter, but we would be interested in a more specific AASL student chapter if that is possible.

Many Student Chapter members have set up subgroups under their ALA Student Chapter, for example, ACRL subgroups, IRRT subgroups, and AASL subgroups. You might want to send a message to the e-list, stuchapt@lists.ala.org, and find out how other ALA Student Chapters have organized them under their bylaws.

The first ALA Student Chapter was created in 1980 at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Each Student Chapter has its own character and purpose. ALA Student Chapters enhance students' ALA membership by providing leadership and programming opportunities on the campuses.

Who Is Eligible to Participate?

ALA student members at the master's level and beyond are eligible to form official ALA student chapter groups at schools offering ALA-accredited programs of library and information services, or a master's degree with a specialty in school library media from an NCATE/AASL-accredited program.

Do I have to be an ALA member to belong to an ALA Student Chapter?

No, not as far as participating in Student Chapter events and activities. Anyone and everyone should be allowed to participate. Indeed, participation should be encouraged and ALA membership should be encouraged, as well.

That said, if you want to run for a Student Chapter office, successful candidates should be ALA members. As for being an ALA member during election, in theory, all candidates should be current ALA members. If not, it seems to suggest that unless elected, candidates don’t want to join the organization they want to lead. However, in practice, flexibility can rule. If your Chapter decides to allow nonmembers to run, however, it must require them to join immediately upon election (and I stress immediately). Who in your Chapter will be assigned the task to oversee that they do join? Perhaps this should be a Bylaws change to make it official? Again, in theory, officers should be elected only by other ALA members. In practice, however, again, flexibility must rule. Indeed, most Chapters’ bylaws indicate ALA membership is only encouraged and not mandatory. This being so, then, anyone should be allowed to vote.

Like Student Chapters, Chapters (state library associations) are affiliated with ALA. Article V. Chapters, Section 2, of the ALA Bylaws states, “A chapter may admit members who are not members of the American Library Association.” Similarly, Student Chapters may also admit members who are not ALA members. However, unlike Chapters, Student Chapters are granted Charter Memberships as Student Chapter Groups of the American Library Association. Therefore, ALA can and does require Student Chapter officers to be ALA members. Both Chapter and Student Chapter officers encourage their members to join ALA. In addition, Student Chapter members appointed to ALA committees or selected to participate in ALA-related activities, such as the Student-to-Staff program, are required to be ALA members.

ALA doesn’t require Student Chapter events and activities to be strictly for Student Chapter members to encourage participation as learning experiences and opportunities to provide assistance to local communities. That is, ALA encourages volunteerism. Events and activities organized by Student Chapters include book drives and reading to children and seniors, as well as social get-togethers, which can include Student Chapter membership drives.

See also How to Start an ALA Student Chapter and Where Are Future ALA Leaders? Most Likely in the Fifty-six ALA Student Chapters!

Membership Drives for Your Student Chapter

Arrange an informational and organizational meeting at the school for all interested students. The officers of existing groups can serve as a steering committee and can be of great assistance in helping to promote the chapter group. Students who have already joined ALA as student members should be identified and included in the chapter group. At the informational meeting, distribute ALA student membership forms and sign up students. (See Joint Student Membership Program.) Once a nucleus of members is established, a constitution should be drafted. Sample constitutions are available online from the ALA Chapter Relations Office. A nominating committee should be appointed and a meeting held to elect officers and approve the constitution. A chapter group program committee should be appointed to work with the officers to develop program ideas. A faculty advisor should be designated to work with the organizers on chapter formation.

Membership and Elections

Successful candidates for Student Chapter leadership positions (named in your constitution and bylaws) should be ALA members. As for being an ALA member during election, in theory, all candidates should be current ALA members. If not, it seems to suggest that unless elected, candidates don’t want to join the organization they want to lead. However, in practice, flexibility can rule. If your Chapter decides to allow nonmembers to run, however, it must require them to join immediately upon election (and I stress immediately). Who in your Chapter will be assigned the task to oversee that they do join? Perhaps this should be a Bylaws change to make it official? Again, in theory, officers should be elected only by other ALA members. In practice, however, again, flexibility must rule. Indeed, most Chapters’ bylaws indicate ALA membership is only encouraged and not mandatory. This being so, then, anyone should be allowed to vote. As far as participating in events and activities of the Student Chapter, anyone and everyone should be allowed to participate. Indeed, participation should be encouraged and ALA membership should be encouraged, as well. (All leaders, election rules, and governance procedures should be spelled out in your constitution and bylaws.)

Fees

Student Chapters pay no fee to ALA. Individual members of the student chapter group pay ALA student dues. Each ALA student member is entitled to all the regular ALA personal membership benefits at a substantially reduced dues rate. The chapter may support its programs through fund-raising activities, dues paid to the student chapter group, or contributions from the school administration.

What Are the Benefits of Starting an ALA Student Chapter?

Belonging to ALA Student Chapter enhances students’ ALA membership by providing the opportunity to learn and hone leadership skills and to design and accomplish programs, participate in community volunteer work, network with other ALA members and ALA leaders, and more.

ALA student members at the master’s level and beyond enrolled in MLS/MLIS, CAEP, and LTA programs are eligible to form official ALA student chapter groups at schools offering ALA-accredited programs of library and information services, or a master’s degree with a specialty in school library media from an CAEP/AASL-accreditted program. See AASL-CAEP School Librarianship Education Programs.

For school librarians, the appropriate first professional degree is either of the following:

  • A master's degree from a program accredited by ALA,

  • A master's degree with a specialty in school librarianship from a program recognized by AASL in an educational unit accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).

Prospective students should review the guidelines for choosing a master's program in library and information studies.

The authoritative directory of CAEP-accredited/AASL-recognized programs is maintained by CAEP. Please consult the CAEP Directory of Accredited Institutions for a list of school librarianship programs that have been reviewed and recognized (National Recognition, National Recognition with Conditions, or National Recognition with Probation) by AASL's program reviewers using the ALA/AASL Standards for Initial Preparation of School Librarians (2010). Under the AASL Standards, program recognition is tied to CAEP unit accreditation. AASL does not review school librarianship programs that are not affiliated with a CAEP-accredited unit. To search for school librarian programs in the CAEP Directory, click on "Nationally Recognized Program Search" and select "American Library Association (ALA)" in the drop-down menu next to "Program Area."

The American Library Association and the American Association of School Libraries were pleased at recent interest expressed by students and faculty at a number of schools in forming ALA Student Chapters to foster professional affiliation. As a result ALA has expanded its Student Chapter program so that CAEP-accredited programs can establish ALA Student Chapters.

  • Student Chapters pay no fee to ALA;
  • Student Chapter leaders pay ALA student dues; individual members of the student chapter group are encouraged to pay ALA student dues, and often do;
  • Each ALA student member is entitled to all the regular ALA personal membership benefits at a substantially reduced dues rate; some ALA Chapters partner with ALA to provide joint membership opportunities for students; and
  • A plaque will be sent to the Student Chapter by ALA upon receipt of an approved, ratified constitution and bylaws.

Another benefit of being a member of a Student Chapter is the ALA Student to Staff Program. Each year through this program, 40 library students are chosen to assist ALA staff during ALA Annual Conference. In exchange for working four hours a day (or a total of 20 hours), these students receive free conference registration, housing, and a per diem for meal expenses. During free time, they may attend programs and participate in other conference activities. Qualifying students must be a current ALA member and a Student Chapter member, and cannot have previously participated in the program. Moreover, the student must remain an ALA member through the ALA Annual Conference that student is nominated to participate in.

See also ALA Student Membership: Frequently Asked Questions Answered.

Student-to-Staff Program

Each student chapter is entitled to nominate one student to go to the Annual Conference to participate in the Student-to-Staff program.

ALA Promotional Materials

ALA promotional materials will be mailed to the Student Chapter president upon request. Call ALA Membership Development at 1-312-280-4274.

Student Chapter Plaque

A plaque will be sent to the student chapter by ALA upon receipt of an approved, ratified constitution and bylaws.

I've Decided I Want to Start an ALA Student Chapter. What Are the Steps?

Designate an Advisor

A faculty advisor should be designated to work with the organizers on chapter formation.

Information and Organizational Meeting

Arrange an informational and organizational meeting at the school for all interested students. The officers of existing groups can serve as a steering committee and can be of great assistance in helping to promote the chapter group. Students who have already joined ALA as student members should be identified and included in the chapter group. At the informational meeting, distribute ALA student membership forms and sign up students. (See Joint Student Membership Program.) Once a nucleus of members is established, a constitution should be drafted. Sample constitutions are available online from the ALA Chapter Relations Office. A nominating committee should be appointed and a meeting held to elect officers and approve the constitution. A chapter group program committee should be appointed to work with the officers to develop program ideas.

Notify ALA

The approved constitution, name of advisor, and list of officers should be sent to Don Wood, the staff liaison. The student chapter group's information will appear on the ALA Student Chapter website.

Hold an Election

Who can run for office? Who can vote for candidates?

  • Successful candidates should be ALA members. As for being an ALA member during election, in theory, all candidates should be current ALA members. If not, it seems to suggest that unless elected, candidates don’t want to join the organization they want to lead. However, in practice, flexibility can rule. If your Chapter decides to allow nonmembers to run, however, it must require them to join immediately upon election (and I stress immediately). Who in your Chapter will be assigned the task to oversee that they do join? Perhaps this should be a Bylaws change to make it official?
  • Again, in theory, officers should be elected only by other ALA members. In practice, however, again, flexibility must rule. Indeed, most Chapters’ bylaws indicate ALA membership is only encouraged and not mandatory. This being so, then, anyone should be allowed to vote.
  • As far as participating in events and activities of the Student Chapter, anyone and everyone should be allowed to participate. Indeed, participation should be encouraged and ALA membership should be encouraged, as well.

Contact Other Groups

Chapter organizers may well profit from the experience of local ALA members and others including:

After Your Group Is Founded

ALA Student Chapters
Designed to assist already established ALA Student Chapters.

ALA Student Chapter Answers and Resources
Answers and resources for Student Chapters. Have questions about resources available from ALA to your Student Chapter? Go here first!

For Further Information

Good luck organizing your new Student Chapter. If you need help or further information, don't hesitate to contact the Student Chapter staff liaison: Chapter Relations Office, American Library Association, 50 East Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611, or call: Toll-free 1-800-545-2433 x2429, in Chicago (312) 280-2429, or FAX: (312) 280-4392, Email: Don Wood.