Chapter 4: Communities of Practice
Chapter 4 Communities of Practice
The ACRL Bylaws define communities of practice to include sections, interest groups, and division-level discussion groups. ACRL also offers an at-a-glance breakdown of the differences in CoPA units: CoPA Group Breakdown.
The Communities of Practice Assembly shall consist of the chairs and vice-chairs of each section and conveners and incoming conveners of each interest group. The function of this assembly is to facilitate the exchange of ideas among the various Communities of Practice. The Communities of Practice are defined by Article XV in the ACRL Bylaws. (Source: ACRL Board, January 2008)
- The Assembly should not be a legislative body but rather a vehicle for communication; unit business should not be filtered through the Assembly before consideration by the Board.
- The Assembly should be a forum for the sharing of information about programming and projects among the Assembly representatives. The Assembly is not a "clearance center" for programs, merely an information exchange and an opportunity for interaction among section leaders. Chairs of each section submit a Strategic Plan Implementation Report on the conference programming, projects, preconferences, and other activities of the section to the ACRL office by April 30. These reports are compiled by the ACRL office and shared with membership units.
- The Assembly should take an active role in promoting units in the life of ACRL.
- The Assembly should discuss issues of common interest that are before the ACRL Board or should be brought before the Board.
- The Communities of Practice Assembly shall consist of the chairs and vice-chairs of each section and conveners and incoming conveners of each interest group.
- The position of chair rotates among the Communities of Practice leaders in full alphabetical order (not alphabetical order by acronym), beginning with the African American Studies Section. For 2012-13, the chair is from the Slavic and East European Section.
- The secretary position rotates among the Communities of Practice leaders in full reverse alphabetical order, beginning with Women's Studies Section. For 2012-13, the secretary is from the Arts Section.
- A representative from the Assembly will be appointed to the Leadership Recruitment & Nominations Committee by the ACRL president-elect for a two-year term.
- The meeting of the Assembly shall usually be scheduled after the ACRL Leadership Council or similar meeting and prior to the ACRL Board meetings. The Assembly should meet at a time when no ACRL section activity or meetings are scheduled. The Assembly can meet virtually.
- Minutes should be kept and copies provided to the ACRL office.
- The agenda should have the following items:
- report and news from ACRL office and ACRL Board
- reports from sections on activities and projects
- discussion of items of interest to the Assembly that are before the ACRL Board or should be brought before the Board.
(Source: Activity Sections Council, June 1981, revised 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1996, and Sections Council June 1998)
The fiscal year begins September 1. ACRL staff submits the budget to ALA the spring prior to the beginning of that fiscal year, and the ACRL Board approves the budget at Annual Conference. As part of the ACRL member dues, each ACRL member can pick a combination of Sections and Interest Groups, (with a maximum of two sections as is current policy). For example: 2 Sections and 1 Interest Group; 1 Section and 2 Interest Groups; or 3 Interest Groups. There is a fee for additional section or interest group memberships as determined by the ACRL Board.
Members can particpate in as many division-level discussion groups as they choose. Division-level discussion groups do not receive funding allocations. (Source: ACRL Board, June 1978; ACRL Executive Committee, April 1985; ACRL Executive Committee, March 2010.)
Each section receives a base allocation of $1,000.00 with an additional $0.75 per section member over 400 (as of August 31). Budget memos confirming the basic service allocation are delivered in October. (Source: ACRL Board, January 2013)
Sections may spend Basic Services funds on any items or activities that support the advancement of ACRL’s core purpose, to lead academic and research librarians and libraries in advancing learning and scholarship,with the following two exceptions: 1) Basic services funds may not be used for payment of honoraria or travel to support librarians' presentations at ALA, ACRL, or ACRL chapter conferences and 2) Basic services funds may not be used to purchase goods or services prohibited by ALA and ACRL policy. Sections may use Basic Services funds to support their program(s) at the Annual Conference. (Source: ACRL Board, June 2004, October 2004, Executive Committee, May 2011)
Interest Groups are allocated $150 per year which can be used to support the work of the Interest Group, as allowed by ACRL policies and procedures.
Reimbursement of expenses is handled in accordance with ALA and ACRL policies and procedures. Submit the reimbursement request form, original receipts such as airline ticket passenger receipts, hotel bills, etc., to ACRL before August 15 of the current fiscal year.
ALA is the legal and financial entity with respect to financial and contractual obligations incurred by ACRL as a division of ALA. The ACRL executive director is accountable to ALA for compliance with financial and other policies and guidelines. All contracts must be approved by the ACRL executive director and signed by an ALA associate executive director.
To support the networking aspects of section membership, the ACRL Board of Directors has made funding provisions through temporary loans to sections that allow them to enter into agreements for facilities, food and entertainment. ACRL will advance a $1,500 loan to a section annually. The loan is to be repaid in full to the ACRL office one month prior to the date of the event. Requests for special events loans are due 8 months prior to the date of the event and must be submitted with a plan for the event. (See Special Events Request Form)
In order to offset expenses associated with the special event, sections may solicit corporate donations. Before approaching corporate donors, the section must submit the fund-raising plan included in the Special Events Request Form. The ACRL Executive Director will review the plan and the section will receive written notification to proceed.
Corporate donations must be confirmed in writing before ticket prices/fees are set and the special event is promoted. All funds, including donations and registration payments, must be received no later than one month before the event.
In planning for special events, member leaders are authorized to negotiate terms for facilities, meals and entertainment, and collect contract information for ACRL's review and ALA approval or ask the venue to send information directly to the ACRL Associate Director.
Members are not authorized to sign contracts or letters of agreement for use of facilities, meals or entertainment. All contracts and letters of agreement must be sent to the attention of ACRL Associate Director for review by the ACRL Executive Director and signature of approval.
(Source: ACRL Board June 1999; ACRL Executive Committee, May 2006)
Funding allocations of up to $750 to support production and distribution of section brochures are awarded on a rotation schedule. The level of funding awarded is determined by the size and structure of the section. To be considered for these funds, send a written request to the ACRL office by December 10 in the year before the finding is needed. (Source: ACRL Budget and Finance Committee, 1994)
Sections may establish standing and ad hoc committees in accordance with their governance procedures.
Appointments to section committees are administered by the section chair and vice-chair/chair-elect. Appointments to committees generally are for two-year terms. Members may be reappointed for a maximum of two consecutive terms not to exceed five years. The maximum of five years also applies to any time spent in chairing a section committee. Reappointment of committee members and chairs is permissible but not mandatory. Committee chairs are normally appointed for one-year terms. The term of office begins immediately following the Annual Conference and concludes at the close of the Annual Conference one or two years later. Appointments to ad hoc committees generally are for the life of the committee.
For complete details on the ACRL policies on section committee appointments, please refer to Chapter 7 of the ACRL Guide to Policies and Procedures.
For detailed information regarding dates and deadlines, please refer to the Resources for Member Leaders.
The term of a section chair begins after the Annual Conference (following his/her term as vicechair/chair-elect) and ends the conclusion of the next Annual Conference. Specific responsibilities include:
Serves as an officer of the section and assists in advancing the goals and objectives of the section in accordance with the ACRL Plan for Excellence.
Oversees the development, implementation, and reporting of the section's contribution to, and support of, the ACRL Plan for Excellence.
Chairs all meetings of the section Executive Committee at Annual and Midwinter Conferences.
Attends meetings of the section committees when possible.
Establishes or dissolves both special and standing committees with the approval of the executive committee.
Oversees section program at Annual Conference.
Meets deadlines for requests for payment and reimbursement.
Schedules all of the section's committee meetings (except programs) for the ALA Midwinter Meetings and Annual Conferences.
Responds to inquiries from members and nonmembers regarding section interests and activities.
Corepresents with vice-chair/chair-elect the section on ACRL Communities of Practice Assembly.
Fills committee vacancies during term in office.
Arranges to have minutes or reports created for each meeting and provides copies to ACRL staff.
Conducts all meetings in accordance with ALA's "Open Meeting" policy. (Source: ALA Policy 7.4.3)
Attends and participates in ACRL Leadership Council sessions (usually held Friday afternoons at the ALA Midwinter and Annual Conferences).
The term of a section vice-chair begins at the conclusion of the ALA Annual Conference following their election to office until the conclusion of the next ALA Annual Conference. In general, section vice-chairs make appointments prior to their year as chair so that they can develop their own leadership team for their term of office as chair. Specific responsibilities include:
Serves as an officer of the section and assists in advancing the goals and objectives of the section in accordance with ACRL Plan for Excellence.
As a member of the Executive Committee, attends meetings of the committee at Annual and Midwinter Conferences, including those at the Annual Conference immediately preceding the taking of office.
Appoints a Nominating Committee and chair, which is responsible for producing a slate of candidates for section office. The section vice-chair may not be a member of the nominating committee. (Source: ALA Bylaws, Article III, Section 1.a)
If a program is planned, a Conference Program Planning Committee and chair should be appointed that is responsible for planning the section's programs at the Annual Conference during year as chair. May serve as a member of the committee according to section governance procedures.
Makes appointments to all other section committees for terms beginning when term as chair begins.
Responds to inquiries from members and nonmembers regarding section interests and activities.
- Corepresents (with section chair) the section on the ACRL Communities of Practice Assembly.
Appoints leaders of newly formed discussion groups.
Attends and participates in ACRL Leadership Council sessions (usually held Friday afternoons at the ALA Midwinter and Annual Conferences).
Serves as an officer of the section and assists in advancing the goals and objectives of the section and ACRL.
Serves as a member of the Executive Committee; attends meetings of the Committee at Annual and Midwinter Conferences.
Past-chairs may be appointed to represent the section at the ACRL Communities of Practice Assembly.
Other tasks according to the section bylaws or as assigned by the section Executive Committee.
Interest Groups are governed by a steering committee consisting of a convener, incoming convener and past convener. The steering committee is the only group that would appear in the ALA Handbook of Organization since they are the only members who need to sign formal appointment acceptance forms. Each Interest Group will determine the mechanism for selecting its incoming conveners.
Discussion groups may request space at conferences. ACRL only maintains official records concerned with their chairpersons. This policy was established so that they do not grow to the proportion of a section with many committees and a board. (Source: ACRL Board, June 1978; ACRL Executive Committee, April 1985; ACRL Executive Committee, March 2010.)
Each section may produce two electronic newsletters a year to be distributed electronically to members of each section by the ACRL Production Editor.
Appointment of editors
The appointment of editors and terms of office shall be made in accordance with each section's bylaws and procedures.
Production and distribution
Section newsletter editors are responsible for preparing copy of their newsletters in appropriate format.
An ownership statement shall be included in each newsletter as follows:
[Section Newsletter] (ISSN 0000-0000) is a semiannual publication of [Section] or the Association of College and Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association, 50 East Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611; 800-545-2433. This publication is sent free of charge to members of [Section]. Â© American Library Association, [year]
[Note: may also include editor(s), contact information, and URL of section website.]
Classified and product advertising shall not be accepted for section newsletters. Potential advertisers should be referred to College & Research Libraries, C&RL News, Choice, and RBM: A Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Cultural Heritage.
(Source: ACRL Board, January 1985, revised January 1987, January 1993, April 1996, June 2009)
ACRL units may appoint liaisons to other groups of related interest. It is understood that such appointment is for informational purposes and does not constitute official representation of ALA, ACRL, or the unit, and that no financial support is implied in such an appointment.
Units should contact the ACRL office if they are interested in developing a relationship with an organization and inform the ACRL executive director of all liaisons established. A report is submitted to the ACRL Board annually that summarizes the section's liaison activities.
Until June 30, 2013: A Section may be proposed by an established Interest Group that has maintained a membership of at least 400 members for three consecutive years. The Steering Committee of eligible Interest Groups must also submit a petition with signatures of 2/3 or 400 members of the group’s membership, whichever is less. Eligible interest groups must also submit a Board Action Form with the following information:
• A charge for the proposed Section
• Process for developing a slate for elected leadership positions
• Identification of an initial standing committee structure
• Proposed initiatives and projects
(Source: ACRL Board, June 2012)
After June 30, 2013: Interest Groups that have successfully renewed after reaching their initial sunset date and maintain a membership of 400+ members for three consecutive years after their initial renewal (years four through six) are eligible to submit a Petition for Establishing a Section (ALA e-petition) signed by a simple majority of the members of the Interest Group. The Interest Group also submits a Board Action Form to Establish a Section by May 1 of the seventh year for Board consideration at the ALA Annual Conference. The Board Action Form requires the following information:
• a charge for the section
• a statement of how the Section will support ACRL’s Plan for Excellence
• a process for developing a slate for elected leadership positions
• identification of an initial standing committee structure
• proposed initiatives and projects.
(Source: ACRL Board, June 2013)
To form an interest group, members must complete an Interest Group Petition signed by seventy-five ACRL members that includes the name of the proposed group, identification of the initial convener(s), proposed scope, and an explanation of how this is either a unique group or to identify groups it overlaps with and to articulate how this interest group is different. When the online petition is complete, members must submit a Board of Directors Action Form to Establish an Interest Group. The petition and action form are reviewed by the ACRL Board, which has the authority to create new interest groups.
(Source: ACRL Board, June 2012)
Submit a Discussion Group Petition with 25 signatures of interested ACRL members for ACRL Board approval. Discussion Groups can be proposed at any time and officially begin as soon as approved by the ACRL Board. When the online petition is complete, members must submit a Board of Directors Action Form to Establish a Division-level Discussion Group.
(Source: ACRL Board, June 2011)
Until June 30, 2013: Per Article XVI, Section 4 of the ACRL Bylaws, "A section may be dissolved at its request by the Board of Directors of the Association and shall be so dissolved if it becomes inactive or fails to comply with the provisions of [Article XVI]." Such efforts will follow the process below:
A Section will continue as long as the group has an identified leadership, has evidence of sustained work in support of the Section’s mission, and maintains a membership level of at least 100 members. Sections are encouraged to engage in self-reflection at least every 5 years to ensure their activities and committees are addressing member needs.
Prior to any action to dissolve a section of ACRL, association staff and board section liaisons are required to make efforts to offer supportive intervention with struggling sections. A sufficient amount of time as determined by the staff, board, and section representatives should be given to address concerns. Section leadership should submit a Section Request to Disband Form (in development) in order to dissolve a section that meets one of the following criteria:
- Section does not identify an incoming leader
- Failure of elected officers to meet synchronously during the previous year
- Section membership decrease below 100
- Determines that a Section is no longer needed
- Section is no longer relevant or meeting its purpose as outlined in the section bylaws and determined by a 2/3 majority vote of members voting on a recommendation to dissolve the section as part of the annual ballot process. This recommendation can be put on the ballot by the section's executive committee or by petition of 25 section members. The recommendation for dissolution would be voted on and used as indication of inactivity for the section's request for dissolution to the board.
If the Section leadership is unavailable, ACRL staff should notify the Board which can initiate the request to disband the Section. (Members of the Section may choose to submit a Discussion Group Petition if that type of group best meets their interests/activities for the future.)
(Source: ACRL Board, January 2007, June 2011)
After June 30, 2013: When section membership drops below 400 members for three consecutive years, the section will work with ACRL staff and their Board liaison to explore and consider transition options beginning in May of the third year. The section will submit a transition plan no later than April of the fourth year, for consideration at the Spring Executive Committee Meeting, and the transition will be completed by August 31 of the fourth year.
(Source: ACRL Board June 2013)
Interest Groups reach a sunset date every three years. An Interest Group may request to be dissolved, may request to be renewed with the same charge, or may propose a replacement group with a different name and charge. Requests for all actions must be submitted to the ACRL Board in time to be approved at the Annual Conference. If the Interest Group takes none of these actions, the Interest Group will automatically dissolve after the Annual Conference following the Interest Group’s third year anniversary. An Interest Group can petition the Board to disband at any time before the three-year sunset date. (Source: Board, March 2011)
- Interest Group continuance and dissolution request forms are available on the forms page of the ACRL website.
- An Interest Group must have a minimum of twenty five members in order to request continuance.
A Discussion Group will may continue as long as the group has an identified convener and hosts at least one discussion a year. The ACRL staff liaison will check annually to confirm the name/email of the convener for the next year. If the Discussion Group 1) does not have an incoming convener, 2) has not met synchronously during the previous year, or 3) determines that a group is no longer needed, the convener should submit a Discussion Group Request to Disband Form. If the convener is unavailable, ACRL staff should notify the Board which can initiate the request to disband the Discussion Group.
(Source: ACRL Board, June 2011)
A Special Events Request Form must be submitted to ACRL at least 8 months prior to the event.
ACRL will advance up to $1,500 per section event to cover deposits for facilities, food, and entertainment. The loan is to be repaid in full to the ACRL office one month prior to the date of the event. ACRL is responsible for processing all deposits, payments, and registrations.
If your event requires outside donor support, you must submit a fundraising plan on the Special Event Request Form in order to have your event approved by ACRL. Under ALA and ACRL guidelines, you may NOT directly approach a potential donor without first clearing it with the ACRL executive director. Units receive written notification to proceed after their plans have been reviewed. See 6.16 External Funding for more information on how to approach vendors.
The cost per person for the event must be figured to include food, beverages, taxes, gratuity, room rental fees, and any other expected expenses. (Note: Gratuity is always taxed.) Additional nformation about venue selection and costconsiderations is detailed in the Section Special Event Planning Tip sheet.
Outside vendor support would lower the per person cost. Corporate donations must be confirmed in writing before ticket prices/fees are set and the special event is promoted. All funds, including donations and registration payments, must be received no later than one month before the event.
Once ACRL approves an event, the section can begin negotiating contracts with the vendor(s). See Section Special Event Planning Tip sheet for more information on contracts.
Section members are not authorized to sign contracts or letters of agreement for use of facilities, meals or entertainment. All contracts and letters of agreement must be sent to the attention of ACRL Program Officer for review and approval by the ACRL Executive Director and ALA Associate Executive Director. ACRL will return the signed contract directly to the vendor and will notify the section when this has been done.
ACRL will issue deposits directly to the vendor(s) by the dates indicated on the contract(s). The section will be notified when checks are issued.
ACRL will bring a check for the remaining balance to the Midwinter Meeting or Annual Conference, and will hand-deliver the check to the local arrangements chair or a member of the section executive committee.
The local arrangements chair must send the registration form to the ACRL Program Officer for approval before it can be made public. The form for the special event should include the following information:
Day, date and times of event
Location: name and address
Menu (include vegetarian option, if applicable)
Cost per person in U.S. dollars; international checks or money orders not accepted
Deadline for payment to be received by ACRL
Type of payment accepted (checks, credit cards, etc.)
No refunds policy
The return registration form must specify:
Checks made payable to ACRL
Mail to "Event Name" / ACRL / 50 East Huron Street / Chicago, IL 60611
Place for attendee’s name, institution, phone number, and email address
Place for credit card information (if applicable)
Request payment in U.S. dollars
Menu choice (if applicable)
Once the form has been approved by ACRL, it can be posted on the Section Web site.
The local arrangements chair is responsible for publicity. After posting the registration form to the section Web site, it is a good idea to promote the event on the section listserv and direct people to the online form. Multiple reminder postings will be necessary.
Plan to promote the event in the section newsletter that precedes the conference (include approximate deadlines).
ACRL processes all registrations, deposits, contracts, and payments, and a $2 per registrant fee is charged to cover these services.
Once registration opens, the ACRL Program Officer sends weekly updates to the local arrangements chair. ACRL will issue receipts to each attendee via email.
Registration will close when the maximum attendee allotment has been reached or one month before the event, whichever comes first. The maximum attendee allotment must be agreed upon by both ACRL and the venue in the contract.
Submitting final registration number to vendor
The local arrangements chair is responsible for providing the final registration number to the vendor(s) by the date specified on the contract(s).
Sections may do on-site registration, provided that the venue has agreed to accept walk-ins. Attendees who register on-site must pay the venue directly. The local arrangements chair should collect the names, institutions, and email addresses of on-site registration attendees and send this information to the ACRL Program Officer after the event.
ACRL discussion groups are intended to be an informal and flexible way for members with like-minded interests to discuss current issues facing the profession.
ACRL discussion groups may host their email listserv on an outside server, or may request a listserv address from ACRL. Discussion group leaders and/or the appointed moderators are solely responsible for maintaining the listserv, which includes passing listserv instructions onto future discussion group leaders and/or moderators. Aside from creating the list and fixing technical problems, ACRL staff cannot provide further support.
A speaker can start the discussion at the beginning of the meeting. Speaker should talk for no more than 20 minutes. Group discussion should follow.
Larger discussion groups may do round robins, with the small groups each presenting their thoughts at the end
Setting meeting objectives and asking participants to prepare answers to a few questions before conference helps to make an effective discussion group meeting.
Discussion groups may not conduct programs at the ALA Midwinter Meeting or ALA Annual Conference. A meeting would be considered a program when one or more outside speakers are invited to present to the group for the duration of the meeting. A discussion group that conducted a program during the ALA Annual Conference would compete with ACRL-approved programs, which have been planned for over two years.
Three Months Before Meeting
Decide on discussion topic for upcoming meeting
Will a guest presenter participate or will attendees talk amongst each other for the duration of the meeting?
Develop 1 or 2 objectives for the meeting
Prepare an agenda which includes 2-3 questions which will help guide the discussion, meeting objectives and time limits for each agenda item
One Month Before Meeting
Email the agenda to discussion group listserv and ask members to prepare answers to each question
Post an advertisement for the discussion group meeting on ACRL listservs
Prepare to keep attendees focused during the meeting in case the discussion gets off-topic
Preapre ideas to ensure all attendees have an opportunity to participate
Perhaps make timecards so the discussion group leader knows when time is running out without being interrupted verbally
At the Meeting
- Arrive at room 30 minutes early to ensure proper set-up
- Inform attendees of the meeting format
- Ask an attendee to take minutes
- Ask an attendee to be a timekeeper
- Lead group in selecting a new leader for the next year (current leader may extend term another year if necessary)
After the Meeting
Send a summary including the identity and contact information of the next year's discusion group leader to ACRL within 30 days of the meeting
Discussion group leaders schedule meeting space for the ALA Midwinter Meeting and the ALA Annual Conference in the Fall. Meeting format should be considered when deciding on a seating arrangement. Most discussion groups should request seating in rounds. Another option for discussion groups under 20 members, would be conference-style seating, which is one large table. Discussion groups should not request theater-style seating as it is not conducive to audience discussion.
Additional information is available at 8.2 Meeting Scheduling.
Discussion Group Leaders:
Must be a member of ACRL
Schedule meeting space
Decide on meeting topic
Advertise the meeting before conference
Keep the group on topic and on time during the meetings
Send the meeting summary to ACRL
Moderate the email list or appoint a moderator
Moderate the ALA Connect community or appoint a moderator
ACRL staff support division-level discussion groups by:
Maintaining online discussion group leader rosters
Working with ALA Conference Services to ensure meetings are listed in the onsite program book and online scheduler.
Answering procedural questions
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