Volunteering for and then getting appointed to a committee is a time-honored way to serve ALCTS, add some useful entries to your resume, get to know people, and maybe launch an association volunteer career that will lead you to committee chairpersonship or higher office.
ALCTS has many volunteer opportunities, among our:
- 50+ committees
- 40+ interest groups
- 14 award juries
The appointing officers (the presidents-elect and section chairs-elect) try very hard to get everyone who volunteers involved, despite any perception to the contrary. The appointment cycle generally runs from February through June.
Considering that there are so many ways to get involved, you might consider taking a look around, sitting in on a meeting at a Conference, or asking questions of the chair or a member of an interesting committee or group. Division-level committees often are overlooked because ALCTS members tend to think and act on their volunteering at the section level first, not realizing the rich possibilities of serving on a division-level committee. Division-level committees are sometimes replicated in varying degrees at the section level while some are unique to the division level. With the section-level committees, there are many great places to volunteer
ALCTS Publications Committee oversees and manages the ALCTS Publications Program. A common misconception is that vast experience with publications is needed to serve. Although that might be useful, there are members of the committee do not have publications experience, but rather possess other traits that make them valuable, such as a critical eye, good project management skills, expertise in a subject area, and the like. The Program Committee fits this category as well.
ALCTS Leadership Development Committee is one of those committees that members often forget, yet provides leadership training to not just ALCTS, but to all of ALA. The requirement: be thoughtful and willing to work to develop such programming. The members vary greatly in experience and years of service. International Relations is another such committee.
The Continuing Education Committee develops and runs all the nonconference programming for ALCTS. Unleash your inner techie or help find and recruit presenters.
Organization & Bylaws Committee (O&B). This is one for the governance junkies out there. Process is good on this one.
Planning Committee. We are always going through planning cycles, so the work goes on. Maybe Fundraising? You really have to like asking people for money. For Budget & Finance, you need to know what a budget is and be able to read financial statements.
There are many, many more committees.
Make It Happen
Here are some ways that you can improve your chances of landing a committee appointment:
Fill out the volunteer form and submit it. More importantly, fill out the form completely. You would be surprised to learn how many forms we get with only a person’s name, contact information and one committee preference. There is space for you to tell us about yourself. Use it! You have to remember that the appointing officers may not know you.
Go to ALCTS 101 on Friday evening at Annual. If you’re able to attend Annual, this is a great chance to meet and greet ALCTS members and hear information firsthand.
Email the appointing officers and let them know you are interested. Certainly do not overdo it, but it helps for them to know that you are interested. It also helps to discuss with them what openings they might have.
Do not turn down an appointment for a committee you did not list. There are openings on every committee. There are committees for which there are few volunteers. The appointing officer may be asking you to accept one of those positions.
Try very hard not to be disappointed if you do not get your preferred committee the first time around. Be flexible.
Think seriously about accepting an intern position if you are new to ALCTS, have not had an appointment in many years, want to jump to a new section, or want to move to a division-level committee. Great way to get appointed as a regular committee member in the next appointment cycle.
Attend a committee meeting as a guest and introduce yourself to the chair. Then mention that in your volunteer form. This works—it happened more than once this year.
We do not do the “you have to pay your dues thing” in order to get on a committee. This is a past, current, and probably future misconception. But as we all know, perception IS reality. Finally, if you do not hear from the appointing officers about your volunteer form, let us know. That includes me.
Interest Groups: Create Your Own Appointment
Having discussed the perils, pitfalls, rewards, and sense of accomplishment from volunteering for ALCTS committees, let’s discuss opportunities that you can make for yourself (with a little help from your friends): interest groups.
Yes, you really can do that. That appointment is with an interest group (IG). Membership is open to any member who is interested in the group’s purpose and who fulfill the requirements for membership (if any) in the group. Each group elects a chair annually, and may elect other officers as required to carry out the business of the group. The chair coordinates the overall activities of the group, presides at meetings and is responsible for reporting group activities. IGs can develop programs and produce publications in addition to holding gatherings. Contact the group’s chair if you want to become involved.
It is really creating your own volunteer opportunity. Some of our very best leaders have their roots in IGs. IGs are always looking for people to become involved, even as chair. There are plenty of examples of new ALCTS members taking the reins of an IG in particular and at both the division level and section level.
Joining an IG is as simple as joining the group’s online space in ALA Connect and participating in discussions there and attending in-person events, if you’re able.
Any group of ten or more ALCTS members interested in discussing common concerns that fall within the object of the association may form an interest group. To get started, you need to file an online petition.
The petition includes the purpose of the group and the requirements for membership (if any). Membership is open to association members who are interested in the group’s purpose. Each group elects a chair annually. The chair sees that the group’s activities are within the purpose of the group, that the group engages in no activity in conflict with the program of the association or its sections, and that the association bylaws are observed by the group.
Interested? Take a look at what IGs are already offered by ALCTS and its sections. See where your idea fits. Contact the section chair if it fits there, or the chair of the Organization & Bylaws Committee if it fits the division better.