Chapter 1: Committees

Appointment policies

No person shall concurrently serve in more than three separate positions. Governing board, committee, liaison, subcommittee, and other responsibilities that require service in another position (e.g., service on a committee that entails assembly representation) are not in conflict with this policy. The executive director shall notify members when they exceed this limitation. Members of all ALA and unit committees are expected to attend all meetings. Failure to attend two consecutive meetings or groups of meetings (defined as all meetings of a committee that take place at one Midwinter or Annual Conference) without an explanation acceptable to the committee chair constitutes grounds for removal upon request by the chair to and approval by the appropriate appointing official or governing board. Source: ALA Policy 4.5

Appointments process

The ASCLA president appoints the members of ASCLA-level committees established during her or his tenure. The vice-president/president-elect appoints members of ASCLA-level standing committees in the months immediately proceeding the presidential year. The ASCLA executive director sends e-mail messages of appointment on behalf of the president and vice-president.

Section chairs-elect appoint members of section-level committees and handle the appointment correspondence for their respective sections.

The ASCLA Bylaws state that appointments to standing committees are usually for terms of two years. Reappointment is possible but "in no case shall a person serve on a committee for more than four consecutive years." Chairs serve for two years and may be reappointed.

Terms begin immediately after the Annual Conference unless a different date appears on the appointment acceptance form.

ASCLA division-level committees

ASCLA has the following division-level standing committees. Consult the ALA Handbook of Organization for the committee charges.

  • Accessibility Assembly
  • Awards
  • Conference Program Coordinator
  • Conference Program, President's
  • Legislation
  • Membership Promotion
  • Nominating
  • Planning and Budget
  • Publications
  • Standards Review

Calendar for committee chairs

Annual Conference

  • Newly appointed committee members observe meeting.
  • Incoming chair consults committee members regarding time to meet at Midwinter and at the next Annual Conference.
  • ALA/ASCLA organization year begins on adjournment of Annual Conference.


  • Chair submits any outstanding requests for reimbursement for committee expenses incurred during the current fiscal year (which ends August 31) to the ASCLA executive director.


  • Meeting request forms for Midwinter due in the ALA Conference Services Office by September 30.


  • Meeting request forms for Annual Conference programs due by October 1. Meeting request forms for meetings at Annual Conference due by October 31.


  • Committee chair sends any items that need board consideration to ASCLA office.
  • Committee chair sends agenda, time, and room assignment for committee meeting at Midwinter to committee members.


  • If committee wishes to present a conference program next year, it begins planning now.


  • Send minutes from meetings to ASCLA office.


  • ASCLA vice-president and section vice-chairs appoint committee chairs and members.


  • Chair sends any items needing Board consideration to ASCLA office.
  • Chair sends agenda for committee meeting at Annual Conference to committee members.


  • New officers elected.

Duties of committee chairs

  • Plan the committee's work for the year (end of Annual Conference through next Annual Conference) in accordance with ALA goals and priorities, ASCLA goals, and the stated purpose of the committee.
  • Coordinate the committee's work for the year.
  • Inform committee members as soon as possible of the time of all meetings. Agendas, together with any related documents, should be sent out in advance and minutes should be distributed after each meeting.
  • Reply promptly to all inquiries from the field concerning problems related to the committee's work.
  • Send information copies of correspondence to the ASCLA executive director. Section committee chairs also send copies of their correspondence to the section chair.
  • Arrange committee meetings at the Midwinter Meeting and Annual Conference. Forms and instructions for this will be sent to committee chairs by ALA Conference Services.
  • Conduct all meetings in accordance with ALA's "Open Meetings" policy: "All meetings of the American Library Association and its units are open to all members and to members of the press. Registration requirements apply. Closed meetings may be held only for the discussion of matters affecting the privacy of individuals or institutions."
  • Submit regular reports each year to the Board of Directors through the ASCLA office. Minutes from Midwinter and Annual Conference should be sent to the ASCLA office.
  • Write reports of committee activities for Interface.
  • Submit committee recommendations for ASCLA Board action to the ASCLA office in time to be distributed to Board members before the Midwinter Meeting or Annual Conference. Each recommendation should include specific wording for the action to be approved by the Board. Supporting documents should be attached to the request for Board action to provide background information to clarify an issue. Further, the committee chair, or other committee representative, should attend the Board meeting in case members of the Board have questions not answered by the materials at hand.
  • Section committee chairs will channel their committees' recommendations for action through their respective section's executive committee. If Board action is necessary, the section chair, as the section's voting representative on the Board, will carry the recommendation forward. Sections and committees must have Board approval before any action can take place.
  • Recommend reappointment of effective committee members.
  • Ask the ASCLA president or section chair to remove committee members who are not fulfilling their obligations.
  • Appear before the ASCLA Board of Directors or section executive committee as needed to report on activities of the committee.
  • Maintain records of committee activities and send current committee records to new chair when a new chair is appointed.
  • Send any material of an archival nature to the ASCLA office upon completion of service as chair.
  • Inform ASCLA president and executive director of resignations submitted directly to committee chair.

Duties of committee members

The specific duties of a committee member vary according to the committee. However, all ASCLA committee members are expected to:

  • attend all meetings of the committee at Midwinter and at Annual Conference
  • complete all assignments made by committee chairperson
  • respond as promptly as possible to all correspondence from the committee or from the ASCLA office
  • inform the chair of the committee and the ASCLA office immediately of any change of address
  • forward any committee material of importance to the committee chair at the end of each committee assignment.

Committee reports, minutes

Within two weeks of your committee meeting, please submit a Meeting Highlights form with a brief summary of the discussion and actions taken. When minutes of the meeting are available, be sure to send a copy to the ASCLA office. The office maintains a file for each committee.

Suggestions for effective meetings

When the committee agenda is a full one, time is limited, and/or there are observers who wish to participate in the committee's deliberations, the chair may do one or more of the following:

  • Allow discussion time during the last portion of scheduled meeting time.
  • Be hard nosed about no participation from observers, or recognize them only after all committee members who wish to speak have done so. To keep business moving in any organization beyond an informal, small group, require all who wish to speak to address the chair. Rule out of order any who do not.
  • Avoid formal motions for procedural or non-controversial matters. Use such formulas as: "If there is no objection, (pause) . . . "
  • For approving Minutes, use: "Are there any corrections? (pause) If not, they stand approved as distributed."
  • For adjournment, use: "Is there any further business? (pause) The meeting is adjourned."

Norms for meetings

  • actively participate
  • take responsibility for outcomes
  • share in the facilitation of the meeting
  • have fun
  • keep comments within the scope to the group
  • speak up before the group if you have an issue
  • be respectful of others' ideas and approaches
  • start and end on time
  • bring all group members into the discussion
  • state something positive before you criticize
  • be mindful of your time 'on stage'
  • share the workload

Source: ALA ad hoc Training Task Force, January, 1996

Establishment of committees

Members of ASCLA who wish to form a new committee should prepare a descriptive statement according to the following format:

  • establishment (date and brief facts, if pertinent)
  • purpose (why the committee exists)
  • composition (number of members and special characteristics, if any)
  • terms of office (if not according to ASCLA Bylaws, describe special conditions)
  • specific duties (what the committee will do to justify its existence)
  • policies (if any)

The descriptive statement for division-level committees will be given to the ASCLA Board for action. Section executive committees approve descriptive statements for new committees and send a copy to the ASCLA office.

Press release service

The Public Information Office (PIO) works with ALA units to publicize news through official ALA new releases. About 400 releases a year are processed through PIO and distributed to over 500 library publications.

Releases are e-mailed each week to a targeted library "trade" press list: national and regional library press, state association and state agency publication editors, library school deans, division journals/newsletters, ALA executive board, division presidents and ALA staff.

Follow these procedures for your press release:

  1. Plan ahead. Submit proposed copy to the ASCLA office at least two months before the publication's cover date (e.g. the April issue of American Libraries is on press sometime after March 15 and closes on editorial content, except 'hot' news, by the last week of February). Quarterlies typically have an even longer lead time.
  2. Prepare a draft. To ensure that all the information you want publicized is included in the release, submit a working draft. PIO will edit, rewrite, and clarify. A few things to remember when drafting your release:
  3. Be sure to include the "5 W's-Who, What, Where, When, Why."
  4. Double-check all factual information.
  5. Use the "inverted pyramid"—begin with the most important information.
  6. Write out all acronyms.
  7. Include deadline dates and attendance limitations, where applicable.
  8. Include the name, address and phone of a contact person.
  9. Use quotes for subjective descriptions.
  10. Double-space copy.

Releases should be routed through the ASCLA office. PIO prepares news releases for divisions, other committees, and their sections on request of the division's executive director.

Be careful not to commit one of these seven deadly sins of press release writing:

  1. misspelling names
  2. inaccurate information. A release is only as good as its sources.
  3. burying leads
  4. not allowing enough time for a release to be prepared, distributed, and published in a timely fashion
  5. trying to publicize something not worth a release
  6. using jargon. Simple language is better.
  7. writing too long a release with unnecessary information. More is not always better.

Media contacts

If a reporter calls you, the following may be useful.

  • Ask questions. Find out the name of the publication or network. Ask what the story is about, the reporter's angle, and when the deadline is. If you do not feel qualified to address the question or are uncomfortable with the approach, say so. Suggest other angles or sources of information.
  • Be clear about whom you are representing—yourself, your library, or the ALA. You may want to check the ALA Handbook for a policy statement or request a copy of fact sheets available from PIO on a variety of topics.
  • Be aware of manipulation. Some reporters may ask leading questions such as "Would you say..." followed by an idea for your agreement. Make your own statements.
  • Be prepared to answer the standard "Who-What-When-Where-How and Why" questions. Have supporting facts and examples available. PIO has files which include good background information.
  • Before answering questions, think about what you want to say and the best way to say it. Make sure your comments are from a positive angle, pitching librarians as information professionals or libraries as the sole source of vital information.
  • Keep your answers brief and to the point, especially with broadcast media, when you might have only 20 seconds to respond. Too much information can be confusing.
  • Don't be afraid to say, "I don't know." It is a legitimate answer. Reporters do not want incorrect information. Tell them you'll find the answer and call back.

If you need additional information or counsel, contact the ALA Public Information Office or the ASCLA office.

Surveys and questionnaires

Consult the ASCLA office. Many questionnaires are sent out from various ALA units each year, and possible respondents will be happier if duplication can be avoided. The ASCLA staff will submit drafts of proposed survey instruments to the ALA Office for Research and Statistics for review and recommendations