Forming an Interest Group
LITA established procedures for the formation of interest groups in 1985, to facilitate a more efficient and effective response to its members' interest in and involvement with new library technologies (see LITA Bylaws, Article VIII). Procedures for establishing an interest group are simple and informal, to ensure that a group often or more individuals with a common technological interest may establish a forum in which to exchange ideas and experiences, sponsor formal conference programs, institutes and seminars, or prepare publications. To form an Interest Group, a written petition to establish shall be submitted to the LITA Bylaws and Organization Committee (see Appendix, Interest Group Formation Petition). The petition shall include the title of the group, a function statement, the signatures of two LITA members in good standing, designated as chair and vice-chair/co-chair, and the signatures of eight or more members of LITA or of the American Library Association, who will be members of the approved group. The group will exist as a unit of LITA, upon approval of the LITA Bylaws and Organization Committee and the Board of Directors. Joint Interest Groups may be formed with other divisions of ALA under these same rules, except that only one officer (chair/vice-chair/co-chair) signing the petition must be a member in good standing of LITA.
The following tasks should be accomplished at an organizational meeting:
- Select a name which reflects the interest of the group.
- Determine whether selection of officers shall be informally at a meeting during ALA Annual Conference, or formally through nomination and election by a majority vote of all members present at that meeting.
- Select officers.
- Prepare a function statement that concisely reflects the purpose of the group.
- Complete an Interest Group Formation Petition and forward to the LITA Bylaws and Organization Committee.
- (Joint Interest Groups only) Take necessary steps as required by the co-sponsoring division to obtain its recognition.
All members of LITA are eligible for membership in an Interest Group. Anyone interested may join by sending a written application to the Interest Group Chair or a designee, or by attending a meeting of the Interest Group and signing the membership list. Members of ALA who are not members of LITA may also join an Interest Group, but must join LITA within six months after affiliation with the Interest Group. Failure to join LITA within six months will nullify membership in the Group. In the case of a Joint Interest Group, membership in either LITA or the co-sponsoring division is required.
Each interest group shall have a chair, a vice-chair or co-chair, and at its option, a secretary, who will be elected at the ALA Annual Conference for a term of one year. No officer of an Interest Group shall serve for more than four consecutive years in the same office. Interest Groups are encouraged to elect a successor to the retiring chair who has served the Interest Group as vice-chair. Joint Interest Groups shall have a LITA member serving as one of the officers (chair, vice-chair, or co-chair).
The officers will coordinate activities of the Interest Group, preside at meetings, respond to correspondence from ALA Conference Services, be responsible for submitting news items to the LITA Newsletter, and report Interest Group activities to the LITA Board of Directors (see Appendix, Meeting Report for Committees and Interest Groups).
The officiers will be responsible for programs and coordination with the LITA Program Planning Committee, the annual selection of officers, and for reporting the names of those selected to the LITA Office (see Appendix, Officer Acceptance Form).
Interest Groups are expected to meet at each ALA Annual Conference, and may also meet during the ALA Midwinter Meeting. The meeting at the ALA Annual Conference should include a business meeting, at which officers are selected and any necessary business is completed. Discussions, reports, and planning sessions may be held at either the Midwinter Meeting or Annual Conference, but formal programs are conducted only at the Annual Conference.
All time and room schedules and requests for special equipment for all meetings held at either the Annual Conference or Midwinter Meeting are requested through ALA Conference Services on forms supplied by that office to the Interest Group chair. For information on the scheduling process please consult 'Business Meetings at ALA Conferences", in the LITA Manual (section 9). Timely responses and a realistic estimate of the number of participants will help ensure that adequate space is available for the meetings.
A Membership List/Meeting Sign-up Sheet (see Appendix) should be circulated at each meeting of the Group for all attendees to sign. The list is then forwarded to the LITA Office.
The Interest Group chair completes a Meeting Report for Committee and Interest Groups Form (see Appendix) at the close of each Group meeting and sends it to the LITA Office as soon as possible. Regular submittal of meeting reports facilitates the IG renewal process.
In accordance with Article VIII of the LITA Bylaws, Interest Groups may plan or sponsor programs at the ALA Annual Conference sponsor institutes and pre-conference institutes, prepare publications, or carry out other activities with the approval of the LITA Board of Directors and other appropriate administrative committees. Members of an Interest Group who are planning these activities should check the following sections of the LITA Manual:
- Programs at ALA Conferences
- Business Meetings at ALA Conferences
- Institutes, Preconferences and Special Programs
A managed discussion is an alternative to an official program and differs in several ways.
When an IG plans an official program it prepares a Conference Program Request for Approval form and presents it to the Program Planning Committee. The IG may also request and receive budgetary support for the program. Once the program receives Board approval, a description of the program and its speakers may be submitted to both the preliminary and conference programs. (This is of key importance, since ALA surveys show that more than 80% of all conference goers make their decisions about which programs to attend, based on information in the preliminary program).
In contrast, managed discussions are less formal than official programs, although they may share certain other features, such as speakers or panelists. No program request forms are completed and no budgetary support is available. No description of the event appears in the preliminary or conference program.
A Managed Discussion is appropriate when:
- The event will be very informal, often involving considerable discussion among IG members and speakers
- At midwinter conferences, where programs are not permitted
- IG members want to build interest in a topic by first introducing it via a managed discussion at midwinter, then presenting it as a formal program at annual conference
- An opportunity or topic presents itself on short notice (that is, deadlines for proposing formal programs have passed)
- No budgetary support or extraordinary equipment request is needed
- Interest in the topic is likely to be limited to the members of a sponsoring IG
- The topic is likely to attract a smaller audience than would the typical format program
- Alternative methods (i.e., other than space in the conference program) of publicizing the event can be identified
An IG should plan a Program, rather than a Managed Discussion, when:
- The speaker(s) is very well known and typically attracts a large audience
- There is sufficient time to plan a program (that is, key deadlines have not passed)
- The topic is popular and likely to attract a large audience
- The topic has the potential to attract members of other LITA IGs, as well as members of other ALA divisions
- Budgetary support (including funding for special equipment) is needed to make the program a success
- A description of the program and speakers in the preliminary and conference bulletins is deemed important to build an audience
What IG chairs should do if planning a Managed Discussion:
- Discuss the proposed managed discussion with your Program planning Committee liaison
- Consider alternative means of publicizing the discussion (LITA-L, LITA Newsletter, other listservs and newsletters, IG mailing list, etc.) Consult the LITA Program Planning Grid for helpful program planning tips
An Interest Group that it wishes to change its name to reflect current terminology or to clarify the function of the group may submit an Interest Group Name Change Petition (see Appendix) to the LITA Bylaws and Organization Committee. The name change is effective upon approval by the LITA Board of Directors.
Renewal or Demise
An Interest Group is required to resubmit a renewal petition to the LITA Bylaws and Organization Committee every three years, using the Interest Group Renewal Form, which must also be approved by the LITA Board of Directors. If an Interest Group's petition is not resubmitted, the Bylaws and Organization Committee will recommend to the Board that the Interest Group be dissolved.
Interest Group establishment and renewal dates are published annually in the LITA Roster. The LITA Bylaws and Organization Committee shall provide the LITA Board of Directors with a written Interest Group status report at the ALA Annual Conference meeting of the Board. The status report will include a summary of existing Interest Groups, as well as any petitions for new groups, name changes, and renewal forms. Following the Annual Conference, the Bylaws and Organization Committee will notify any Interest Groups due for renewal that an Interest Group Petition must be resubmitted. A renewal petition for any such Interest Group must be submitted to the Bylaws and Organization Committee at or immediately following the next ALA Midwinter Meeting, in order to be included in the Committee's annual status report to the Board of Directors.
Before submitting a renewal form, an Interest Group should review both its name and function statement to be sure that they reflect the Group's current composition and interests.