What Chapters Are

What Is a Chapter?

A chapter is “any legally constituted state, provincial, regional or territorial library association” ( ALA Constitution, Article X, section 3).

Each state library association is a Chapter of the American Library Association (ALA). Chapters are established by ALA’s governing body, the ALA Council. See also Chapter Answers.

There are currently 57 chapters, representing the following geographic areas:

  • Fifty state library associations, councils, or federations
  • District of Columbia
  • The territories of Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Four regional associations, including the Mountain Plains Library Association, New England Library Association, Pacific Northwest Library Association, and the Southeastern Library Association.

Each Chapter and regional Chapter has a president and president-elect. Only state Chapters have a Chapter Councilor serving on the ALA Council. Established by the ALA Council upon recommendation of the ALA Executive Board on January 11, 1967, the Chapter Relations Committee (CRC) develops and recognizes Chapters as integral components of ALA. The ALA liaison to the Chapters is the ALA Chapter Relations Office (see also What ALA Does for Chapters).

The purpose of a chapters, as defined by the ALA Bylaws, is as follows:

  • to promote general library service and librarianship within its geographic area,
  • to provide geographic representation to the Council of the American Library Association, and
  • to cooperate in the promotion of general and joint enterprises with the American Library Association and other library groups. 

Communication and Networking

Chapter leaders are subscribed to CRO business e-lists:

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Find more social networking resources for Chapters.

Chapter Membership and ALA Membership

Approximately 50 percent of ALA members also belong to their state chapters, and approximately 50 percent of chapter members also belong to ALA. No state chapter memberships automatically include ALA membership or vice versa. 

Why Chapters Are Special

There are many other affiliates and networks that represent geographic entitites within ALA, such as:

  • state associations for school librarians and media specialists
  • state academic and research library associations
  • intellectual freedom network
  • legislative networks
  • other professional and interest groupings. 

None of these groups are afforded the rank of “Chapter” within the ALA governance and organizational structure.

Chapters Share with Each Other How They Address Issues

Chapters share with each other how they address issues. Each discussion is sorted alphabetically by state library association (Chapter). See also What Chapters Are, What ALA Does for Chapters (including links to resources), and The ALA and Chapters Partnership, which are pages of answers and explanations about how the ALA and ALA Chapters partnership works.

The Chapter's Role within ALA

Chapter status is a voluntary arrangement (see also What ALA Does for Chapters). It is requested by an eligible library association and established by ALA Council action. A chapter may vote to withdraw from the arrangement, or Council can dissolve a chapter for inactivity or failure to comply with ALA Bylaws. A chapter's degree of activity in ALA depends on how active the chapter wants to be. There are few requirements of chapters and there are few actions prohibited them. Basic requirements are limited to the following:

  • Chapters dues, currently $150 annually, must be paid by March 1, which means renewal notices are sent in January.
  • Copies of chapter constitutions and bylaws, plus subsequent amendments, must be filed with ALA headquarters.

However, there are a number of areas of ALA policy and practice where chapters are given a wide range of control. For example:

  • Chapters have the final authority within ALA for all programs and policies that concern only the area for which the chapter is responsible, provided no action or policy is inconsistent with programs and policies established by Council.
  • Chapters may establish committees or boards to maintain liaison with similar committees within the ALA. This procedure has been particularly effective in the areas of legislation and intellectual freedom.
  • Chapters are to be consulted about any ALA divisional conferences to be held in the chapter's geographic region prior to the division presenting its request for a national conference to the ALA Executive Board.
  • Chapters can contribute to ALA dues income by encouraging ALA membership among the members of the state or regional association. Providing ALA membership information at the local level encourages membership in the national organization.
  • Financial assistance from the chapters also can be provided to the Washington Office of the ALA to aid in legislative activities. The chapter's role in the political arena involves both financial support and personal lobbying. A national organization is not as influential with individual lawmakers as a senator's or representative's own constituency. Presenting local library needs to elected officials is a vital chapter activity.

The reason a national organization has chapters is to provide a wide geographic viewpoint on library-related issues. To help ensure that such input is available, each chapter is allowed a chapter representative on the ALA Council. One of the chief areas of discussion (second only to dues questions) in the colorful history of chapter affiliations has been the question of geographic representation on Council.

To help both ALA and Chapters get a better picture of the library associations across the country, each Chapter provides ALA with a "State of the Chapter Annual Report."

ALA Chapter Councilors

The Council is the governing body of ALA. It delegates to the divisions of the Association authority to plan and carry out programs and activities with policy established by Council. Only personal members of the Association may serve on Council. Two meetings are required each year, one at the annual conference of the Association and one not less than three months prior to annual conference. (See Bylaw Article IV.) Council determines all policies of the Association and its decisions are binding unless set aside by a majority vote by mail in which one-fourth of the members of the Association have voted. Such vote by mail shall be held upon petition of one percent of the personal members as certified by the Executive Director of the Association.

Each state, provincial, and territorial chapter is entitled to one councilor to be elected by members of the chapter. Chapter representation is through state chapters unless chapters in a region choose to take representation through that regional chapter. In such case, the regional chapter shall elect one representative from each state or provincial chapter within that regional association. There is no current regional chapter representation.

There are 53 Chapter Councilors, representing the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. (Regional associations are not allowed a designated representative to the ALA Council). Chapter Councilors make up approximately 29 percent of the 187-member Council.

Chapter Councilors are subscribed to two CRO business e-lists, alacro-l@ala.org and chapcoun@ala.org, and to one ALA business e-list, alacoun@ala.org. They have their own community on ALA Connect.

The following rules govern the actions of the chapter councilor:

  • Chapter councilors serve a three-year term (same as all other councilors).
  • No person may serve simultaneously as a councilor elected at-large and elected by a chapter.
  • The person elected must be a personal member of ALA.
  • All chapter members may vote in the election of a chapter councilor, even though chapters may admit members who are not ALA members.
  • An interim councilor may be appointed by a chapter to fill a vacancy; the appointment, however, lasts only until the next regular election or a maximum of one year.
  • All chapter councilors, whether elected or appointed, must be accredited by the chapter to the Secretary of the Council prior to the first ALA Council meeting following their selection.

Summary

A Chapter promotes general library service and librarianship within its geographic area, provides geographic representation to the ALA Council, and cooperates in the promotion of general and joint enterprises with ALA and other library groups.

Chapter Councilors have specific duties, including helping complete the State of the Chapter Annual Report and promoting ALA at their associations' annual conferences (e.g., ordering ALA materials to display at the conference (Word)). For other duties, see Chapter Checklist to Provide Information to the ALA Chapter Relations Office (Word).

Perhaps the best way to find out what Chapters do is to explore their websites, in particular their advocacy efforts on behalf of the libraries within their states and their annual conferences. Start with your state library association!

Another way to find out how Chapters function is by studying their self-reported activities, either in their newsletters, on their websites (including blogs), or in the annual survey they submit to ALA. This survey is called the State of the Chapter Annual Report.

These snapshot reports (All State of the Chapter Reports) help Chapters and ALA assess the health and vitality of state and regional library associations. These reports help highlight notable activities and achievements that can be modeled, and identify challenges and needs that may be addressed collectively.