Chapter 5: Planning and Promoting Meetings and Programs

*Note that because of procedural changes at the ALA level, these policies and procedures are currently under review. Questions should be directed to RUSA Executive Director, Jessica Hughes,


RUSA offers three types of on-site professional development opportunities:

  • Midwinter Institutes, held at the beginning of ALA Midwinter Meeting
  • Preconferences, held at the beginning of ALA Annual Conference
  • Programs, held during ALA Annual Conference

There are also other types of events that are scheduled for both Midwinter and Annual:

  • Committee meetings
  • Discussion groups
  • Special events, including awards ceremonies, receptions and functions such as the Literary Tastes Breakfast

This chapter will guide you through the planning, promotion,  and delivery of each type of professional development offering, and will also offer insight on planning the three other types of events listed above. It should answer the majority of your questions—please look here for answers before contacting RUSA staff.

Your primary contacts for programs and institutes/preconferences will be the RUSA Executive Director, the RUSA Marketing Specialist, and the RUSA Conference Program Coordinating Committee Chairperson.

The primary contact for committee meetings, discussion groups and other special events will be the RUSA Marketing Specialist.


No-conflict meeting times:

When scheduling meetings of a committee, the chair should note the all-conference no-conflict times. At Annual Conference, the RUSA program, membership meeting, and awards reception are no-conflict times within the division. They are usually scheduled on Monday afternoon. No other RUSA units or committees may schedule meetings, offsite events, or programs at that time.

Annual Conference programs:

To receive consideration for scheduling and funding conference programs, RUSA sections and committees must plan their programs and submit program proposals to the Conference Program Coordinating Committee 12 months preceding the conference when the program will be presented. Preconference program proposals are due 18 months preceding the preconference. RUSA sections and committees do not automatically receive funds and space for program meetings. They must justify requests on the individual merits of each proposed program.

It is important to RUSA to encourage a diversity of committee activities that benefit both members who attend conference and those who do not. To better serve members who cannot attend meetings as well as the wider library community, committees and sections should consider the appropriateness of producing publications from their programs.

Criteria for programs:

In preparing its recommendations for RUSA board approval, the RUSA Conference Program Coordinating Committee will use the following criteria in its review of requests for programs:

  • Appropriateness of topic: Is the topic germane to ALA and RUSA areas of interest and to librarianship and information services? Is the topic consistent with the ALA and RUSA mission statements?
  • Breadth of appeal: Will the program appeal to a substantial number of conferees and meet their current interests and needs?
  • Appropriateness for conference format: Is the program best suited to the Annual Conference or to another site or form of presentation?
  • Cost: Does the program require special materials or exorbitant honoraria?
  • Currency: Is the topic relevant to current needs or developing trends in the field?
  • Uniqueness: Has the topic been covered in a recent ALA unit program in or outside the Annual Conference? If so, how is this approach different? Is another unit planning a similar or related program in or outside the Annual Conference? If so, what would justify offering both programs?
  • Time slot: Is the desired time slot one of the most heavily scheduled periods (i.e., daytime slots, Saturday through Monday)? Are there other programs at the same time that might attract the same audience? Can the program be scheduled for a different time period?

Limit on number of section programs:

The division will limit the number of programs to eighteen.

This excludes preconferences and co-sponsorships in name only.

Each of the six sections are entitled to two programs and the remaining six program slots will be reserved for: the President's Program, the RSS Research Forum, the Readers’ Advisory Research and Trends Forum, the AFL-CIO/ALA Joint Committee, the Literary Tastes program, and another RUSA committee.

Source: RUSA Board, January, 2005; RUSA Board January 2008; RUSA Board October 2011.

Calendar for planning conference programs:

Midwinter Meeting
[18 months prior to conference when the program will be presented]

  • Committee begins planning. Agree on topic, select program chair, and begin to identify speakers. They also assign responsibilities and identify potential cosponsors.

June 1

  • Program chair submits proposal to the RUSA office.

Annual Conference
[12 months before program is presented]

  • Section executive committee approves proposal and chair informs the Conference Program Coordinating Committee before the Conference Program Coordinating Committee meets.
  • Conference Program Coordinating Committee evaluates proposal and submits it to the RUSA Board of Directors with a recommendation about the program and the funding requested.
  • Program Committee meets to continue planning. Members select speakers, review drafts of handouts if available, and select cosponsors. They also consider applying for audio taping, decide if and when proceedings should be published, and start communications with Publication Committee.


  • RUSA office notifies units of program approval and sends reminder of next steps.
  • Program chair contacts speakers.


  • Program chair submits a publication proposal if the committee wishes to publish the proceedings.

October 1

  • All room, scheduling, and AV requests due in the ALA Conference Services Office.


  • If the proceedings will be available for purchase at the ALA Annual Conference the program chair should submit copy to Publication Committee.

[6 months before proposed program]

  • Program committee finalizes plans. Members work out final details for program plans. They review assignment of responsibilities, finalize publicity plans, and finalize publication plans.


  • Program chair submits copy for preliminary program to ALA Conference Services.


  • Program chair submits final program copy only if there are any changes from the preliminary program copy.



  • Program chair may obtain RUSA Participant Evaluation forms from the RUSA Web site.



  • RUSA staff prepares check requests for honoraria for approved non-librarian speakers.


Annual Conference

  • Meet to review details, arrive at room one hour early to check setup.



  • Program chair submits requests for reimbursement of budgeted expenses and sends compiled program evaluation to RUSA office.
  • Program Committee completes publications connected with the program.

Publicity for programs:

The best bet for reaching a targeted audience of RUSA members is RUSA-L. Other publicity avenues include Cognotes, the daily conference newspaper, and posting to other electronic discussion lists.

Of limited use are the literature distribution tables at ALA conferences. RUSA only receives three baskets and uses them in the following manner: one for discussion group announcements, one for program announcements and the last for special projects. Groups that wish to participate should send the RUSA office camera-ready copy and the office copies and assembles the flyers into the baskets. Copy is due in the RUSA office six weeks before the conference.

Tips for writing effective copy:

When writing or editing preliminary program copy, remember that you are writing copy to market a product. You must not only provide the required information, but also present it convincingly. Write the copy as if you had to justify program attendance to your boss.

The copy should answer the following questions:

  • Who should attend?
  • Why is the topic important?
  • What will program attendees gain to help them do their jobs better?
  • What bonus information will attendees gain? Are there special hand-outs or freebies?
  • Who will be giving the program and what are their credentials?
  • How will the program be conducted? (panel, speakers, small group interaction)
  • Is advance registration required? What are the fees?
  • When is the program?
  • Where is the program? (If it is off-site or requires advance arrangements, say so.)

After writing or editing the copy, read it aloud or show it to someone else. Does it interest you? Would you want to attend the program after reading the copy? Did you leave anything out?

When writing copy, remember:

  • Place the most important information first.
  • More is not necessarily better. Nothing is more intimidating to a reader than a long, jargon-filled description. Keep it simple. Keep it short.
  • Use the active, not passive voice.
  • Write your copy and then rewrite it, edit out words and phrases that contribute nothing.

Publications from programs:

Frequently, programs lend themselves to excellent publications. Depending on the scope, the program may be the basis for an RUSQ article, an occasional paper, or some other type of publication. The key to success is to begin planning for the publication in the early stages. Contact the RUSA office for assistance.


All RUSA programs should be evaluated. RUSA has a program evaluation form that is available to all RUSA units sponsoring programs at the Annual Conference.

Funding for conference programs:

Each division receives an annual allocation of $1,500 from ALA to support its programs at the Annual Conference. In addition, RUSA provides $3,500 from its budget to support the programs. The RUSA Conference Program Coordinating Committee recommends to the RUSA Board how the $5,000 should be allocated among the program proposals. The RUSA president’s program receives first priority.

The allocation may be used to support non-librarian speakers and other expenses. Audio-visual equipment is covered from the Conference Services budget if ordered before the deadline (usually March 1st).

Outside funding:

It is important to coordinate all requests for funding.

ALA has discouraged the divisions from seeking funding from vendors for a variety of minor program expenses.

It is appropriate to seek vendor support for a reception but committees should check with the RUSA executive director first to ensure that vendors do not receive competing requests from RUSA units. The program chair forwards any program donations to the RUSA office immediately upon receipt.

Travel, per diem, honoraria:

ALA does not provide travel funds, per diem, or honoraria to librarians, those who work in libraries, or members of the association, who participate in the Annual Conference. Program chairs should inform all speakers of this policy. Non-librarian speakers are eligible for one-day complimentary conference registration.

If the contract for a non-librarian speaker specifies hotel and per diem, the program chair should inform the speaker that ALA will pay for the room and the room tax. Incidentals (telephone, valet, movies, etc.) are to be paid by the speaker. Room service or minibar service may be charged against the per diem.

Speakers who are eligible for reimbursement must submit original receipts and a member/nonmember expense form to the program chair, who submits it to the office.

Reimbursement requests are due in the RUSA office within one month after conference.

Estimating costs for programs:

The actual budget will, of course, depend on the nature of the program, the conference city, whether the speakers are librarians or not. There are, however, some standard figures that are used in developing a 'ballpark' budget, when non-librarians will be speaking:

  • hotels, $200 per day
  • meals, $40 per day
  • transportation, $450 per trip

Travel is paid at the rate of a coach fare for air travel or $0.445 per mile for car travel, but not to exceed the cost of coach air fare. If special air fares are used, reimbursement is the actual cost incurred.

The per diem for meals and miscellaneous expenses is based on the per diem allowed for ALA staff, usually about $40. Conference Services covers the cost of audiovisual equipment ordered for programs.

RUSA does not support any meal or beverage service for conference program meetings.

Preconferences pay for all meal and beverage services from the revenues they generate.


Cosponsorship opportunities may arise one of two ways: 1) RUSA (or one of its units or committees) may be asked to cosponsor a program with another ALA unit or committee or an outside organization or 2) RUSA (or an RUSA unit or committee) may ask another ALA unit or committee or an outside organization to cosponsor an RUSA (or RUSA unit or committee) program.

When RUSA cosponsorship is requested, the request shall be reviewed first by the Conference Program Coordinating Committee and then submitted to the RUSA Board of Directors for approval. When a section is asked to cosponsor a program, the section Executive Committee makes the decision. When the division requests cosponsorship from outside the division, the approval decision then rests with the other party.

Preconference/workshop planning calendar:

Annual Conference
[two years prior to conference where the preconference will be presented]

  • Committee begins planning and agrees on topic. Members also select preconference chair, outline the program and begin to identify speakers. The committee also appoints any subcommittees and assigns responsibilities, discusses handouts, and identifies potential cosponsors and corporate sponsors.


  • Preconference chair submits proposal to the RUSA office by January 1.

Midwinter Meeting
[18 months before preconference will be presented]

  • Section Executive Committee approves preconference proposal.
  • Program Coordinating Committee evaluates proposal and submits it to the Board with a recommendation.
  • Preconference Committee meets to continue planning.

Annual Conference
[12 months before preconference is presented]

  • Committee continues planning for speakers, handouts, selection of cosponsors and corporate sponsors. Committee members review budget, discuss potential publications, and publicity.


  • Chair submits Preconference/Workshop Program Planning Form (online).
  • Staff finalizes the budget.


  • Preconference chair submits proposal to Publications Committee if the proceedings are to be published.


  • Preconference chair confirms arrangements with speakers.
  • Preconference chair submits lists of sponsors for approval.
  • Preconference chair submits information for news releases to the RUSA staff.

October 1

  • Staff submits meeting request form(s) with room size/layout and orders AV equipment.


  • Preconference chair confirms sponsor funding.
  • Planning Committee begins implementing publicity strategy.
  • If the proceedings will be available for purchase at the ALA Annual Conference, the program chair should submit copy to the Publications Committee.

[six months before proposed program]

  • Preconference chair and committee review details for program.
  • Chair submits preliminary program copy information.


  • Early-bird registration deadline


  • Preconference chair submits final program copy.


  • Advance Registration deadline
  • Preconference chair sends RUSA staff originals of handouts that will be reproduced.
  • Preconference chair may use RUSA program evaluation forms available on the RUSA Web site.
  • Chair submits list of non-registered participants (speakers, committee)
  • RUSA Office notifes Chair of final head count and catering arrangements
  • If proceedings will be published after the preconference, chair should have all copy by this time and should submit to Publications Committee.

Annual Conference

  • Preconference chair and committee: meet to review details, arrive early to check setup and greet speakers.
  • Same-day tasks may include: staffing registration table, staffing the door, timekeeping, recording, handling Q&A chores, collecting evaulations.


  • Preconference chair completes any publications connected with the program.
  • Preconference chair submits all requests for reimbursement.
  • Preconference chair submits evaluation of program to RUSA staff.


Preconference/workshop budgets:

Preconference/workshop budgets are different from program budgets in that they do not receive financial support from ALA. The following guidelines apply to preconferences.

ALA policy states that "all institutes, workshops, etc., sponsored by ALA and/or its units shall be self-supporting and shall include provision for ALA administrative cost." The ALA administrative cost, or overhead, is determined annually and is a percentage of the income (excluding donations).

Registration fees for preconferences must be set at a level to meet all costs of each preconference, including staff costs. In addition, preconferences are expected to generate net revenue to provide seed money for future educational programs.

Because RUSA is responsible for preconference costs, the RUSA executive director must give final approval to the budget and the registration fee. Registration fees can only be finalized after the budget has been approved and no registration fees should be publicized until RUSA executive director approval has been received.

Except in unusual circumstances, only official members of the preconference program planning committee may attend the preconference at no charge. Source: RASD Board, February, 1994

Elements included in the budget:

Corporate Sponsorship: Corporate sponsors may be asked to support program or meal costs. Sponsors must be approved by the ALA Development Office and must be registered as Exhibitors for the Conference.

Printing costs: Publicity materials and advertising, registration materials (handouts, lists of registrants), registration folders, name tags.


Publicity mailings, registration confirmation, other mailings and correspondence as needed.

AV, computer equipment

Speaker Expenses: See above to ensure that speakers are eligible to incur expenses.     Usually only non-librarian speakers are eligible to receive honoraria or reimbursement of expenses.

Meeting Space: If the preconference is not held in one of the conference hotels or the convention center, the registration fees will have to cover room rental.

Expenses for free registrants: meals, registration packets, badges, etc. Include speakers and presenters in this category, as well as staff and members of the preconference planning committee.

Food functions: Most preconferences have a midmorning coffee break, and afternoon coffee and soft drinks. Some preconferences have been able to include lunch as well, but with ever increasing costs, this has become harder to finance.

ALA overhead:  The ALA overhead is assessed on registration revenue and is set annually by ALA. The rate average is 20%.

RUSA office expenses: Photocopying that RUSA staff does for the preconference will be charged back to the preconference, as will fax charges, and postage.