Committee FAQ

Committee Basics  I  Volunteering  I  Serving on a Committee  I  Selection & Award Committees  I  Additional Resources

I’m new to this whole committee thing and have basic questions

Q. When are appointments made?

A. Selection and award committee appointments are made throughout Oct. – Nov., while strategic committee/jury/advisory board appointments are made throughout Mar. - April.

 

Q. Do I have to be a personal member to be on a committee or appointed group?

A. Yes, you must be a personal member of ALA and YALSA to serve on a YALSA committee.  To join visit the web site http://www.ala.org/yalsa/membership.

 

Q. Do I have to go to conferences to be on a committee or appointed group?  

A. No. All Strategic Committees, Advisory Boards and Juries are 100 percent virtual.  However, selection and awards committees (with the exception of Popular Paperbacks and Edwards) are required to meet face-to-face at both the ALA Midwinter and Annual conferences.

 

Q. What are the benefits of serving on a committee or appointed group?

A. There are many benefits to serving on a YALSA committee or group! To name a few, development of leadership skills, chance to effect change, expanded networking opportunities, resume building, the opportunity to give back to your profession,  recognition as a leader in your field and experience with big picture thinking.

 

Q. How do I get buy-in from my supervisor for serving on a YALSA committee or group?

A. Articulate the many benefits of serving on a committee, and illustrate how those can help inform your work in your day job, and also possibly bring good PR to your library.  For example, serving on committees helps members build soft skills, like working in a team and also concrete skills such as how to effectively run a meeting.  For selection and award committees, you can point out that you will be receiving thousands of dollars of new YA books, which can be donated to the library to enhance its collection.

 

Q. How do I apply and how often?

A. You complete a committee volunteer form, which is found in the Sign Up To participate section of the Get Involved section on the YALSA web site at:  www.ala.org/yalsa/getinvolved/getinvolved .  You must fill out a new volunteer form for every year you’re interested in serving, as applications are not carried over from year to year.  Volunteer forms are collected for selection and award committees from July through Sept. Forms for strategic committees are collected from Dec. through Feb.

 

Q. What’s the difference between a selection committee, process committee, jury, advisory board and a taskforce?

A. Juries determine the winners of member grants or awards, while the purpose of a strategic committee or advisory board is to help carry out work that supports the goals in YALSA’s Strategic Plan.  A selection committee works to create readers’ advisory and collection development resources for members.  An advisory board serves in a supportive role to either staff, such as the Program Officer for Continuing Education, or member leaders, such as the YALSAblog Manager.  A task force does the same type of work as a strategic committee, but a task force is more temporary.  Once the work of the task force is completed, the task force automatically sunsets.

 

Q. What is the length of time that I’d be serving on an appointed group?

A. Jury and selection committee members serve one year, with the possibility to be re-appointed for another based on satisfactory performance. Strategic committee and advisory board members serve a two year term.  Award committee members serve an 18 month term, with the exception of Morris and Nonfiction, which swerve one year terms.  Task force members’ terms vary anywhere from 6 months to two years.  As per ALA policy, no individual can serve more than 4 consecutive years on any appointed group.

 

Q. As a YALSA member, can I serve on an ALA committee? 

A. Yes! Committee volunteer forms are collected in the fall each year, and the YALSA President-Elect serves on a committee that helps the ALA President-Elect make the appointments.  Be sure to let the YALSA President-Elect know you’re interested.  The ALA volunteer form is at www.ala.org/groups/committees/volunteer/frm_vol

 

I’m ready to volunteer but I have some questions

Q. I want to be on an appointed group this coming year, but I’ll be on vacation or leave for part of the time.  Can I still serve on the group?

A. Vacation times are usually not a problem; everyone takes a vacation, including the chair. Do notify your chair when you’ll be out of touch via phone or e-mail. However, if you will know you will be on leave for 4 weeks or more for any reason, then committee work is most likely not a good idea at this time.  All committees and groups work year-round, and group members are expected to be able to contribute throughout the year.

 

Q. Is it hard to get on a committee or other appointed group?  Do I need to know someone in order to get appointed to one?

A. No.  The first thing that you must do is fill out the committee volunteer form. Provide enough detail so that the President-Elect who reviews the form can get a good picture of your qualifications and interests.  Be honest about what committees you’re willing to serve on.  Don’t say “any” if you don’t mean it. 

 

Q. What qualifications do I need to have?

Qualifications vary widely by group, so it’s best to learn about the ones you’re most interested in by asking current group members and reading about the groups on the web site.  Regardless of the kind of committee or appointed group you’re interested in, you must be confident working in a virtual environment and with using tools like ALA Connect, Skype, Google Hangouts and Google Docs.  If you are applying for a book/media selection or award committee and have no experience with literary evaluation, it is unlikely that you’ll get appointed, as there are always many other qualified candidates. For a book or media selection committee, past experiences such as coursework, reviewing for a reputable journal or being part of other local or state committees of a similar nature are all experiences that make you a better candidate. For an award committee, you should have previous experience in a YALSA selection committee. You do not need to know someone in order to get appointed.  Also, be sure that you are able and willing to comply with YALSA's Ethical Behavior Policy for Volunteers (PDF).

 

Q. How do I get selected for a committee or other appointed group?

A. The President-Elect makes all the appointments.  His/her job is to build a strong committee that also ensures that broad representation from among YALSA’s 5,100+ members.  Reasonable representation of experts from each audience that is directly and materially affected by the work of the committee improves the quality of the work and promotes a sense of equity . Therefore, participants from all relevant audiences shall be sought with the objective of achieving balance.

The President-Elect looks at the whole committee and strives for inclusiveness in terms of:

  • A balanced geographic distribution of members on the committee
  • Representation of all library types (school, public, academic)
  • Inclusion of both younger and older adolescent focus of committee members
  • Representation of a variety of experience levels of committee members
  • Diversity of committee members in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, etc. 

Submitting a complete and detailed volunteer form can help the President-Elect determine which committee is the best fit for you and for YALSA.

 

Q. Can I serve on more than one appointed group at a time?  

A. Yes, an individual may serve on up to three appointed groups at a time, as per ALA policy.  However, please refer to YALSA’s Conflict of Interest Policy for YALSA Award Committees to determine if the committees that you want to serve on could be a conflict:  www.ala.org/yalsa/aboutyalsa/yalsahandbook/conflict

 

Q. Where can I find out more information about a particular appointed group that I’m interested in?

A. You can find a list of committees/juries/advisory boards as well as descriptions on YALSA’s web site at: www.ala.org/yalsa/workingwithyalsa/yalsacommittee.  You’re also encouraged to contact the current chair to get first-hand information about the committee.  Contact information is listed at www.ala.org/yalsa/workingwithyalsa/committees/committeechair

 

Q. The group I want to serve on isn’t listed on the volunteer form. What do I do?

A. Confirm that the group you’re interested in is currently in the cycle for appointments.  Strategic committee/jury/advisory board volunteer forms are available only from Dec. through Feb.  Selection and Award Committee forms are available only from July through Sept.  Direct any questions to YALSA at yalsa@ala.org or 800.545.2433 x4390.

 

Q. I filled out a volunteer form but I haven’t heard from anyone yet.  Why not?

A. Once you have filled out a volunteer form, you will immediately receive an automated confirmation e-mail that your form was received. If you do not receive a confirmation (check your SPAM folder), your form did not go through.  You will not receive any other communication unless you are invited to participate on a committee or other appointed group.   Keep in mind that those invitations go out by e-mail in Oct. – Nov. for selection and award committees and Mar. – April for strategic committees/juries/advisory boards. 

 

Q. I feel I was highly qualified for a particular committee or group, but did not get appointed.  Why?

A. The President-Elect’s job is to build a strong appointed group that also ensures that broad representation from among YALSA’s 5,100+ members.   Reasonable representation of experts from each audience that is directly and materially affected by the work of the committee improves the quality of the work and promotes a sense of equity .The President-Elect looks at the whole committee and strives for inclusiveness in terms of:

  • A balanced geographic distribution of members on the committee
  • Representation of all library types (school, public, academic)
  • Inclusion of both younger and older adolescent focus of committee members
  • Representation of a variety of experience levels of committee members
  • Diversity of committee members in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, etc. 

So, there is more for the President-Elect to consider besides an individual’s qualifications.  It may be that next year you’ll be a better fit for the committee.  Also, please know that for selection and award committees in particular there is a lot of competition for just a few spots.  The President-Elect tries to be inclusive by cycling in newer members, and strives not to appoint the same ones over and over again.

 

Q. What tools are used to conduct work virtually throughout the year?

A. Platforms used for communication and virtual work may vary between and among committees, but include ALA Connect, Adobe Connect, Google Hangouts, conference calling systems, email listservs, Google Drive and more.

 

Q. What is the expected time commitment for group work?

A. Each group has different time commitments; it is usually best to ask your chair or a previous group member.  Selected list and award committees typically require a larger time commitment than strategic committees, juries and advisory boards.  For example, the Best Fiction for Young Adults Committee can have as many as 250 nominations in a year, so the commitment is almost reading a book a day.  For strategic committees, juries and advisory boards the time commitment varies, especially during the time of the year.  For example, the Teen Read Week Committee is most busy during the two months prior to Teen Read Week.

 

I’m already serving on a committee, but I have questions

Q. How do I find out who my chair or board liaison is and what do they do?

A. You can find a complete list of committee, jury, and task force chairs and board liaisons at  www.ala.org/yalsa/workingwithyalsa/committees/committeechair.  Their primary role is to support the chair, but if a group member has a question they feel is more appropriate to share with a liaison, then they are welcome to contact them.

 

Q. When does my term start/end?

A. Term length can be found in the appointment email sent to each group member offering them a spot on that specific committee as well as on the official group roster.

 

Q. When should I expect to be initially contacted by the chair?

A. Although each chair may respond differently, you should usually hear from your chair within at least a month of receiving the appointment email.

 

Q. What do I do if I am not hearing from my chair?

A. Contact your Board Liaison to let him or her know www.ala.org/yalsa/workingwithyalsa/committees/committeechair

 

Q. I’d like to stay on the group for another year.  How do I do that?

A. Complete a committee volunteer form and let your chair know you’re interested.  No individual is automatically re-appointed to a group.  Submitting a volunteer form is the only way that the President-Elect knows that you’re willing and able to continue another year.

 

Q. What do I do if something unexpected comes up and I don’t feel like I have the time needed to serve on the group any longer?

A. The best thing to do is to let your chair know immediately. You can talk through options with him or her before making any final decision.  The key is to deal with the issue promptly.  The longer you delay making a decision, the harder it is for you and for the group, as the work of the group may suffer if tasks assigned to you are not getting completed.  If you do choose to resign, there are no penalties or repercussions – your honesty will be appreciated and you are welcome to submit a volunteer form and serve again at a time that is better for you.

 

Q. I have served on the committee as a member, but how do I get to be chair?

A. Fill out a volunteer form and make a note in there.  Let your current chair know you’re interested, as he or she often provides recommendations to the President-Elect, who is the one who makes the appointments.  It’s also a good idea to contact the President-Elect directly to let him or her know of your interest.

 

Book & Media Selection and Award Committee Questions

Q. Do you have to serve on another committee before you’re eligible to serve on a book/media selection or award committee?

A. You will be a better book selection or award committee member if you have some experience serving on a prior YALSA committee.  Previous committee experience helps you hone your discussion skills and organize your time.  It also helps you build a more complete picture about the work of YALSA and how your contributions advance its mission.  President-Elects look on committee volunteer forms to see what other YALSA experience you’ve had.

 

Q. If I’m on an award committee, is it ok to write or blog about the books I’m reading?  

A. The reputation and confidentiality of the awards committees is of utmost importance.  Therefore, you may not write, review or blog about those books that are eligible for the particular award committee on which you're serving.  For example, if you’re serving on the Nonfiction Award Committee, you may write and/or blog about fiction but not nonfiction.  For more information please consult the Social Media Policy: www.ala.org/yalsa/aboutyalsa/yalsahandbook/socialmediapolicy or talk to your chair.

 

Q. Should I put my contact information on the YALSA web site?

A. Only selection and award committees have the option of putting contact information up on the YALSA web site.  It is not necessary or required for selection and award committees to put contact information on YALSA’s web site.  Some publishers use YALSA’s web site to get current committee information in order to send committee members copies of books to consider for the list or award. However, chairs and staff also contact all publishers with committee contact information.  Not putting contact information on the YALSA web site should not impact the amount of books a committee member receives.

 

Q. Are members appointed to award committees or elected to them?  

A. Both!  The Edwards, Printz, and Nonfiction awards all have some members who are appointed and some who are elected.  The other awards committees are made up entirely of members who are appointed.  If you would like to be placed on the slate for election, please see YALSA’s Election Information on the YALSA web site at:  http://www.ala.org/yalsa/workingwithyalsa/election

 

Q. What are appropriate uses for the books I receive from publishers after I’m finished with them?

A. Most members donate their books, either to a school or public library. They can be given away to neighbors, relatives, community centers, etc. Or you can keep and enjoy them. They may not be sold, per the Ethical Behavior Policy for Volunteers (PDF).

 

Q. Is it ok to accept invitations from publishers to dinners and receptions?

A. Yes, in most cases.  Please be sure to read the Ethical Behavior Policy for Volunteers (PDF) for details.  Also, be sure that you do not discuss any confidential committee work with them or seek personal favors from them. Be sure to be gracious and RSVP to invitations.  Do not say yes to things you aren’t sure you can attend.  Follow up afterwards with a thank you note. 

 

Q. Can I Tweet or use other social media during my committee meetings?  

A. No. Committee members are expected to give their full attention to the meetings.  For award committees, due to the strictly confidential nature of discussions, absolutely no information can be disseminated from within the meeting via electronic devices or other means. For more information please consult the Social Media Policy or talk to your chair.

 

Q. How do I get books?

A. Your chair provides your contact information to publishers, and they use it to mail you books.  Publishers often send books to committee members, but they are not required to do so. The Chair will also request specific titles from publishes, but only the Chair is allowed to have contact with the publishers.   While a committee may receive books from publishers, it is the committee’s responsibility to look more widely for potential nominees. Members must make every effort to seek out eligible titles to consider. Other ways to obtain eligible titles include but are not limited to:

  • Picking up galleys at conferences
  • Examining review copies received in the work place
  • Browsing new titles at bookstores
  • Borrowing books on interlibrary loan
  • Sharing books among committee members by mail

 

Q. I know a lot of publishers.  Is it ok if I just ask them for my own books?

A. No. All requests need to go through the chair.

 

Q. What do I do if I think I have a conflict of interest?

A. Please read YALSA’s Conflict of Interest Policy online at:  http://www.ala.org/yalsa/aboutyalsa/yalsahandbook/conflict.  If you have a concern, please err on the side of caution and contact your chair to discuss the matter further and come to a resolution.  The Ethical Behavior Policy for Volunteers (PDF) may also have some useful information.

 

Q. When will I find out where my committee is meeting at Midwinter or Annual?

A. Exact meeting locations are not announced until mid-November for Midwinter and mid-May for Annual.  You can consult with your chair to find out when your committee is meeting.  The meeting schedule process begins in September for Midwinter and January for Midwinter.  When meeting times and locations are finalized, YALSA posts them on the wiki http://wikis.ala.org/yalsa/index.php/Main_Page

 

Q. If I run on the ballot for Edwards, Nonfiction or Printz and don’t get elected, will I be automatically appointed?

A. No.  It is up to the President-Elect to appoint to these positions.  He or she can opt to appoint someone who was on the slate, but they don’t have to.  The President-Elect’s job is to build a strong committee that also ensures that broad representation from among YALSA’s 5,100+ members. 

Q. When is the volunteer form for Edwards, Nonfiction and Printz open?

A. From May 1 - 31 each year.


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