Interest Group FAQ

What is the time commitment? How much work is involved?

  • Members of Interest Groups are not required to complete any work or tasks on behalf of YALSA.  The main purpose of Interest Groups is to enable members to connect with one another, not to do any association work.  So, Interest Group members can put as much or as little time into participation as they would like.

What are the benefits of joining an Interest Group?

  • A chance to network both virtually and in person with peers
  • Leadership opportunities by serving as a convener or co-convener
  • Virtual participation. Unlike members who serve on selection or award committees, you are not required to attend conferences to be a part of an Interest Group
  • A chance to discuss “hot” topics of mutual interest
  • An informal environment to further your knowledge of issues relating to the profession

How does an Interest Groups fit into YALSA’s Structure?

  • Interest Groups are established in accordance with procedures described in the YALSA bylaws (.pdf), Article X, Sections 1-4 (revised 2003).
  • YALSA’s Board of Directors undertakes periodic reviews of discussion groups. Such reviews will consist of an evaluation of the group's activities, attendance, and compliance with the policy that Interest Groups focus on issues that are not being met by any other group or committee within YALSA.

What Existing Interest Groups does YALSA have?

  • Visit this web page to see a current list.

How Can I Start A New Interest Group?

  • Circulate a petition (Word doc) and garner 15 signatures from current YALSA members who are interested in and willing to participate in the group, if it is established. It is strongly recommended that you contact YALSA’s Executive Director for assistance with creating, circulating and submitting the petition.
  • If the petition is circulated virtually, complete contact information needs to be provided for each individual.
  • Petitions may be circulated on YALSA’s discussion lists and promoted in the weekly YALSA E-News.
  • Petitions need to be submitted to the YALSA Board of Directors for approval.  This can be achieved by sending the completed petition to the Executive Director with a request that the petition be considered by the board.
  • The petition requesting permanent status must include statements of:
    • The purpose for the group, including a rationale for why the need for such a group exist
    • How the group differs from any other established YALSA discussion group or committee
    • The name(s) of the convener or co-conveners
    • The number of persons attending preliminary meetings (if applicable)
    • Summaries of topics covered at preliminary meetings (if applicable)
  • Individuals wishing to establish an Interest group may hold two preliminary meetings before petitioning for official status from the YALSA Board of Directors. Requests for these preliminary meetings are made in consultation with the Executive Director and the YALSA President.

How Can I Restart an Inactive Group?

  1. Contact the Executive Director and the YALSA President
  2. Find a YALSA member who is willing to commit to being the convenor for one year.

What are Some Examples of Possible Interest Groups?

  • Groups can be formed around a topic like design thinking, makerspaces, youth participation, science fiction, supporting the needs of foster teens, or anything else relating to serving teens through libraries
  • Groups can be formed for a particular geographic area, such as the Houston Metro Area IG, or the Rhode Island IG
  • Groups can be formed to focus on a specific job or member type, such as the YA Services Managers' IG, the High School Librarians' IG, or the Student Member IG

What Can an Interest Group Do?

  • Meet to discuss issues relevant to the group at ALA’s Annual Conference and Midwinter Meeting.
  • Plan and implement programs at ALA’s Annual Conference or institutes at the Midwinter Meeting in accordance with ALA and YALSA policies and procedures.
  • Prepare and publish works relating to the group’s mission in accordance with ALA and YALSA policies and procedures.
  • Lead an online discussion forum set up by YALSA staff for the group.
    • Interest group forums are open and interested members may subscribe and unsubscribe at will.  
  • Elect a convener annually during its meeting at the ALA Annual Conference. This is a minimum requirement to ensure continuity.
  • Interest groups may also choose to elect a convener-elect/recorder or co-convener to take office in the next year.
  • The term of office follows the ALA calendar and runs from the end of annual conference one year through annual conference the following year.
  • If the group wishes to propose policies beyond the group, it must make recommendations to an appropriate committee or the YALSA Board of Directors.
  • Keep the association’s membership informed of the group’s activities by sending reports to the editors of YALSA E-News and YALS.
  • Provide content for YALSA’s website relating to the group’s activities.

What Can’t an Interest Group Do?

  • Establish policy
  • Have officers other than the convener (or co-convener) or convener-elect/recorder
  • Establish a formal substructure or appoint subcommittees
  • Engage in any activity in conflict with the mission of YALSA
  • Seek funding from YALSA for such activities

What are the guidelines and recommendations for meeting at conferences?

  • To schedule a meeting time and place at Annual or Midwinter, the convener must contact YALSA’s Program Officer for Conferences & Events.
  • Interest Group meetings usually have a theme that is appropriate to the topic of the group with a few invited short presentations, which are designed to spark discussion on the topic of the meeting
  • Individuals giving the brief presentations are referred to as “discussion leaders” or “facilitators.”
  • When a topic falls outside of the scope of the group, discussion group conveners may propose program topics to division committees when appropriate in order to provide a wider forum for a particular topic.
  • An Interest Group must be careful not to impinge upon the areas of other groups within the division. If it wishes to discuss topics of mutual interest to other groups, agreements should be made to hold a joint meeting.
  • In accordance with ALA policy on open meetings, the meetings of the Interest Groups are open to any registered conference attendee.
  • To conform with the open-meeting requirement in good faith, if the Interest Group has a defined membership, the group shall conduct its discussions so that those sitting in the meeting room, but who are not an official part of the group, can hear the contributions of the participants.

What are the duties of an Interest Group’s Convener?

The convener of each group is responsible for seeing that the group's activities are limited to discussion of common issues within the purpose of the group, that the group engages in no activity in conflict with the mission of YALSA, and that the relevant bylaws are observed. Additionally, the convener:

  • Identifies a topic (or topics) for discussions online or at the Midwinter Meeting and/or Annual Conference
  • Finds a knowledgeable person (or persons) to lead discussions at meetings and/or online
  • If the group wants to meet at Midwinter or Annual:
  • For formal group discussions
    • Communicates the role of the discussion leader to the group (the role of the discussion leader is to describe a practice, report current trends and/or set the stage for the ensuing discussion)
    • Ensures that the time limits are maintained in order to allow for free discussion among all attendees
  • Communicates regularly with the group to share relevant resources and news, and to spur discussions
  • Promotes the Interest Group and its meetings to the YALSA membership by submitting a notice to the editors of YALSA E-News and to the YALSA office for further promotion
  • Facilitates the discussions and any work of the group’s projects throughout the year and keeps group members motivated and on track
  • Recruits YALSA members to join the group
  • Creates and maintains a welcoming and inclusive environment for all members
  • Urges Interest Group participants to become involved further in YALSA
  • Submits an annual report to the YALSA Office by July 1 of each year
  • Submits highlights of the group's activities to the YALSA E-News at least annually.
  • Notifies the Membership Coordinator by no later than July 1 of each year who the new convener is, and provides complete contact information for that person
  • Orients the incoming Convener and passes on all files, passwords, materials etc. at the end of the term
  • Know YALSA’s strategic plan and be able to articulate how the group supports the plan
  • Credits YALSA with sponsorship of the group

Do you have something less formal than an Interest Group, including something that people who are not yet members could participate in?

Organize a local meet-up.  Everyone is welcome,and it could be a one-time event or an on-going want: you decide.