FAQ for Virtual Meetings

These guidelines provide a framework for how virtual meetings should be organized and conducted. ACRL units are encouraged to work outside of Midwinter and/or Annual to increase group participation, efficiency, and productivity.

Technology will increasingly facilitate the conduct of work by electronic means, particularly through the Web. This makes it possible to be more productive, while also increasing pressure to rethink and redefine traditional Association structures and mechanisms.

Virtual meetings are conducted within the environment of ALA/ACRL bylaws and policies. Any ACRL member who has questions about policies in the virtual environment should consult the appropriate ACRL staff liaison.

Defining a Meeting

The ALA Policy Manual A.7.4.1  defines a meeting as "an official assembly, for any length of time following a designated starting time, of the members of any board, committee, task force, commission, etc., during which the members do not separate except for a recess and in which the assembly has the capacity to formalize decisions." Conference calls, internet chat sessions (and their equivalents), and in-person meetings are recognized as meetings subject to the open meetings policy ( ALA Policy Manual A 7.4.4).

Defining What's Not a Meeting (by ALA definition)

There is a distinction between carrying on work of a committee electronically and conducting an electronic meeting. Asynchronous electronic discussions by electronic mail or other asynchronous communication methods do not constitute meetings because they are not an official assembly with a designated starting time (ALA Policy Manual A.7.4.1).  For the purposes of this FAQ, we will refer to such activity as "asynchronous association work.”

Can an ACRL committee or section choose to work electronically and not meet face-to-face at ALA Midwinter?

ALA policy does not require a group to meet at the Midwinter Meeting; it does require a member—except for a virtual member—to be present, or have a reasonable excuse, if one is scheduled. Some ALA units do require groups to schedule meetings at the ALA Midwinter Meeting. According to ALA Policy Manual A.5.5.

With the exception of virtual members, members of all ALA and unit committees are expected to attend all meetings. Failure to attend two consecutive meetings or groups of meetings (defined as all meetings of a committee that take place at one Midwinter Meeting or Annual Conference) without an explanation acceptable to the committee chair constitutes grounds for removal upon request by the chair to and approval of the appropriate appointing official or governing board.

Section officers and committee chairs are responsible for attending face-to-face meetings to participate in official business (i.e., Leadership Council, New Leader Orientation, Communities of Practice Assembly , Membership Committee, liaison to other ALA units/committees.). Note: ACRL Bylaw IX, Article 5 requires the ACRL Board to meet face-to-face no less than four times each program year, twice each during the ALA Midwinter Meeting and Annual Conference.

It is also important to realize that many of the ALA "core" committees (e.g., Intellectual Freedom) use the Midwinter Meeting to meet with other groups across the Association, to gain the benefit of the diversity represented within ALA.

Can an ACRL committee or section choose to work electronically and not meet face-to-face at ALA Annual Conference?

ACRL Bylaws (Article XII, Sections 1 and 2) state that "the Association shall hold an annual meeting at the time and place of the annual conference of the American Library Association" and that "meetings of the sections shall be held in accordance with the Section's governance procedures at the time and place of the annual conference of the American Library Association."

When can a committee hold an electronic meeting?

Provided that ten days advance notice is given, synchronous virtual meetings as defined in ALA Policy Manual A.7.4.1 may be held throughout the year or in lieu of the Midwinter Meeting. These meetings are subject to the ALA open meeting policy. The ten-day notice is waived for an emergency, but not the reporting requirement, which must also explain the nature of the emergency that caused the advance notice to be waived. Asynchronous association work may be conducted throughout the year (and is not subject to the ALA Open Meeting Policy).

What else should a committee consider when planning a meeting?

Before scheduling a meeting outside of the Midwinter Meeting or Annual Conference, consult with your ACRL staff liaison to ensure that the meeting(s) are scheduled far enough in advance to allow other ALA/ACRL units sufficient time to take action on items coming from your committee.

What is the ALA "open meeting" policy?

The ALA Open Meeting Policy A.7.4.4, states, "all meetings of the American Library Association and its units are open to all members and to members of the press. Registration requirements may apply. Closed meetings may be held only for the discussion of matters affecting the privacy of individuals or institutions.” The ALA Open Meetings Policy applies to all ALA units and to all meetings conducted by those units.

How are meetings publicized?

Announcements of synchronous virtual meetings held outside of Annual Conference (e.g., conference calls, internet chats) must be posted on the appropriate committee's ALA Connect space a minimum of 10 days prior to the meeting.

The meeting announcement must include the date, time, name of the convener, name of group/unit/section, a description of the meeting, phone, and email address of the convener, meeting format, URL for meeting agenda. The 10-day notice is waived for an emergency, but not the reporting requirement, which must also explain the nature of the emergency that caused the advance notice to be waived.

ACRL committee and section chairs should also announce synchronous virtual meetings through normal communication channels (e.g., electronic discussion lists and the website).

How are synchronous virtual meetings conducted?

Synchronous virtual meetings may involve conference calls and internet chat sessions (and the equivalents).

How is asynchronous association work conducted?

Asynchronous association work may employ such technologies as listserv for threaded discussions, e-discussion lists, e-mail, etc. Choice of format will be at the discretion of the section/committee chair, depending on the technologies available.

Who can vote in a synchronous virtual meeting?

Synchronous virtual meetings must abide by the same voting eligibility rules and ratification processes as face-to-face meetings in compliance with ALA/ACRL rules and adopted parliamentary procedure. Virtual members of committees or task forces have the right to attend meetings, participate in debate, and make motions. Virtual members do not have the right to vote nor are they counted in determining the quorum. Also, no more than one third of the membership of a division committee may be virtual members ( ALA Policy Manual 6.16). The ACRL committee chair or section chair will confirm that the official list of all members of the committee has been obtained from the Directory of Leadership on the members’-only ALA Web site to determine voting eligibility of each individual.

How is voting conducted in a synchronous virtual meeting?

Synchronous virtual meeting votes must comply with Article XX of the ACRL Bylaws, "Mail and Electronic Votes" at http://www.ala.org/acrl/acrl-bylaws. Voting mechanisms and scheduled votes should be included on the meeting agenda. All votes taken at a synchronous electronic meeting must be ratified at the next face-to-face meeting of the committee.

Do synchronous virtual meetings require minutes?

ALA Policy Manual A.7.4.2 states that the "results of the meeting must be made public no fewer than 30 days after the meeting's conclusion." The minutes or meeting report must be posted at ALA Connect.

ACRL committee chairs and section secretaries must send minutes for electronic meetings held outside of the Midwinter Meeting or Annual Conference to ACRL within two weeks of the conclusion of the meeting (even though they may not be approved by the membership until the next face-to-face meeting). ACRL committee chairs or section secretaries should follow the same procedures for distributing minutes to the membership as they do for minutes of face-to-face meetings.

What other considerations should be taken into account when scheduling synchronous virtual meetings?

Sections must hold their Advisory Council, Council, or all-committee meeting after all virtual section committees have met so that chairs can communicate the results of the official business conducted to Executive Board and section at large.