Letters from ALCTS

cynthia whitacre

From the President

Cynthia Whitacre, ALCTS President 2010–2011

ALCTS Interest Groups

One of the things that I find compelling about ALCTS is its interest groups (IGs). IGs may be started by petition submitted by any ten ALCTS members. If you have an idea for a group that is not already addressed by an existing interest group, you may start one. Here is how: Write a charge, formulate a structure, put together a petition and get the support of a minimum of ten ALCTS members who will sign your petition. Signatures may be collected via electronic means or physically on paper.

If the proposed purpose falls within the scope of one of the ALCTS sections, the petition is then taken to the Section Executive Committee (Section Exec) for approval. If your group does not fall within the scope of a section, the petition is submitted to the ALCTS Organization & Bylaws Committee (O&B). Petitions may be presented virtually or in person. The Section Exec or O&B will work with you on the wording of your charge to assure that it does not overlap with existing groups and that the purpose is clearly stated. Section Execs may vote to approve a new IG at anytime. For ALCTS-level IGs, O&B approvals go to the ALCTS Board of Directors for a vote. Votes are often taken virtually between conferences. When a positive vote is received from either a Section Exec or the ALCTS Board, you have a new IG.

The usual IG structure consists of a chair and vice-chair who are elected by membership of the group. The vice-chair usually succeeds the chair. Terms are often for one year, but can be for two years. Some IGs have more structure, including a secretary or various officers. The structure is entirely up to each IG. IG chairs are elected by the group members and not appointed by any parent body. This allows anyone to step forward and volunteer quickly for a leadership role.

IGs may be formed that overlap sections. For example there could be a PARS/CRS group that deals with the preservation of continuing resources. IGs may even be shared among divisions, such as the Authority Control Interest Group, which is a joint LITA/ALCTS-CCS IG.

Let me share my own positive experience with starting an IG. After a discussion at a Task Group meeting at the 2009 ALA Midwinter Meeting, Marlene Harris (Alachua County District Library) and I put together a petition to form the Public Libraries Technical Services IG. We solicited signatures for the petition via two online discussions lists, and saved all the emails of support to keep a record of who agreed to sign the petition. We submitted the petition to ALCTS O&B on March 6, 2009. We received approval from ALCTS O&B and the ALCTS Board by March 20, 2009. The group held its first meeting at ALA Annual in July 2009 and elected a new vice-chair at that meeting. Marlene Harris served as chair for the first year. Sally Smith (King County Public Library), who was elected vice-chair at that first meeting, is now serving as chair. Donna Cranmer (Siouxland Library) was elected the new vice-chair at the 2010 ALA Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. in June 2010.

All IGs have their own ALA Connect page and any ALA member may join them. IG membership is not restricted to ALCTS members. IGs may hold discussions or chats via Connect space. What work can be done to share information on Connect is only limited by the imaginations of the members of the group.

IGs may sponsor official programs at ALA by going through the formal ALCTS program planning process. The advantage of this option is that publicity of the program goes to all of ALA through presence in online tools and the program book. IGs may also plan more informal managed discussions, presentations or panels for ALA meetings and publicize these on their own via electronic means, including ANO.

The lifespan of an IG is five years. If an IG wishes to continue after five years, the IG must submit a petition for renewal. IGs can cease to exist when a need is no longer perceived. Or, the group may reinvent itself with a new name and new charge. For example, the Technical Services Workflow Efficiency IG is a relatively new name for a group that had been in existence under another name and charge for many years.

The flexibility and responsiveness to the needs of members provided by the IG process are an exciting part of the ALCTS organization. IGs are a place for new leaders to gain experience and for members to get involved and make a substantial contribution to the profession in a relatively short timeframe. ALCTS members are empowered to do something at the grass roots to shape an organization responsive to their needs. If you see a need for a new IG, step forward and start one!

Pertinent Links

Contact Cynthia Whitacre (whitacrc@oclc.org).