ALCTS Interest Groups: Establishing and Managing

Reference link: ALCTS Bylaws, Article XII Interest Groups (division level) and Article X Section 11 Interest Groups.

Interest groups (IG) offer ALCTS members outstanding networking, informational, and problem-solving opportunities. Interest groups provide a great way to begin your career of service to the association in an informal setting. Interest groups offer the library community a chance to come together to discuss “hot” topics of specific relevance. An interest group may appoint a task force for a specific purpose and duration to facilitate IG activity.

The elimination of previously existing category of ALCTS discussion groups at both the division and section level and the reformulating of discussion groups to interest groups was approved by a vote of the membership in spring 2008.

Procedures for establishing an interest group are simple and ensure that any group of ten or more individuals with a common interest within the scope of ALCTS who are willing to sign a petition may establish a forum in which to exchange ideas and experiences; sponsor formal conference programs, institutes, and seminars; or prepare publications. In conformance with ALA policy on open meetings, the group shall conduct its discussions so that all those present in the meeting room, can hear and contribute to the discussion.

Forming an Interest Group

The following tasks should be accomplished:

  • identify a central topic which does not duplicate the focus of an existing ALCTS interest group and formulate a founding statement that explains the goals of the group and any requirement for membership;
  • establish a membership list with a minimum of ten (10) ALCTS member’s signatures;
  • select a name for the group that reflects the central focus;
  • identify a chair for the proposed group;
  • complete the petition
    • for a division-level IG: Petitioners should complete the petition to establish the group and forward it to the ALCTS Office. The ALCTS Office will forward the petition on to the ALCTS Organization & Bylaws Committee for review and recommendation to the ALCTS Board. After reviewing the petition, the O&B committee may forward it to the ALCTS Board with its recommendation, or, return it to the group with an explanation of the changes needed before the committee can recommend it.
    • for a section-level IG: Petitioners should complete the petition and forward it to the section-level executive committee for review. If approved by the executive committee, the petition will be forwarded to the ALCTS Office.
  • Division-level groups will exist as a unit of ALCTS upon approval of the ALCTS Board of Directors. Section-level groups will exist as a unit of ALCTS upon approval of the section executive committee. Standard ALCTS policies and practices will apply; the following text highlights some particular aspects of interest groups in the ALCTS organization.
  • Petition to establish an IG can be found online.


Interest groups are expected to meet at each ALA Annual Conference, and may also meet during the ALA Midwinter Meeting. The meeting at the ALA Annual Conference should include a business meeting, at which officers are selected and any other necessary business is completed. Discussions, reports, and planning sessions may be held at either the Midwinter Meeting or Annual Conference, but formal programs are to be conducted only at the Annual Conference (per ALA policy).

Any individual or group, including Interest Groups, have the opportunity to submit a program proposal through the ALA Conference submission site. If approved, the program will have formal conference program status and be featured by ALA. The program will be audio recorded by ALA and available to conference attendees following the conference. If an Interest Group decides not to go through the conference proposal process, the IG can still have presenters at their session, but the event will be considered an interest group session, not a conference program.

An attendance list (with spaces for name, email address, and ALA affiliation [ALA member, division member, section]) should be circulated at each meeting of the group for all attendees to sign. A copy of the list should be retained by the chair for planning purposes.

The interest group chair shall complete a meeting report at the close of each meeting and send it to the ALCTS Office and to the ALCTS News Editor within a month of the end of the meeting. NOTE: The attendance list should be filed with the report to the ALCTS office.

Officers and Duties

Each interest group shall have at least a chair. Other options include, but are not limited to, use of co-chairs (with overlapping or successive terms) or use of a chair and vice-chair officers, again with overlapping or successive terms. Officers will be elected at the ALA Annual Conference for a term of one year. No officer of an interest group shall serve for more than two consecutive years in the same office.

The chair will:

  • coordinate activities of the interest group;
  • preside at meetings;
  • file a written report to the ALCTS Office and the Newsletter Editor following each meeting. The written report filed with the ALCTS office should include the attendance list of those at the meeting;
  • ensure the annual selection of officers, and report the names of those officers to the ALCTS Office;
  • fulfill responsibilities for program planning and coordination with the ALCTS Program Committee;
  • ensure the annual selection of officers, and report the names of those officers to the ALCTS Office;
  • respond to correspondence from ALA Conference Services;
  • ensure timely communication with the ALCTS office and provide a realistic estimate of the number of participants for meetings and programs to help ensure that adequate space is available for the meetings;
  • file all program requests.

Division-level IG chairs will also

  • fulfill responsibilities for program planning and coordination with the ALCTS Program Committee;
  • file all time and room schedules and requests for special equipment for all meetings held at either the Annual Conference or Midwinter Meeting through ALA Conference Services on forms supplied by that office to the interest group chair.

Section-level IG chairs will:

  • follow procedures established by their sections for planning and coordinating programs and meetings.


Managed Discussions

A managed discussion is an alternative to an official program and differs from a program in several ways. Managed discussions are less formal than official programs, although they may share certain other features, such as speakers or panelists. No program request forms need be completed, and no budgetary support is available. No description of the event appears in the preliminary or conference program.

When a division or section interest group has an idea for a conference program it completes the Annual Conference Program Submission Form.  (See Planning an ALCTS Event) If the program proposal is accepted, the title, descriptions and its speakers prepared by the IG will be promoted as an official conference program by ALCTS and ALA.

Managed Discussions vs. Programs

A managed discussion is appropriate:

  • when the event will be very informal, often involving discussion among IG members and speakers;
  • at Midwinter Meetings, where programs are not permitted;
  • if IG members want to build interest in a topic by first introducing it via a managed discussion at Midwinter, then present a formal program at a succeeding Annual Conference;
  • if an opportunity or topic presents itself on short notice (that is, deadlines for proposing formal programs have passed);
  • when no budgetary support or extraordinary equipment request is needed;
  • when interest in the topic is likely to be limited to the members of a sponsoring IG;
  • if the topic is likely to attract a smaller audience than one would typically hope for with a program.

An IG should plan a program, rather than a managed discussion, when:

  • the speaker(s) is (are) very well known and likely to attract a large audience;
  • there is sufficient time to plan a program (that is, key deadlines have not passed);
  • the topic is popular and likely to attract a large audience;
  • the topic has the potential to attract members of other ALA groups;
  • budgetary support (including funding for special equipment) is needed to make the event a success; and
  • a description of the program and speakers in the preliminary and conference bulletins is deemed important to build an audience. 

For further details on on planning an official Annual Conference Program see Planning an ALCTS Event.

Publications, Online Discussions, and More

In addition to discussions and programs, interest groups may sponsor institutes and preconferences, prepare publications, create continuing education, conduct online discussions, or carry out other activities.

IGs should stay up-to-date on ALCTS programming activities so that they can support relevant sessions by cosponsoring or promoting events.

Groups considering planning publications should consult the current or previous chair of the ALCTS Publishing Committee or appropriate section publishing group. Consult the Publication Proposal form.

IGs Online

Each ALCTS group, including IGs, is represented in two places online:

  1. the ALCTS web site is home to the ALA Handbook of Organization pages for ALCTS groups. The Handbook pages contain the group's charge and link to its roster, information on the group's composition, subgroups, resources, and origins as well as instructions on how to get involved in the group.
  2. a dedicated space in ALA Connect. IG members are encouraged to hold discussions and share information between ALA meetings using the tools in their ALA Connect spaces.

Other communication tools include email discussion lists, wikis, blogs, and social networking tools. Each group can decide what it needs and work with the ALCTS Office on arrangements.

Renewal or Demise

A division level interest group must submit a renewal petition to the ALCTS Organization & Bylaws Committee and a section level IG must submit a renewal petition to the section level executive committee every five years, using the Interest Group Renewal Form. If an interest group's petition is not submitted, the Organization & Bylaws committee will recommend to the Board that the interest group be dissolved.

A schedule of ALCTS interest group renewal deadlines can be found on the ALCTS website and in ALCTS News ( The five-year counter towards renewal starts with the Annual Conference after approval by the ALCTS Board for division level IGs and after approval by the section executive board for section level IGs.

Before submitting a renewal petition, an interest group should examine its name and its function statement to be sure that each continues to reflect the group's current composition and interests. A group that wishes to change its name or statement of function should petition at the time the change is to be effected, even if this occurs before the group’s regular five-year period has elapsed. This action would restart the cycle so that the next subsequent review for the group would not occur until five years following the change.