PLA Committee Chair Orientation Memo

PLA Committee Chairs and Co-Chairs:

Thank you for agreeing to donate your time and energy as a PLA member leader! Below is information about your role and responsibilities. When in doubt, please do not hesitate to contact the PLA staff at or at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 5PLA.

Your Responsibilities to the Committee

Consistent with PLA policies and strategic plan, the committee chair guides the committee in its work as outlined in the committee’s charge.

Familiarize yourself with your committee’s charge. Committee charges can be found at Also familiarize yourself with PLA’s work, policies, and strategic plan. The easiest way to do this is to review all sections of the PLA website. Beyond committee work, the website will help you learn about everything going on in PLA. You may see opportunities for your committee to assist with other projects or to collaborate with other committees. You may also see the need for specific products and resources that your committee could develop.

Plan to attend the PLA Committee Chair Orientation webinar, hosted by the PLA president. This one-hour webinar will provide valuable information on the work of the committees, alignment with PLA’s strategic plan, and the priorities of the PLA Board of Directors. This session is always recorded in case of a time conflict.

Communicate with the prior chair and/or your committee’s staff liaison if you need background information on the prior work of the committee.

Organize the committee members and initiate communication. ALA Connect and email are the preferred means for facilitating committee work. If you haven’t received a committee roster, please contact your committee’s staff liaison. The chair is expected to contact everyone and welcome them to the committee. Also, see the “Meetings” section of this document for additional communications options available to your committee.

Plan and supervise the work of the committee in accordance with the PLA goals and strategic plan, and more directly along your committee’s specific charge. Committee work is not limited to educational program planning; committees might also develop best practices, web resources, publications, journal articles, surveys, position papers, grant applications, etc. Think about the best ways to carry out the work of the organization that would be most useful to our members and the profession. A committee work plan form is available for use. Although not required, PLA recommends completing the work plan form, and doing so electronically so it may be easily shared and posted to the committees’ ALA Connect group.

Work with your committee’s staff liaison to ensure that the work of the committee is being carried out and that you have the tools you need to be equipped to do the work. Please don’t hesitate to contact your staff liaison if you have questions.


Inform committee members of meeting times and project deadlines. Prepare agendas, outlines, previous meeting notes and all other documents you will be using and distribute them to members well in advance of the meeting. Always post copies of official committee documentation to your committee’s ALA Connect space to inform future chairs on the work of the committee. Plan a minimum of four meetings a year. Meetings are virtual with the option of an in-person convenings of your committee at the ALA Annual Conference.

At ALA Annual Conference

Most committees are encouraged to meet virtually throughout the year and then to vote on whether to meet in person during the PLA All Committees Meeting times at the ALA Annual Conference or to conduct all meetings virtually. Typically, the PLA All Committees Meeting is held from 8:30–11:30 AM on Sunday at ALA Annual Conference. All committees meet in one room at separate tables. The purpose of the All Committees Meeting format is to facilitate communication and collaboration among committees. If your committee wishes for additional in-person meeting time outside of the PLA All Committees Meeting, you should contact your staff liaison.

PLA staff will schedule the meetings, eliminating the need for committee chairpersons to fill out meeting room scheduling forms from ALA. It is, however, your responsibility to plan agendas, conduct or moderate the meeting, designate a someone to take notes, and report in the committees ALA Connect space regarding the meetings. Please note that generally, all ALA committee meetings are expected to be open meetings, so please be prepared to have visitors who are not on the committee. While this can be disruptive and hinder committee business, it is also important for transparency and for cultivating potential new leaders within the association.

At PLA Conference

Note that committees do not meet at the biennial PLA Conference. ALA policy prohibits formal committee meetings at division conferences and seminars.

Virtual Meetings at Other Times

PLA makes available to its committees virtual meeting options. The links below provide more information on the options available to you.

Committee-Planned Educational Programs

Some PLA committees may decide to develop programs for the ALA Annual Conference. The program submission timeline is approximately 12 months prior to each conference. The PLA Annual Conference Program Subcommittee approves the slate of conference programs to be submitted to the PLA Board for approval. If your committee decides to develop a program, it is best that a committee member who will still be on the committee at the time the program is presented be identified as the program organizer. Contact PLA staff for more information about this process.

Your Responsibilities to the PLA Board

Familiarize yourself with the reporting process and the online Report to the PLA Board of Directors form. This biannual report is due twice a year to coincide with the winter board meeting and Annual Conference board meeting. Your report will appear in the consent agenda of the PLA Board of Directors documents along with the reports of other committees. PLA staff will also post these reports to your committee’s group in ALA Connect. These reports help communicate the work of your committee to the rest of the Association. PLA Award Juries, the Budget & Finance Committee, and the Nominating Committee do not use the online report form.

If you have an action item for the Board's consideration, e.g., an item that requires Board approval to move forward due to policy and/or financial implications or a request of a special nature, please contact your committee’s staff liaison as early as possible. The action item will need to be written up and included in Board materials, which are typically distributed 7–10 days prior to each quarterly Board meeting.

Appear before the PLA Board of Directors if requested to report on committee activities and/or request Board action. Contact your PLA staff liaison for guidance if you think you will need to speak to the PLA Board of Directors. All issues must be submitted in writing for Board consideration.

Notify the PLA president of members who exhibit excellent leadership and collaboration skills, so that they can be recommended for future committee work or leadership positions in the association. Also make sure to identify any members who are not fulfilling their obligations and ask for them to be removed if necessary. Inform the PLA president of any committee resignations and ask for reappointments if necessary. Also inform your staff liaison of any committee changes.


Committees do not have dedicated budgets and most committee work will not require financial resources. If needed, PLA will support modest costs (up to $100) necessary to conduct committee business for items such as photocopies, conference calls, and A/V. If you require this support, please contact your PLA staff liaison to describe the costs and request reimbursement. If your committee requires more significant funding for new initiatives, please contact your PLA staff liaison to discuss the project.

Major expenditures will require the approval of the PLA Board and need to be made as part of the annual budgeting process. Proposals to the PLA Board should be made no later than March 15 so that the Board may review. If approved, the funding will be allocated to the next fiscal year, which begins September 1. Please discuss any such requests with your PLA staff liaison as soon as possible.

Relevant Policies & Resources

  1. ALA Bylaws, Article VI. Divisions

  2. Policies of the American Library Association in Relation to Its Membership Divisions (aka: Operating Agreement)

  3. Bylaws of the Public Library Association

  4. PLA Board of Directors Roster

  5. PLA Committee Structure

  6. Key PLA Policies to be aware of:

  7. PLA Governance Best Practices:

  8. PLA president's Report (two most recent years; older reports available in the ALA Institutional Repository):

  9. PLA Strategic Plan

  10. Financial Information and Resources:

  11. PLA Fact Sheet (PDF, 2 pgs.)


  12. ALA Legal Framework: Twenty Questions

  13. Lobbying and ALA: Fact Sheet

  14. PLA Staff List