So now it is down to the nitty gritty, what does the MLA President do all year?
I will do my best to describe my activities for the year, but for more specific details MLA members can look through the position description for President in the Board Job Descriptions document.
Wednesday “after” the MLA meeting when everyone is going home, taking some extra vacation, or finishing up some MLA conference activities like CE or final meetings, the MLA Board meets to do a sort of post conference meeting. This is where we discuss the meeting as a whole and anything that came out during the meeting from MLA groups (Sections, SIGs, committees, etc.). In general the Board does not make heavy lifting decisions at this meeting because we are just as worn out from the meeting as the rest of the members.
The President attends the MLA/AAHSL Legislative Task Force in Washington DC and meets with Senate and House staff to advocate on behalf of NLM and other legislative issues happening within the Senate or House that are important to health science librarians. I can’t remember specifically the specific issues from 2015 but in 2016 some of the issues we discussed were NIH and NLM funding increase, approve the appointment of the Librarian of Congress, and issues pertaining to copyright.
In the past the President is invited and has gone to the ALA Annual Conference. This isn’t a requirement and as I understand, things have changed at the ALA meeting and the there isn’t as much for the presidents of other library associations as there was in years past. I was also invited to the CHLA/ABSC annual meeting in Vancouver. The MLA President doesn’t always go to this meeting but I felt it was important to attend because we were co-hosting the 2016 annual meeting in Toronto. So I opted to go to the Vancouver meeting and one of the Board Members who lives in California and was planning to go to ALA attended on behalf of me and MLA.
BTW I totally loved the CHLA/ABSC meeting and if you can get to go to one of their meetings it is totally worth it (and they are so nice).
The Board meets virtually in August and the President prepares the agenda and runs the meeting. While this is our first official meeting after the annual meeting the Board often discusses things via email. So this virtual meeting provides the opportunity for all of us to meet and discuss things in real time as well as approve any motions that have been presented.
I also attended IFLA. In the past the MLA President would attend IFLA. Currently this is not something the President will attend. I know some MLA members are unhappy with this and I understand where they are coming from. However, at this time IFLA is not a good fit for MLA given its current goals. IF this changes and MLA re-joins IFLA, August is the time the President would go to IFLA.
In the past the President would visit the next (their) MLA meeting city and facility. As I mentioned, the meeting was a joint meeting with CHLA/ABSC so I did not go to Toronto, as much was already being taken care of.
October is the Chapter meeting scramble. There are only 4 weeks in October and it seems every MLA Chapter has their meeting in these 4 weeks. Sure there might be a few renegades who hold their meeting the last week of September or the first week of November. In general, everybody has a mad craze to always hold their meetings at the same time. It makes it impossible for the President to attend every Chapter meeting. As a result the Board has to figure out who will attend which meeting so that there is at least one person from the Board attending each meeting.
While I was President I really wanted to attend every Chapter meeting, unfortunately cloning wasn’t (and still isn’t) possible. I personally wish Chapters could spread their meetings out over the year. My personal goal is to attend every Chapters’ meeting at least once in my library career. I love the Chapter meetings. You learn so much and meet so many people in a nice bite size environment.
The Board meets in person in Chicago every November. Over the years I have been a Board Member and President it seems that this meeting is held on or touching my birthday every time. I think there is a hidden passage in the Board manual that dictates this. The President meets with the Treasurer, President Elect, Past President, and the Executive Director a day before the rest of the Board meet. The Board meets usually for 1 1/2 days discussing in person things we have been working on (via email) and items brought forth by the MLA groups.
By the way this is the best meeting to see your warm weather Board Members deal with just the very beginnings of winter in Chicago. *giggle*
This November I also attended the MLA Historical Marker ceremony in Philadelphia. Obviously this doesn’t happen every year but there are events that “pop up” that the MLA President attends. For example, last week (September 12, 2016) Teresa attended the swearing in of the new NLM director Dr Patti Brennan.
The President doesn’t usually travel this month but this is an important month for MLA. This is the month that the MLA election results are available and the President notifies the candidates. These were some of the best and worst calls I had to make. I worked with many of the people who were on the slate and all of them were wonderful librarians doing great things and each and every one of them deserved to be elected. It sucks that they couldn’t all be elected.
Instead of traveling to Chicago in the dead of winter (thankfully) we have another virtual Board Meeting. Much like the August meeting, this allows the Board to meet online and discuss things that we have been working via email.
The President also must do some writing. They write the Welcome letter for the Annual Meeting program and the MLA priorities or goals for the MLA News.
March and April 2016
While there isn’t any traveling the President is increasingly eyeball deep into the Annual Meeting preparation as it gets closer to May.
The President travels to the annual meeting a few days before the meeting starts to attend Board meetings. Similar to the Chicago meeting the President, President Elect, Past President, Treasurer and Executive Director meet the day before the entire Board meets. Then the entire Board meets for 2 days before the start of the annual meeting. Once the annual meeting starts, the President is attending and speaking at MLA group meetings and events. Hopefully, not many future Presidents have to preside over a change in the bylaws. That was not my strength and I am forever grateful to those who helped me through it.
Every day of the Annual Meeting is super busy for the President. IMHO the President can call it a successful day if they had time to go to the bathroom. As busy as I was during the Toronto meeting, I enjoyed the time I spent in the hallways chatting with members and meeting new people. I know I have said this before, but it is totally true…. You learn the most from the meeting by talking and engaging with your colleagues and meeting new people.
At the end of the Annual Meeting, the President becomes the Past President and has come full circle to pass the gavel to the President Elect who is the new President and runs the post Annual Meeting Board Meeting.
Other things that don’t fall in a timeline:
Email, email, email. A lot of work with the Board, MLA groups, MLA staff and MLA members is done via email. Prior to becoming President my inbox was under control. While I was President I had to develop all sorts of files in my saved email folders or else my inbox would have been a nightmare.
Pop up events. It probably isn’t really correct to call them pop up events because usually the events the MLA President attends aren’t sudden. I just call them pop up events because they are predictable yearly events. For example: my trip to Philadelphia for the Historical Marker and Teresa’s trip this September to the new Director of NLM’s induction.
Phone calls. The President has a phone call every other week with the Executive Director. Every other week the President has a phone call with the Past President, President Elect, Treasurer, and the Executive Director. So the President has a scheduled phone call every week regarding MLA. Of course those are the scheduled phone calls, there are always phone calls from MLA staff and members that are about different items.
The job descriptions document says the average time commitment for the President (not including travel) is about a day per week. I would say that is pretty accurate but it isn’t like a whole day at one time. It is an hour here and there so it wasn’t as noticeable to me as a whole day would have been. What was noticeable was how much of my thoughts occupied MLA activities. Perhaps this is because I was “in touch” with MLA stuff for a little bit each day (via email or phone).
So there you have it…what I did as MLA President for an entire year. I am sure I missed something. I hope this is helpful for anyone who is contemplating running for President. It was one of the best things I did in my career. It was tiring and yes some things I used to do in my free time suffered (this blog and my swimming) but my family was super awesome and according to my husband my family didn’t suffer. With his support I was still able to have a pretty good work/life balance.
My hope is to get back to this blog and swimming more. However, I have had a recent career change that will probably fill the spot that MLA President once had. I have accepted and will be the Director of my library in October. The first few months are going to be busy as I learn my new role but I think I can still squeeze in a post or two a month instead of watching Real Housewives.