Roughly two years ago I wrote the post “How to Join a Committee” describing the importance of joining a committee and the basic process. I figured since one of my major jobs as President-elect of MLA is to now assign people to the various MLA committees now would be a good time to revisit the process.
Committees are the driving force of MLA and without members’ participation on committees many things within MLA wouldn’t happen. Each year MLA members must apply to join a committee or committees. An online committee application is available in the members-only area (active June through October 31). The form also appears in the August and September issues of MLA News and is available through headquarters. As I mentioned, the deadline for committee applications is October 31.
MLA members can apply to the various committees below.
- Awards Committee and Juries
- Books Panel
- Bylaws Committee
- Continuing Education Committee
- Credentialing Committee
- Governmental Relations Committee
- Grants and Scholarships Committee and Juries
- JMLA Editorial Board
- Joseph Leiter NLM/MLA Lectureship Committee
- Librarians Without Borders® Advisory Committee
- Membership Committee
- MLA News Editorial Board
- National Program Committees
- Oral History Committee
- Rising Stars Committee
- Scholarly Communications Committee
- Technology Advisory Committee
Members can also choose to apply to “any committee” as needed.
Once members have completed their application and the deadline has passed then MLA sorts through all of the information and organizes it based on the applying members’ committee selections. The information is compiled in a spreadsheet and given to each committee co-chair. The co-chairs then select from their “wish list” of members to join their committee.
The co-chairs “wish list” is then given to the President-elect (me this year) and the President-elect then officially selects the members for each committee. Usually the President-elect respects the selections of the co-chairs, but there are times when multiple committees select the same person for their committee. In these cases the President-elect does his/her best job to to make as many members (and co-chairs) happy as well as provide as many opportunities possible to applicants.
Mark Funk describes the process as similar to the “NFL draft done by one person trying to make teams, coaches, and players all happy.” I tend to think of it as the residency match process. A member may list one committee as their first choice but the co-chairs may choose another person who also listed that same committee as their first choice.
For example some committees may have a need for members with certain skills or knowledge. The best example I can give on this is the Technology Advisory Committee (TAC) . Depending on the upcoming projects the TAC may need to select members with certain technological knowledge and skills over another very tech savvy member who has other skills.
This is why it is VERY important to fill out everything about your knowledge and experience when applying for committees. According to MLA’s website: “In making appointments, the association considers the background and skills of the applicants, as well as the responsibilities and needs of the committees. A history of active participation in committee work on the local, regional, or national level is an important qualification. Recommendations are sought from current committee chairs, members of the board of directors, and program staff. Some MLA committees require combinations of skills and knowledge found among few health sciences librarians. Therefore, it is sometimes necessary to recruit certain members with unique experience and expertise to serve on specific committees.”
Basically the above paragraph is a really long way to say the following:
- Current committee members look at those apply for committee spots
- Therefore list your whatever credentials, activities, experience you have even if it isn’t national experience. The committee members just want to make sure you are somebody who is willing to be an active participant.
- If you want to join a committee where your experience might helpful towards committee work. For example: people wanting to join the Technology Advisory Committee will want to list their technology experience.
IF you are new to MLA or the profession it is even more important to list your experience and information in the application. It doesn’t have to be MLA related.
Usually the committee selection process happens in January with letters going out to newly selected committee members sometime in February. Unfortunately there are times where there are more applicants than committees. While that may disappointing at first, there are often committee opportunities that spring up afterwards for new ad hoc committees and task forces. So there is a good chance that somebody not selected for a standing committee could be selected for an ad hoc committee or task force that has not yet been created or envisioned.
One final note about committees. There are three committees that are not a part of the October application process. They are the Administrative and Board Committees, Executive Committee, and the Nominating Committee. These three committees are different and don’t follow the same application and appointment process. (See my post on the Nominating Committee.)
I hope this provides some insight into the whole committee process. In the next few weeks I will do my best to match the member and the committee while respecting the co-chairs’ “wish list.” I want to thank everyone who applied to join a committee, your active participation makes MLA what it is.