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University Libraries Section (ULS): About Our Committees

Whether you are a chair, committee member, or prospective member, this is your go-to resource for information about ULS committees.

The role of committee chairs

As a committee chair, you play a crucial leadership role in ULS. It takes more time and effort to be a committee chair than a committee member, but it's also a great opportunity to take initiative, make a difference, and connect with other leaders in ACRL.

Appointments happen in the spring, and terms begin July 1 and end June 30. We suggest you only volunteer to be a committee chair if you have served on the committee before, so that you have some knowledge and experience. And be aware that you can serve no more than four consecutive years on a committee, whether as a chair or a member.

Committee chairs do important work, so thank you for serving (or thinking about serving!) ACRL and the profession in this capacity.

Getting started as a committee chair

To best kick things off, try to attend the ALA Annual Conference right before your term as chair begins. Attend the in-person ULS Executive Committee meeting as well as your committee's meeting (whether in person or virtually). Find out what projects the ACRL Board or ULS chair are prioritizing for the coming year and start thinking about how your committee might contribute.

Talk with the outgoing chair early on. Confirm that the committee information found in this LibGuide is still accurate or if it needs updating. Find out about the following:

  • Continuing or ongoing issues or projects
  • Subcommittees or subgroups already in place
  • Any useful documentation beyond what you find in this LibGuide
  • Communication channels or shared file space being used and any passwords needed to access them

Soon after your term begins on July 1, get in touch with your committee members:

  • Sign into the ACRL website to find out your committee members' official e-mail addresses.
  • E-mail committee members to introduce yourself, let them know your interests and priorities for the year, and have them introduce themselves to each other.

If subgroups exist, find out the following information:

  • Ask for updates on any existing projects.
  • Determine if subgroups need to continue or be revised.
  • Confirm continued interest in existing subgroups.
  • Replace people who want to rotate off.

Early on, think about your goals for the year and decide whether you plan to meet in person or virtually for ALA Midwinter and ALA Annual. You can either follow what has been done in the past or adjust based on what works best for your committee that year. The ULS chair will ask for your plans at the beginning of the year (around August).

Participating in the ULS Executive Committee

As a committee chair, you are also a member of the ULS Executive Committee. In this role, you will participate in these activities:

  • E-mail discussions via the ULS Executive Committee e-mail list
  • The virtual ULS Executive Committee meeting around ALA Midwinter
  • The in-person ULS Executive Committee meeting at ALA Annual

To be most effective, take advantage of mentoring from previous committee chairs and ULS Executive Committee members. Be engaged by taking initiative, asking questions, and suggesting ideas.

Engaging in the work of the committee

Communication is essential: communicate early and often with committee members, not just around the ALA conferences. If a particular committee member is not responsive, ask if they would like to step down to give someone else the opportunity to participate.

Try to have meaningful projects between meetings for members to work on. At meetings, members can share their progress and get feedback and guidance.

Consider reflecting on and assessing the work of the committee to improve processes, identify priorities, and do more impactful work.

Foster future leaders within your committee. Notice which committee members are most engaged and might do well as committee chairs, encouraging them to volunteer when the opportunity arises. The ULS vice-chair may ask you for recommendations as s/he is making appointments in the spring.

Scheduling meetings

You are required to have two meetings per year: one at ALA Annual and one at ALA Midwinter. They can be in person or virtual.

About six months before ALA Midwinter and Annual, the ULS chair will send out an e-mail asking whether you want to schedule an in-person meeting. Be responsive to the chair and the instructions in the e-mail.

If you meet virtually, schedule meetings within one month following Annual and Midwinter. You can meet in whatever way is most convenient to the committee: conference call, Google Hangouts, Adobe Connect, Skype, etc. You can also request to schedule an Adobe Connect/WebEx space through ACRL. See ACRL Virtual Meeting Guidelines.

While you are only required to have two meetings per year, try to have at least four to keep up committee activity and member engagement. Scheduling tools such as Doodle are an easy way to find a time that works for all committee members. Be sure to enable time zone support.

Creating agendas

You are responsible for creating meeting agendas, but engage with your committee by asking members if they have any items they want to add. Assign time to each agenda item to keep you on track and list as any expected outcomes (such as decisions). As appropriate, feel free to get creative with agenda items, including interactive activities such as brainstorming or process mapping. These can help keep people engaged.

At least two weeks before the meeting, send the meeting agenda to members and post it to ALA Connect.

Running meetings

We are all really busy, and time is valuable! So respect the time of your committee members by following these guidelines:

  • Show up a few minutes early to test any technology or room setup.
  • Try to start on time (or close to it), even if some members are late.
  • End on time, unless everyone agrees to extend the meeting.

Synchronous discussions, whether in person or virtual, are a great opportunity for meaningful discussion:

  • Try to keep everyone involved, encouraging participation and meaningful discussions (but being careful that no one dominates discussions to the exclusion of others).
  • When discussing previous committee work, give credit where credit is due.
  • Be generous with praise and never dismiss or talk down about previous committee work or members.

Meetings get a bad reputation when they lead to no progress or outcomes. Improve meeting reputation by remembering these ground rules:

  • Assign meaningful tasks for members to do.
  • Make next steps crystal clear (including any action items and timelines/deadlines).
  • Take good notes (whether they are yours or those of a volunteer committee member).

Capturing minutes

Take detailed notes at the meeting (or ask a volunteer to do so) and transcribe official minutes that capture the conversation at a high level. Record who attended the meeting and who was absent. Don’t attribute specific comments to any one person. For tips, review Eli Mina’s Making the Meeting resources on the ACRL website.

  • Post meeting minutes to ALA Connect within two weeks of the meeting.
  • Send meeting minutes to Megan Griffin for ACRL’s official records.

Ending your term

Generally, the ULS chair will ask for a report at the end of the year (soon after ALA Annual). In the report, include your progress toward goals along with challenges you had in reaching your goals.

Before your term ends, review your committee's page within this LibGuide and make sure everything is still accurate. See Using LibGuides.

As your term is ending, get in touch with your successor and make their life easier. Provide them with this info:

  • A detailed summary of committee activities during your term
  • All necessary materials to take over the committee
  • Support and advice during their chairship