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Interest Group Guidelines
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These guidelines are provided to collect in one document the existing policies and procedures relating to Interest Groups (formerly Round Tables and User Groups), to communicate those policies and procedures to Interest Group Coordinators and attendees in order to facilitate their work, and to provide them to the MLA membership in general.The guidelines are drawn from the MLA Administrative Handbook [text in bold], the Index to Board Policies, and Board meeting minutes [text in regular font].

INTEREST GROUPS

  • Interest Groups are assemblies of members of the Association that convene at the Association's annual meeting to exchange ideas on topics not specifically addressed by the committees of the Association.
  • A list of existing Interest Groups may be found in the MLA Administrative Structure.

AUTHORIZATION AND RENEWAL

  • The President may authorize the establishment of an Interest Group for a period of four years. Upon expressions of interest from MLA members, the President will then ask for six letters of support from members in good standing of the Association to be sent to the Assistant Planning and Reports Officer (APRO), identifying a common area of concern; the President will be notified when six letters are received. Application for an Interest Group can be made at any time during the year, with the term of the Interest Group beginning at the end of the next annual meeting.
  • Renewal of the authorization for another four years also requires six letters of support from members in good standing. The letters, which may be in either paper or electronic form, are due to the APRO by February 1 of the year of expiration. After the February 1 deadline the APRO will report to the President whether those Interest Groups have been renewed or not.
  • The President may dissolve an Interest Group at any time, if it appears that it no longer serves a need or that a committee of the Association could carry on its work more effectively. An Interest Group that has not been renewed may again be authorized after a hiatus of at least one year following the same guidelines for the establishment of a new Interest Group.

STRUCTURE

  • Each Interest Group is led by a Coordinator appointed by the President in consultation with the Board and other parties as appropriate. Coordinators must be current members of MLA.
  • The Coordinator serves no more than four consecutive years unless an exception is made by the President.
  • Normally there are no other officers and no specified membership. However, the Coordinator and the President may agree to adopt an alternative form of organization.
  • Interest Groups are strongly encouraged to have a single Coordinator, similar to the single-chair structure of MLA committees, rather than co-coordinators; Interest Groups can apply for an exception to the MLA President.
  • If the Coordinator is unable to attend a conference, he/she may designate another Interest Group attendee to act as the temporary coordinator for the Interest Group’s meeting.
  • Interest Groups do not have members; they have attendees.

MEETINGS

  • One Interest Group meeting OR one Interest Group program presentation (as vetted through the Program Committee) may be included in the program of the annual meeting. Other Interest Group activities and recaps of IG events at annual meetings may appear in the MLA Newsletter.
  • The annual MLA conference requires an unusually large number of break-out rooms for a group of MLA’s size, adding to the cost of holding meetings and making it difficult to find hotels that can accommodate MLA.
  • In the interest of reducing the conference footprint, Interest Groups may hold only one meeting which requires a scheduled time slot and a room, either an informal discussion/business meeting or a program approved by the Program Committee. If an Interest Group wishes to both hold a discussion/business meeting and present a program, the former must take place off the meeting grid if their program proposal is accepted by the Program Committee-- i.e., not in a scheduled time slot in a hotel meeting room; the off-grid session will not appear in the conference program.
  • Interest Groups wishing to present program sessions are required to go through the program session approval process, the same as other entities that wish to present at MLA conferences. This involves making a formal proposal to the Program Committee in May-June, as per the Committee’s deadline. Interest Groups may not present program sessions not approved by the Program Committee, the same policy that applies to all conference presentations.
  • IGs can submit a program proposal without a co-sponsor, but are encouraged to propose programs jointly with MLA committees or other MLA groups, to hold discussion/business meetings off the program schedule, and to consider meeting every other year, as possible.
  • The LAC Chair and Committee may be able to assist Interest Groups to find alternate meeting space for Interest Groups that meet off the program grid, given at least two months’ notice.
  • The Interest Group Coordinator can publicize the off-grid meeting via MLA-L, the conference bulletin board, or other means.

NB: the following three paragraphs describe a pro tem policy:

  • As the Committee assembled existing Interest Group polices, they found a policy in the Index to Board Policies that has not been in effect for some time: as per a 1994 Board motion setting parameters for Interest Groups, "if a roundtable fails to have a minimum attendance of 10 for two consecutive years, that roundtable shall be retired.” The only policies currently in effect regarding Interest Groups and attendance are that Interest Group Coordinators are required to report attendance numbers in the Interest Group’s annual report for the MLA Newsletter.
  • At the Spring 2012 Board meeting, consensus was to communicate and reinforce only the latter policy for now, to help determine whether Interest Groups in fact have issues with low attendance, and not to enforce the 10-attendee minimum requirement for the time being. The Board Liaison—currently the Assistant Planning and Reports Officer—will send a request to Interest Group coordinators two weeks before the annual conference, reminding them to take attendance and to turn in the attendance number within two weeks after the conference. The AP&RO will send a reminder two weeks after the conference to Interest Groups which have not turned in attendance figures.
  • If an Interest Group chooses not to meet in a given year, the Coordinator will report this to the AP&RO in lieu of an attendance count.
  • The Board will review the results to determine whether to re-activate the 10-attendee minimum policy in future, or to take other actions with Interest Groups which do not submit attendance numbers.

PROJECTS

  • Interest Groups are Discussion groups and should not take on formal projects.

CONFERENCE REPORTS

  • Interest Group coordinators are responsible for submitting summaries of conference activities to the MLA Newsletter editor for inclusion in one of the three issues that follow the annual meeting. The report should summarize the content of meetings, the attendance, and plans for future meetings and activities.
  • As of the Spring 2012 Board meeting, this policy was revived: each Interest Group’s conference report must include attendance numbers (sign-in sheets will no longer be requested) from its previous meeting. The Assistant Planning and Reports Officer will follow up on Interest Group Newsletter reports that don’t include attendance numbers.
  • If an Interest Groups chooses not to meet in a given year, the Coordinator will report to the AP&RO stating that.

PUBLICATIONS

  • As a general rule, Interest Groups do not issue separate newsletters. However, communication among Interest Group attendees between annual meetings by email, listserv, or communications tools such as Google+ is encouraged.

BOARD LIAISON

  • The Board member with assistant planning and reports responsibility will act as the liaison between the Board and the Interest Group coordinators. The Board liaison is charged with maintaining the list of current Interest Group Coordinators, and sending any changes to the list to the Administrative Officer. The Board Liaison to Interest Groups will change every year due to the rotation of Board member-at-large positions.
  • Interest Group Coordinators meet at the annual meeting with the two Board members charged with planning and reports duties to discuss issues involving Interest Groups. Coordinators are notified of the meeting several weeks before the annual meeting.

INTEREST GROUPS CALENDAR

  • Interest Group Coordinators are responsible for submitting summaries of conference activities to the MLA Newsletter editor for inclusion in one of the three issues that follow the annual meeting. The Newsletter Editor will put out a call on MLA-L with the exact date for each deadline:
  • early April deadline for Spring Newsletter
  • early May deadline for Summer Newsletter
  • mid-August deadline for Fall Newsletter
  • April-May: Program proposals due to Program Committee for the conference the following year; exact date as per the Chair’s call for proposals on MLA-L
View a full list of active Interest Groups.