The Music Library Association's Planning Committee, along with the Convention Managers, Program Chair, and Web Manager, have compiled the following list of frequently asked questions about the process of programming the MLA annual meetings.
Who can submit a proposal for a program session or poster session?
MLA members and non-members may submit proposals. MLA Committees, Subcommittees, and Interest Groups may also submit proposals.
How do I submit a session proposal?
The Program Chair posts a call for papers (CFP) on MLA-L, typically in March prior to the annual meeting. The CFP is also posted on the annual meeting website. The CFP includes a link to an online proposal form.
Is there a limit on how many times one speaker can present at an annual meeting?
There is currently no limit.
How are the annual meeting proposals selected?
Proposals are peer-reviewed by members of the Program Committee. The criteria for 2020 is outlined in the Call for Papers. The process is not blind. The proposer’s name and other proposed speakers are visible to the Program Committee, and Program Committee member names are listed on the MLA website. Once proposals are submitted, each member of the Program Committee rates the proposals on a scale of 1 to 5. The ratings are then averaged and the Committee accepts proposals above a certain threshold. The threshold may change depending on the number of proposals received and the number of rooms available at the conference site. The program session and poster session acceptance rate for the 2019 annual meeting was 77%. For the 2018 meeting the acceptance rate was 72%, and for the 2017 meeting it was 74%.
How is the program arranged so that schedule conflicts are kept to a minimum?
When proposing a session, you may indicate conflicts or preferred times. These requests are the main criteria the Program Chair takes into account when compiling the schedule of the program. The Program Chair also makes an effort to avoid simultaneously scheduling sessions with similar topics.
Why do we have a multi-year contract with Hilton?
With guidance from our convention services company Experient, MLA was able to negotiate overall lower prices on hotel rooms and other annual meeting expenses by working with one chain over a longer period of time. We have been able to lock in prices for rooms, food and beverage, and other contractual concessions far in advance, which greatly helps in budget planning. This has also saved MLA many of the travel costs necessary to scope out new locations each year. The Convention Managers had the best experiences with Hilton, which also has properties in many of the geographic areas in which they were interested. In the future, the Convention Managers will revisit how well our multi-year contract with one hotel chain has worked for MLA.
How are the cities for the annual meetings selected?
Beginning in 2016, MLA moved away from the model of needing to be invited by an institution or a chapter to meet in a particular location. For several consecutive years prior to that, the Convention Managers were unable to find adequate hotel space in the locations that were initially targeted. Moreover, many destinations that were seen as desirable either did not have enough music librarians to serve on a Local Arrangements Committee, or simply had no music library presence altogether. The current model, based on the five-year-contract plan, is for the Convention Managers, along with our convention services company Experient, to target areas that are in keeping with the traditional east-middle-west geographical rotation, combined with cities that are a good fit for an annual meeting and ideally have rich musical heritage and/or vibrant music scenes.
How are the hotels for the annual meetings selected?
In addition to the criteria described above, the Convention Managers also consider meeting spaces and guest room needs, traffic flow between meeting areas, and proximity to a variety of restaurants, public transportation, attractions, and opportunities for community outreach.
How do hotel room rates factor into these decisions?
The Convention Managers want to make the annual meetings available to as many people as possible and do not wish to price out attendance for anyone. Accordingly, they attempt to keep room rates as much under $189 per night as possible. Thanks to our multi-year contract with Hilton, room rates at the 2019 annual meeting in St. Louis will be $139 per night.
Why should I stay in the main annual meeting hotel?
Hotels use MLA’s “head count” on guest rooms reserved against our already-arranged (and paid for) expenses. Our hotel contracts generally allow MLA to use their meeting rooms at little or no cost if a certain number of hotel rooms are booked by our attendees. Failure to book that number of rooms could incur significant charges for MLA, which could result in higher membership dues or annual meeting registration rates. Therefore, when attendees stay in the main annual meeting hotel, it greatly helps MLA and its members avoid those higher fees.
I need to share a hotel room with two or more other attendees. Can that be made easier?
We recognize that there can be challenges for attendees who need to share a room with multiple roommates, such as obtaining enough beds in a room and properly splitting bills. Please know that the Convention Managers work closely with the hotel staff and work hard to ensure that the needs of our attendees are met. Different hotels can present slightly different challenges, and due to fire codes, some hotels are unable to offer more than two beds per room to every guest who requests it. For this reason, it is a good idea to inform the hotel in advance about any special room needs or requests so that they can try to accommodate them. Please also feel free to contact the Convention Managers with any issues you may encounter, and they will do their best to respond to your feedback and to pass along new information as it emerges.
Why is registration for the annual meeting scheduled so early?
Many MLA attendees need to know their travel budget requests for the entire academic year even before we open registration for the annual meeting. We have found that because our meetings fall in the first part of the calendar year, and because there are holidays in November and December, opening registration in October makes sense for most attendees. This also allows for arranging any last-minute room changes and/or administrative tasks that need to be handled. We recognize that any particular deadline at that time of year may be difficult for some members. We have also ensured that for students and reduced-for-work attendees, there is no difference between early and regular registration rates.
Is reduced registration available?
Yes. We offer student discounts, paraprofessional discounts, senior/retired person discounts, and discounts for those who sign up to help work where needed.
Why have we replaced the closing banquet with a closing reception?
The Convention Managers had to replace the closing banquet with a closing reception for financial reasons. The added price for a sit-down multi-course meal with service staff, extra dishware, and other logistics simply became too expensive, and it would have resulted in a further increase of registration rates.
Why is there so much food at the receptions and coffee breaks? Why are there two receptions (opening and closing)?
While annual meetings used to include an opening reception, a Local Arrangements reception, and a closing banquet, plus coffee breaks, we now offer the two receptions and coffee breaks. These gatherings have offered more meaningful ways for attendees to interact with one another and to visit our vendors and thank them for their continued support, which helps to underwrite many of MLA’s expenses and scholarships. Having said this, the Conference Managers continue to investigate ways to avoid an excessive amount of food served at the coffee breaks.
How is it determined which sessions will be live streamed and archived?
Plenary sessions are always streamed. When submitting a proposal for another type of session, you may indicate the anticipated level of interest in streaming among attendees. For the 2019 meeting, the Program Chair considered these requests along with the overall rating each session received from the Program Committee. An effort is also made to ensure that the topics of the streamed sessions have broad interest and that a variety of topics are represented. Currently, MLA pays to stream from only one meeting room, and this streaming adds significantly to our cost. MLA has charged very little (or nothing) for separate streaming access for attendees. The cost has been variously covered by the MLA Fund, the operating budget, and conference registration. This limits the number of sessions that can be streamed/recorded.
Has the carbon footprint of our annual meetings been considered?
Yes. The Convention Managers are aware of our carbon footprint and are working on ways to reduce it. Please stay tuned for future updates on this.
I do not need a printed program at the annual meeting. Do we really need to print them?
Some MLA attendees wish to have a printed program. Revenue from print advertisements cover the costs of printing programs, so these costs are not passed on to annual meeting attendees.
Does MLA make accommodations for attendees with disabilities or other specific environmental needs or preferences?
Yes. MLA values the participation of all of its members and wishes to make its annual meetings as accessible as possible. MLA is also legally bound to make accommodations for attendees with disabilities, and all public hotels must accommodate ADA and other federal and state laws. At the annual meeting in St. Louis, MLA will offer a dedicated “quiet space” for those who need it. Registrants who need accessibility accommodations are encouraged to indicate those when they register for the conference.
What is MLA doing to make the annual meeting planning process more transparent to the membership?
The MLA Board minutes are available to all members here, and annual meeting survey results are posted here. Additionally, MLA Board members, the Conference Managers, and the Program Chair are available to anyone who has questions. This is your organization, and we welcome your comments and suggestions, so please make sure to complete the annual meeting surveys each year when they are announced.
The Convention Managers, the Program Chair, and the MLA Board take all feedback about the annual meeting seriously, and they remain open to new suggestions to continue improving the experience and making annual meetings available to as many people as possible. If you have a question or concern that you do not see listed here, please send an email message to MLA’s Planning Officer (listed here), and we will do our best to provide a response, either directly or by posting it on this FAQ, which will remain on this page as a living document.