As ACRL vice-president, I had the distinct pleasure of working with ACRL staff and the Appointments Committee to match member volunteers to the committee work of the association. I have finished the 2020-2021 division-level committee appointments process. Section appointments were completed by vice-chairs of section executive committees and editorial board appointments were completed by the ACRL Publications Coordinating Committee. I want to thank those individuals who volunteered to serve the association and provide information about this year’s appointment process and outcomes.
With few exceptions, the division-level committee appointments process is made in collaboration with the Appointments Committee. Appointments Committee members review the volunteer applications, received during the open call for volunteers sent out each December, and work to match members with ACRL committee vacancies. The Appointments Committee makes recommendations to the vice president, who is responsible for reviewing and approving the committee appointments. Once the vice-president approves the recommendations, invitations are extended to member volunteers.
In discussions with the Appointments Committee members, we identified opportunities to further the work of recent ACRL presidents, Karen Munro and Jon Cawthorne, striving to broaden representation and diversity on division-level committees. We discussed ACRL’s Core Commitment to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) and the importance of giving voice to varied academic environments and demographic backgrounds. As a result of our conversation, the Appointments Committee Chair developed a collaborative process dedicated to an inclusive approach to appointments. Recognizing the new pressures many members had expressed facing at their institutions, we also strived to minimize appointing individuals to multiple committees, digging deeper into the pool to find as many unique volunteers as possible to fill vacancies. We also made particular efforts to expand first-time volunteer appointments for ACRL division level committee service.
This Year’s Appointment Numbers
The number of available committee vacancies varies from year-to-year and in every appointment cycle, some current committee members are reappointed. This year, we had a total volunteer pool of 817. Of these, 295 members volunteered for division-level committee service and 55% (162) were offered appointments. Nine appointment offers were declined, six declining because they accepted other division-level appointments. Another 185 members volunteered to serve on ACRL editorial boards and 19% (35) were appointed to these positions. For section service positions, 522 members volunteered, and 681 members were appointed.
Despite our best efforts to avoid multiple committee appointments, there were still some cases where volunteers received more than one appointment. Specific to division-level committees, no member was appointed to 3 or more committees, 3 members were appointed to 2 division-level committees, and 10 members were appointed to 1 division-level committee and 1 editorial board.
During the 2019-20 and 2020-21 appointment cycles, the number of unique committee and section volunteers decreased from pre-pandemic numbers, shrinking from 1,093 in 2019-20, to 818 in 2020-21 and 817 in 2021-22. Of note this past year is the decline in individuals volunteering for division-level committee service. It is unknown whether this is a short-term decrease related to challenges caused by the pandemic or the declines are for other reasons. If numbers do not rebound, it may be worth investigating to understand reasons why interest for association service is waning.
This is the third year that ACRL members were given the option to answer demographic questions on the volunteer form. The first year these data were collected, 46% of volunteers did not respond to these questions. During this past appointments cycle, 95% of individuals provided gender information and 93% responded to the question about race. We cannot compare these two pools or appointment cycles to each other, however, below are pie charts breaking down this cycle’s appointed and non-appointed volunteer pools by race and gender.
There are currently few ways to measure the diversity of our volunteer pool of candidates beyond the self-reported, optional demographic questions listed on the volunteer form. Getting information about academic environment, first-time division-level committee appointments, or other markers of inclusion beyond the self-reported race and gender questions is a manual, labor-intensive process. This makes measuring EDI progress on the appointments front difficult and it is an area where continued work is needed.
The next appointments cycle is almost upon us. ACRL 2021-22 Vice-President/President-Elect Erin L. Ellis will soon send out the call for volunteers. She intends to continue efforts to expand diverse representation on division-level committees and help ACRL further its Core Commitment to EDI.
“I’m committed to advancing ACRL’s Core Commitment by working to bring a diverse range of unique perspectives to our division-level committees,” says Ellis. “I’m working closely with next year’s Appointments Committee to increase awareness of committee opportunities, and intentionally engage with a broad range of groups and cohorts that include participants from underrepresented backgrounds and encourage underrepresented library workers to volunteer for a committee appointment. We continue to strive for more diverse representation on each of our committees and I’m dedicated to an inclusive and transparent volunteer and appointment process.”
I encourage individuals who are interested in participating on committees and becoming member leaders to volunteer when you see the call. If you have served in the past, or are currently on a committee, I thank you for the time, talent, and dedication you give to making ACRL a vital resource for the academic library community.