Update On 2019 ACRL Appointments

I’ve recently completed the 2018-19 division-level committee appointments process, with the help of ACRL staff and the Appointments Committee. Section appointments were completed by vice-chairs of section executive committees. I want to thank everyone who volunteered for a leadership position in ACRL this year, and with this message provide some more information about how ACRL appointments are made, as well as some more specific information about this year’s appointments process and outcomes.

How Appointments Are Made
The ACRL Vice-President/President-Elect is responsible for making several different kinds of volunteer appointments.  A few appointments are made directly, such as the Chair of the President’s Program Planning Committee, and the Chair of the Appointments Committee.  These are both positions that work very closely with the vice-president on specific projects, and they tend to happen early in the vice-president’s tenure so that these groups can begin their work quickly.

The majority of appointments to division-level positions are made in collaboration with the Appointments Committee.  As you may know, ACRL issues an annual Call for Volunteers in December, and the deadline to complete the online volunteer application is in February of the following year.   The Appointments Committee is responsible for reviewing these applications and matching candidates with available positions. 

The Appointments Committee makes recommendations to the vice-president, who reviews the recommendations and either approves or suggests changes, based on a variety of factors.  Committee members then email an invitation to candidates to serve in a given volunteer role.

Sometimes candidates will decline the invitation to serve on a committee, or it may be challenging to find a committee member whose skills, background, or interests align with the needs of a committee.  These issues can take time to resolve, but typically the appointments process is largely completed in April, with wrap-up work continuing through May or early June.  Some off-cycle appointments are posted to ACRL Insider, as they arise throughout the year.

2018-19 By The Numbers

This year was the first year that ACRL committee and section volunteers were given the option to answer demographics questions when completing the online form. As committee appointments are staggered and many individuals completed the online form in previous years, a complete demographics analysis is not available for this year’s committee appointees. While there is not a complete analysis of our appointed members, I am pleased to share an overview of our applicants. In future years, ACRL will continue to include optional demographics questions in the volunteer form, so that it will be possible to complete a more robust analysis of committee and section appointees.

In the 2018-19 appointments cycle, there were 354 expiring committee positions for division-level committees, and 425 volunteer candidates.  For sections, there were 927 expiring section positions, and 668 volunteer candidates. The number of available positions will vary year-to-year, as committee and section size will be determined by the needs of the group. In every cycle, some committee members are reappointed due to the need for continuity in projects, the recommendations of chairs and vice chairs, or a lack of other candidates.  Some volunteers applied to serve on both committees and sections (where appointments are handled by section vice-chairs).  If you participate in an ACRL section, you may have a better chance­­­­ of securing a volunteer position if you offer to serve at both the division and section level.

There was a total of 168 unique appointees to ACRL division-level positions, with terms beginning July 1, 2019.   A very small proportion of volunteers (slightly more than 2%) applied to serve on “any division-level committee.”  A significant proportion (43%) applied to serve on only a single division-level committee.  Generally, volunteers who are willing to consider more than a single committee (or who are willing to serve on any committee) are more likely to be matched with an opportunity.  Those who didn’t receive appointments were provided with suggestions for other ways to be involved in ACRL.    

As a reminder, volunteers cannot serve in more than 3 simultaneous appointments for ACRL and ALA, and cannot serve in any appointed position for more than 5 consecutive years.  The Appointments Committee and the vice-president make every effort to distribute opportunities so that committees have a diverse makeup of members from different geographic areas, different types of institutions, and different levels of professional seniority.

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

The ACRL Board recently articulated a Core Commitment to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion as part of our strategic plan the Plan for Excellence.  For the 2018 appointments cycle, we invited volunteers to answer a few demographic questions about their race, ethnicity, and gender as they submitted their volunteer form.  These questions were optional, but we hoped that for those who chose to answer, they would help us set a benchmark from which we can begin to measure our inclusiveness and diversity in member leader roles. 

In the 2018 cycle, the demographic figures for division-level volunteers are as follows:

Race options offered followed the U.S. Census options and included American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Middle Eastern and North African, Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander, White, Self-Identify. Options not included in the chart had zero volunteers.

Remember, because this is the first year of asking these demographic questions, and many committee members started their appointments before the questions were asked, we don’t yet have the full picture about the demographic makeup of division-level committees.  In future years, we should have a much better picture of demographics in ACRL-level appointments.   

Appointments Guidelines

The ACRL Board recently crafted volunteer guidelines to help improve transparency and understanding about how appointments are made.  These are posted to the ACRL volunteer page.   

Serving in an appointed position is not the only way to get professional benefit from your ACRL membership.  Calls for presentations, poster sessions, and other participation opportunities are sent out regularly for ACRL units participating in ALA conferences, both in-person and virtually.  Most ACRL committee meetings are open, with agendas shared on ALA Connect, and you are welcome to attend any open meetings to learn more about committee projects and to meet members.  Consider submitting an article to C&RL News or College & Research Libraries, or sign up to participate in a CHOICE webinar.  And subscribe to ACRL Insider so that you’re informed about other member opportunities to help you get the most from ACRL.

It’s the goal of everyone involved in appointments—the vice-president, the Appointments Committee, staff, and others—to make the best and most equitable appointments possible.  ACRL could not function as it does without the leadership of hundreds of committed volunteers.  If you are serving, have served, or will serve in an ACRL appointment, thank you.  If you’ve volunteered but didn’t secure a position, I hope this message helps to provide context and answer any questions you might have, and I look forward to working with you in ACRL in the future.

Karen Munro, 2019-20 ACRL President