I got a first-hand glance at some of the inner workings of ALA policy and procedure during the past six months as I helped shepherd GameRT to round table-hood, so I thought I’d share that experience here to help illustrate one way in which groups form within the Association.
Back in 2007, ALA member Scott Nicholson noticed that the new wave of more social board games and video games were allowing libraries to expand the gaming programming so many of them had already been offering for decades, if not longer (think chess, SCRABBLE, summer reading programs, etc.). To help librarians share knowledge to grow their programs, he formed the original ALA Games and Gaming Member Interest Group (GGMIG), a community that crossed all types of libraries and all types of games.
To start an ALA-wide member interest group (a MIG) only takes signatures from 100 current ALA members and a mission statement/charge. The request then goes to “COO,” ALA’s Committee on Organization. While it’s true that anyone can create an informal community using ALA Connect, but if you want a more official informal group, you start with a MIG.
I used to be one of those people who jokes that only ALA would need a “Committee on Organization,” but we are, after all, librarians, and we do need a group to manage the organization of new, official groups. After sitting in on a couple of COO meetings, I now realize the group is very necessary if we want to avoid duplication of effort and resources (an important function in an association that will turn 135 next week).
Finding no existing groups with conflicting charges or goals, COO recommended to ALA Council that the GGMIG be approved. Council did exactly that in 2008, and the MIG popped into existence. Dr. Nicholson was the MIG’s first chair, and it was able to start presenting programming at ALA conferences. You can find their session at both Midwinter and Annual on Saturday mornings, from 10:30 a.m. to noon.
As the group’s activities expanded, though (helping with National Gaming Day @ your library, running the popular Open Gaming Night social at Annual, etc.), it became clear the MIG needed to become a Round Table in order to better meet its goals.
So in 2011, then GGMIG chair Chris Harris and incoming GGMIG chair JP Porcaro submitted the required 100 member signatures requesting that the MIG become the Games and Gaming Round Table (informally known as GameRT). They also had to come up with a starter mission statement, bylaws, and how much the dues would be. The request went through the same cycle as the MIG, so it started at COO and was recommended to Council, which approved it at the 2011 Annual Conference.
Round Tables are the next step up in the ladder of official ALA groups. Whereas members don’t have to pay dues to join a MIG, round tables are something you formally pay a small amount of money to join. This gives the round table a budget it can use to implement its activities. Other differences between the MIG and GameRT are that the round table can make formal recommendations to ALA, issue publications, give awards, and partner with other organizations. In addition, if GameRT’s membership reaches 1% of ALA’s total membership, it gets representation on ALA Council.
Because ALA’s fiscal year runs September 1 through August 31, new groups get added to the membership form and into our member database in September. That work was completed this week, which means GameRT is truly official now and ALA members can now log in to ala.org and join the Round Table for $10 (my cost was pro-rated because I’m halfway through my current membership year).
There’s also a new GameRT group in ALA Connect where members can share ideas, ask questions, etc., and the Steering Committee will begin setting up a committee structure for the Round Table’s various projects (National Gaming Day, ALAPlay at Annual, an award the group will sponsor, updating the Library Gaming Toolkit, and more).
In addition, the Steering Committee needs to put together a slate of candidates to run for office within GameRT in the spring 2012 election. The group will need a president, vice-president (incoming president), and a treasurer to handle the money now that they have a budget. Want to volunteer for office or a committee? Contact current chair JP Porcaro.
I was always the GGMIG’s staff liaison, so I’m now the GameRT liaison since the MIG no longer exists. I submit the group’s meeting requests, keep the committee rosters up-to-date in our member database, and generally help however I can. I’m their tie into the behind-the-scenes side of ALA, so I help its various groups navigate the ALA cloud to accomplish their goals.
I’m really looking forward to working with GameRT members to expand ALA’s gaming initiatives. I hope you’ll join us if gaming is one of your interests. From time to time I’ll post here how the Round Table is progressing, just to share how this stuff happens.
I think GameRT is a great example of a dedicated group of members coming together within ALA to advance a part of libraries and librarianship they feel has a lot of value. Consider this the official announcement that you can go join GameRT!