MLA’s Constitution and Administrative Handbook dictate the procedures for elections. Each Nominating Committee also grapples with issues not addressed in existing documentation and must rely on past practices and common sense to come to decisions. This document represents an attempt to create some consistency in such practices as well as giving those wishing to run for office in MLA an overview of how the Nominating Committee creates the ballot.
Q1: Do nominees for President need to have served on the Board previously?
A1: The Constitution, Handbook, and Robert’s Rules of Order are silent on this. While it can be helpful to have previous Board experience, our structure of giving an incoming President one year as President Elect allows for some time to learn how the Board works before taking power and allows us not to require previous Board service for this office.
Q2: Are Honorary Members allowed to run for Board positions?
A2: Yes. Honorary Members are in the Personal Membership category and, as such, enjoy all the privileges of regular members.
Q3: Are previous Members-at-Large eligible to run for At-Large positions again?
A3: Yes, but they may not succeed themselves. This is, however, not an ideal way to spread leadership opportunities throughout the membership but might be something to consider when previous Board experience could be particularly beneficial to current Board activities.
Q4: If someone runs for any position on the Board and is not elected, when may they run again?
A4: Members who runs but are not elected may run again as early as the next year if they are willing.
Q5: What are the limitations for successive Board service?
A5: “Elected officers of the Board of Directors serve for up to six consecutive years. Appointed officers serve up to four consecutive years…” (Administrative Handbook, II.A.3). So, for instance, if somebody just completed two two-year terms as Recording Secretary, they would not be eligible to run for Vice President/President Elect because that would be another four-year commitment that would result in eight consecutive years as an elected officer. If, on the other hand, a person were completing a two-year term as Member-at-Large, they would be eligible to run for Vice President/President Elect because the resulting combined terms would be 6 years.
If a person completes a four-year term to an appointed Board position (Administrative Officer), they would be eligible to run for any elected Board position right away.
It is strongly recommended that consecutive Board service be limited to four years, whether service is elected or appointed.
Q6: Is it a problem for someone to be serving as an officer or board member at the chapter level while also serving on the national Board? What about running for both simultaneously? Similarly, is it a problem for someone to be serving as an officer or board member of another national organization while also serving on the national Board?
A6: While it is common for people to worry about missed opportunities that occur if they do not respond affirmatively to requests for service, running for office in two national organizations, or at the MLA chapter and national levels simultaneously, can create unwieldy workloads that could be detrimental to both organizations. Potential Board nominees are strongly encouraged to hold a major officer position only in MLA during the time that they would be serving on the national Board. Likewise, candidates should not run for major officer positions in another organization while running for membership on MLA’s Board. If this does occur, it is advisable that the candidate agree to withdraw from consideration from the election that happens later if they are elected in the earlier election.
Q7: Are Nominating Committee members eligible to run for election?
A7: While they are serving on the Nominating Committee, committee members are not eligible to stand for election because this would be a conflict of interest.
Criteria for Selection
Q1: What criteria does the committee consider when assembling the Board slate?A1: While an exact rubric for what qualifies one for Board service is impossible due to the changing needs of the organization and the need of each Nominating Committee to select a slate from those nominated within a given year, there are several factors that go into selection and that could help someone wishing to run for office to prepare over time.
- History of Involvement in the Organization. At any given time, there might be a perceived need for more experience and wisdom on the Board or for fresh faces, but in either case, it is important that candidates for the Board have enough experience within the organization to grapple with the issues that come before it. Ideally, a candidate’s experience is varied and has included demonstration of leadership. Involvement will include not only committee service but might also be represented by coordination of activities, Special Officer positions held, conference presentations, publications, and more. The Committee works with A-R Editions to document past involvement as well as reviewing nominations and the candidate’s statements.
- Representation of Library/Librarian Types, Geographic Areas, Gender, Race, etc. The demographics of the Board – including professional characteristics – should reflect those of MLA’s membership, and the Nominating Committee attempts to balance these on the slate as much as possible. Institutional racism and gender bias are difficult to recognize and are especially pernicious. Therefore, the Nominating Committee should actively seek qualified minority candidates for all of its Board positions in every election. Because MLA is not currently a racially diverse organization, it may not be possible to find minority candidates for every election, but every attempt should be made to do so.
- Collegiality. Board meetings are days-long events in close quarters, and it is important that people serving on the Board have a reputation for working collegially with peers. This is an area where nominators can be particularly helpful in shedding light.
- Nominations. Extensive narratives are not required for nominations (most Member-at-Large nominations simply come as a suggested name), but a well-reasoned nomination can help the committee to see strengths in a candidate that they might not have recognized already.
- Chapter Involvement. It is not required that Board members have been active at the chapter level, but having a strong perspective on these activities of the organization can be helpful and might strengthen the committee’s perception of one candidate over another, all other things being equal.
- IAML Membership. Candidates for Member-at-Large are not required to be IAML members to stand for election but will be expected to join if elected. Because MLA serves as the U.S. Branch for IAML, it is important that members of the Board be “citizens” of both organizations.
Q2: What factors does the Nominating Committee weigh when assembling the slate for Vice President/President Elect?
A2: The above qualifications will likely apply to candidates for President, in addition to several additional factors. Diversity of candidates becomes even more important in the case of a Presidential election as there are only two candidates; these two candidates should offer as broad a spectrum of professional background, geographic location, etc., as possible.
- Demonstrated Leadership. While it’s helpful for Members-at-Large to have strong leadership experience, it is crucial that candidates for President have a strong record of leadership within MLA. This should include demonstrated capacity for listening to all viewpoints and deliberating patiently before acting on information gathered.
- IAML Membership. The President of MLA is now also the president of the U.S. branch of IAML and, as such, must be a IAML member. Further involvement in IAML – beyond simply being a member – will put a potential candidate in a much better position to understand the relationship between MLA and IAML and strengthen a person’s candidacy.
- Institutional Support. The office of President is an extremely time-consuming one, so it is important that candidates are confident that their institutions will be supportive of the time commitment.
Q3: What factors does the Nominating Committee weigh when assembling the slate for Recording Secretary?
A3: The Recording Secretary is a voting member of the Board, so again, the same qualifications that are valuable in Members-at-Large will be valuable in a Recording Secretary, but additional factors will also be helpful.
- Organizational Skills. Minutes from face-to-face meetings are quite long and document complicated discussions. The Recording Secretary must be able to synthesize and summarize discussions in a timely fashion following the meetings as well as update the Index to Board Policies with new decisions.
- Collegial Information-Gathering Skills. The Recording Secretary must often follow up with meeting attendees to clarify discussions in meeting; diplomacy and efficiency are crucial in these duties.
Q4: May the public see the candidate rankings that the Committee compiled?
A4: No. In order to protect the privacy of all potential candidates, all deliberations of the Nominating Committee are confidential.
Q1: The Handbook is explicit about the expectation that committee chairs should step down if elected to the Board. Does the same apply to subcommittee chairs
A1: Because the workloads of sub-committee chairs vary widely, it is not necessarily required that elected Board members step down from such positions, but, in general, they should. A discussion of the potential election with their main committee chair is advised, and they should make a decision together.
Q2: Is it acceptable to have candidates run unopposed?
A2: In the interest of offering our members a choice in the leadership of the organization, this is not considered an ideal practice in MLA. In the case of the Recording Secretary, where the term is 2 years but the incumbent can run for another 2-year term, the incumbent is usually re-elected if they choose to run, and it can be a courtesy not to strong arm someone else into running for the sole purpose of avoiding an unopposed election. Nominations should, nevertheless be solicited, and this option should be exercised only if nobody else is willing to run.
Q3: If someone is contacted to run one year and can’t run that year, but wishes to run in a successive year, what do they do?
A3: They should simply let the Nominating Committee know. Each committee will pass to the next year’s committee a list of candidates contacted with notes on the candidates’ willingness to run in the future. Each committee chair will pass this information to his or her successor and include this list with documents sent to the Archives.