Administrative handbook

i. description of the positions

The MLA Convention Manager (CM) and the Assistant Convention Manager (ACM) are responsible for the arrangements for the annual meeting of the organization. They are authorized by the President and the Board to coordinate and oversee the planning of the meeting, in consultation with the Chairs of the Program Committee, the Business Office, and the Board.

They also work closely with the Publicity & Outreach Officer, the Development Officer, the Coordinators of the New Members Forum, the Placement Officer, the Web Manager, the Chair of the Education Committee (in the event of a pre-conference), the Ad Manager, and officers of MOUG. They oversee the technical and onsite management of the meeting. They are Special Officers of the organization, appointed by the President. Appointments are made for one year, with reappointment possible up to a total of four years. In 2002 the Board approved a change in the rotation of duties for these two special officers: the first two years are spent as Assistant Convention Manager; the third and fourth years as the Convention Manager. The Convention Manager/Assistant Convention Manger receives some support for expenses required to carry out the responsibilities of the position (travel, telephone, postage, etc.) and honoraria (Convention Manager only), gratis membership, and gratis registration. (Fiscal Policies Handbook, 4.a)

The Convention Manager/Assistant Convention Manger receives some support for expenses required to carry out the responsibilities of the position (travel, telephone, postage, etc.) and either honoraria or Board-approved discounts on dues, convention fees, etc.


The Assistant Convention Manager must work closely with the Convention Manager, so that s/he becomes familiar with duties and responsibilities of the position before taking over. The Assistant Convention Manager should accompany the Convention Manager on site selection/hotel negotiation trips and manages all facets of exhibits, signage, and program book advertising for the convention. During the Convention Manager’s final year it is especially important to anticipate the Assistant Convention Manger’s transition into the broader role of Convention Manager a year hence.


See Appendix 6.1 for a position description. The primary responsibilities of the CM/ACM are the following:

  • Working with MLA’s current Convention Planning Advisor, visiting, selecting, and negotiating contracts with hotels
  • Overseeing accommodations
  • Selecting menus for receptions and other official meetings
  • Managing exhibits and selling exhibit services
  • Selling and coordinating Program advertising
  • Arranging for audio/visual equipment & internet required for meetings and sessions
  • Preparing the Convention Budget
  • Updating the Convention Manual, other documents, and statistics
  • Signage for the meeting and exhibitors
  • Liaison between the hotel staff and the Association
  • Preparing the Program Booklet and conference app

Liaison Activities: A number of different individuals and groups both within MLA and outside are involved in planning the annual meetings, and it is important for the Convention Manager to work closely with everyone participating in arrangements for the meetings.

The Convention Manager serves as liaison among the following:

  • Program Committee chair
  • Publicity & Outreach Officer
  • Chair of the Education Committee (if a pre-conference workshop is being planned)
  • Administrative Officer [AO] (formerly Treasurer/Executive Secretary [T/Ex]), the Board, and its Finance Committee
  • Development Officer and Committee and Marketing Subcommittee
  • The MLA Business Office
  • Web Manager
  • Coordinators of the New Members Forum
  • MOUG
  • CVB
  • Hotel staff

The Convention Manager assists the Program Committee in preparing the program proposal and prepares the budget for the national meeting in consultation with the Fiscal Officer, transmitting these to the Board and the Finance Committee respectively (see below).

The Convention Manager works with the Program Chair to assign rooms for all functions during the course of the meeting. Factors to take into consideration include size of the group, type of setup (conference, classroom (MOUG), and theater setups are generally the only setups used), and A-V equipment availability. It is advisable to establish a standard A-V package early in the planning process, so the Program Committee and presenters know what will be available.

The Convention Manager acts as liaison with appropriate hotel staff: All communications with hotel staff should go through the CM/ACM. The CM may identify to the hotel staff certain individuals who may also need to be in touch. The CM prepares the catering order and approves all banquet event orders with the hotel. These include events sponsored by others in conjunction with the meeting, MOUG or vendors.

Site Visits: The President and Board provide general guidance to the CM and ACM as to what part of the country should be explored for a potential meeting site (e.g. “southeast,” “middle of the country”). The CM/ACM in turn work with MLA’s current Convention Planning Advisor to determine availability of suitable hotels. After reviewing initial proposals and consulting with the Board, the Advisor schedules site visits with several hotels and the local CVB(s). The visit includes tours of the meeting facilities and general discussions of MLA’s needs. A site visit usually takes place three to four years before the date of the meeting, depending on the difficulty of scheduling hotels in any particular locale. MLA prefers to hold meetings in the hotel in which members are staying, and the hotel must have suitable meeting, banquet, and exhibit space.

Meeting Spaces: Current programming requires a mix of small and large meeting rooms, breakout rooms, reception areas, and an exhibit hall.

For more detail see the Space Requirements in Appendix 6.2. The rooms should be of various sizes for sessions and committee meetings, and should include one room that is capable of holding all attendees (ca. 500 people) to be used for plenary sessions and closing event.

Hotel Guest Rooms: The recommendation regarding the division of singles and doubles is to reserve many more doubles, as rooms with 2 double beds are more likely to be requested than are single-bed rooms. A preferred ration is ca. 70-75% doubles and 25-30 % singles. MLA generally occupies approximately 220–250 rooms for housing attendees on peak nights (Wed.-Fri.); historically ca.1100 rooms are occupied over the course of the week MLA is in residence. Keep in mind additional room needs for MOUG/Pre-conference nights. MOUG typically draws ca.

100 registrants. For 2017 in Orlando this was a problem (their peak season) and hotel had to find additional rooms at sister hotels for Monday and Tuesday nights. For the 2014 Atlanta and 2015 Denver meetings, the hotels did not have enough double occupancy rooms available; around 115 double occupancy rooms could have been used on the highest occupancy nights of the meeting. King rooms accounted for 120-125 rooms on the highest occupancy nights. It is important to emphasize this during initial site visits. Also critical is making sure hotel will prepare separate billing portfolios for each guest. This should be clearly stated in the contract. The hotel in Orlando 2017 was not able to do this and it was not pretty.

Master Account and Complimentary Guest Rooms (Fiscal Policies Handbook VIII.h.):  MLA generally receives some complimentary hotel room nights at the annual meeting as part of hotel contract negotiations. For example, in a recent contract, for every 40 guest rooms booked, MLA received one comped room. The number of complimentary nights varies each year, depending on the contract and the number of booked rooms. MLA generally earns 22 to 26 free nights. MLA also occasionally receives additional “staff” rooms at a lower rate than what attendees are paying.  The complimentary rooms are applied to guest rooms that are placed on the MLA’s master account with the hotel. (A master account consolidates all of a hotel’s product and services billing for the organization. Being on the master account simply means that MLA will pay the bill for that room.) Any complimentary rooms will be applied toward the master account rooms, and MLA pays for those not comped. Individuals on the list can ask to not be added to the master account (and forego the complimentary and paid-for nights), or can indicate that their institutions will pay for any room nights that are not complimentary. In either case, they should do so before the convention; it is difficult for the Convention Managers to resolve issues or make changes after the convention. 

The CM’s current working list of guest rooms/individual names that are placed on the master account and billed to MLA (if not comped) are as follows:  President (if not in complimentary suite per contract), Past Pres./Pres. Elect, Administrative Officer, Assistant Administrative Officer, Convention Manager, Assistant Convention Manager.

These people get discounted rooms or upgrades as available: Recording Secretary, Web Manager, Program Chair, Notes Editor, Development Officer, and past Convention Manager (because of much work done on current conference).

Add these if possible for discounts: Ad Manager, Publicity Officers, MLA Business Office representative.

Exhibit Space: In order to house exhibits appropriately, a securable space of 6000–7000 sq. ft. is required. MLA exhibits are “Table-top” exhibits rather than “Pipe and Drape,” although some exhibitors may set up display racks, equipment carrels, etc. in addition to or in place of their tables. Such additional furniture should not exceed their assigned spaces. The Convention Managers must approve exceptions to this. Vendors are typically guaranteed one 6-foot table, two chairs, and a wastebasket. Electricity, internet, etc. are all negotiated with the hotel or the exhibit services company that handles shipping. The use of tall, retractable banners is increasing with some vendors. However, these can encroach on other vendors’ spaces and affect sight lines, so must be approved. Tacking or taping signage onto hotel walls is prohibited.

Hotel Selection: The Convention Planning Advisor asks the hotel(s) for proposals, including a range of available dates for the year in question; generally MLA prefers to hold its conference between early February and mid-March. The conference should not conflict with ALA’s Midwinter meeting, and it is preferable to avoid meeting over a major religious day such as Ash Wednesday and Passover. If dates are known, other events that ought to be avoided when scheduling MLA annual meetings are meetings of the Society for American Music (SAM), the American Musicological Society (AMS), and the Major Orchestra Librarians Association (MOLA). In recent years MLA has been the first of these organizations to set its dates.

After the site visits and discussion of choices with the Convention Planning Advisor, the CM reports to the Board concerning the hotels visited. The Board discusses the report and makes a recommendation; the CM then directs the Convention Planning Advisor to finalize negotiations with the selected hotel. A contract is drawn up and signed by the President on behalf of the Music Library Association. Before the contract is confirmed, other organizations (e.g. MOUG) that normally meet in conjunction with MLA should be consulted to confirm their plans for that year’s meetings. Frequently the meeting rooms for MOUG, for example, are built into the contract with the hotel and their attendee room nights are also counted into our room night obligation. Note that MLA negotiated a 5-year contract with Hilton properties, locking in locations, room rates and dates through 2023.

The Convention Managers and Program Chair make a pre-conference site visit to the hotel eight to twelve weeks before the conference to take care of last minute details, to make sure that all room assignments, menus, facilities, and equipment requirements are as planned, to confirm the exhibit details with the contracted exhibit service, and to meet with the CVB.

Budget: The official budget for the convention is due to the Fiscal Officer 4 weeks before the Spring Board Meeting. The Convention Managers should begin working with the hotel in late February/Early March to identify preferred A-V providers, exhibition services providers, discuss internet costs, and obtain current catering menus. The CM must solicit budgets from Program Chair, ACM, and Development Officer early enough to work out the combined budget and submit it to the Fiscal Officer on time. The budget for any pre/post-conference workshops are due at the same time and the CMs frequently field questions regarding A-V and catering costs. The MLA budget line structure should be used by the CM.

It is MLA’s policy that the costs of the meeting should be balanced by the income, but that the conference should not be considered a source of revenue, either. Revenue sources include registration fees, sale of exhibition space, advertising in the program, donations from exhibitors, and donations from other interested parties, such as local businesses and institutions and friends of MLA from outside the locale. These donations may be earmarked for specific expenses such as the convention tote bags, the hosting of a reception, or the provision of musical or other entertainment. The Development Officer should always provide an estimate for total contributions. See also “Contributions,” below.

The costs of the convention should show both expenditures and pass-through costs. For example, if buses are to be used (for tours, etc.) and if individuals are to be charged fees for these, then there will be both income and expenditure for the buses. Similarly, MOUG’s costs are considered a pass-through as MLA pays the costs up front and then is reimbursed by MOUG. Expenditures typically include printing a paper program and expenses for Guidebook, costs of online registration programming, A/V costs (which typically include all equipment costs, such as power strips), overnight security for the exhibit area, honoraria, signage, catering (which will include service charges and taxes (if applicable)), liability insurance, any costs related to entertainment (e.g. equipment rental for the big band), and a contingency figure (usually around 5% of the total budget).

The Administrative Officer or Fiscal Officer will provide the CM with a spreadsheet of the approved budget as a matter of course or upon the CM’s request, including justifications/thoughts regarding changes made to the CM-proposed budget. The CMs monitor budget performance closely throughout the conference cycle. The Convention Manager works closely with the Business Office staff to receive regular ledger updates. The AO can also supply reports, and can offer advice and information regarding use of funds.

Registration Form: In consultation with the CMs, Program Chair, and either the Web editor or whoever is maintaining the conference web presence, the MLA Business Office designs the online registration form. Those listed above, plus the Administrative Officers all proofread and test the form before its final version is made available. This form incorporates fees approved by the Board and includes information about tours and other events. The MLA Business Office can arrange access to past registration forms for informational purposes. The cut-off date for early registration should be emphasized. Note: The published cut-off date for early registration and hotel reservations should be at least one week before the date the hotel is contracted to guarantee MLA’s room block. This is necessary to provide a sufficient period of time to adjust the room block, if necessary, in accordance with bookings. Indicate all dates in words, e.g., December 10, 2016 (not 12-10-16); European members planning to attend may reverse months and days of any dates given in number format. Include MLA’s FEIN on any registration forms. It is helpful to include boxes to check if registrant requires ADA-related assistance or is a first-time attendee.  An electronic receipt will be issued after the registration is received; registrants will not receive a paper receipt unless they so request. Credit card payments are accepted (MasterCard, Visa, and American Express), and the MLA Business Office provides current information about handling such payments; a space must be provided on the form for the card number, expiration date, and signature. In 2012, exhibitor registration was moved to an online form. Beginning with the 2014 conference anyone registering or exhibiting at the annual meeting had to create an account through the MLA website (using the membership management system). The Business Office may need to provide assistance to exhibitors in particular who use this system only once or twice a year or who are not members of MLA.

Conference refunds: A refund of conference registration fees (including pre-conference workshops) is issued at the discretion of the Convention Manager and only for emergency situations. Refunds will not be given for unused banquet tickets, if applicable. If a refund request is approved, 20% of the conference registration fees will generally be deducted and retained by MLA to cover transaction costs and initial expenses. Tours and concert ticket refunds are dependent on the policies of the third-party providers. This policy supersedes all former policies concerning refunds of conference registration fees. (Board minutes, 03/2016, 08.b) Refund requests must be submitted in writing by the last day of the meeting; MLA will respond to refund requests no later than 30 days after the end of the event. (Board minutes, 03/2018, 08.b). (FPH, 8.d)

Contributions: The CMs, the Development and Publicity Officers, and others are involved in securing contributions to support the conference; the Development Officer takes a leading role in coordinating all fundraising. All funds raised, including those from local contributors, are deposited with the MLA Business Office to ensure appropriate acknowledgements of donations received in accordance with IRS regulations and in the conference program booklet. The MLA Business Office, through the Administrative Officer, reports funds raised to the CM, who is responsible for keeping track of them for the purpose of balancing the convention budget, and to the Development Officer. Contributors are acknowledged in the conference program and with appropriate signage at breaks, receptions, etc. The MLA Business Office ensures that contributions are reported in a timely manner to the Administrative Officer, Development Officer and ACM for acknowledgment on signage, and that the MLA President has a list of contributors in order to officially acknowledge donations in support of the conference.

Exhibits: The ACM’s primary area of responsibility is as liaison to exhibitors, both working with the vendors who are exhibiting that year as well as the Exhibitor Services company. The MLA Business Office maintains the official list of potential exhibitors, many of whom carry over from year to year. ACM should also consult with Ad Manager and IAML for additional potential exhibitors. The ACM works with the Business Office to update the online exhibitor registration form, which should be activated in early September (ideally, but in the Fall in any event) each year. In order to update the form the ACM conveys the following information to the Business Office: table rates, including any discounts and drayage credits for corporate members and patrons; program advertising rates; information about packet inserts. Deadlines for ad copy and packet inserts, as well as for table registration are established in consultation with the Business Office. In early April ACM sends out RFP for bids from exhibit services companies. Determine which source will be the most economical, efficient, and reliable, and arrange for appropriate signs for all exhibit tables. The ACM sends “save the date” information to potential exhibitors late summer and prepares a formal invitation message to exhibitors, which is e-mailed to exhibitors by the Business Office or by the ACM through the MLA membership management software when the registration website is functional.

The Business Office notifies the ACM when exhibitor registrations are received and paid and the ACM communicates with the exhibitors to let them know their registrations have been received. The ACM maintains a list of exhibitors and contact information for the exhibition services firm, who will send additional information separately. Any follow-up with the exhibitors, such as reminders of deadlines or necessary payments, is handled by the ACM, working closely with the Business Office.

The ACM works with hotel staff, corporate sponsors, or third-party service providers, as appropriate, to ensure that the required number of electrical connections will be available to exhibitors desiring them. The hotel or its A-V services provider usually provides internet services. The ACM should monitor the cost of internet service and attempt to negotiate overall rates for exhibitors, if possible. The ACM does not negotiate on behalf of individual exhibitors, but for the exhibit space as a whole. The ACM should also ask the internet provider/hotel if they are willing to negotiate with individual exhibitors.

To determine the likely fee for exhibitors, the ACM ascertains the costs for the rental of tables (if not provided gratis by the hotel), charges of any required Drayage Service (cartage of exhibit materials to and from the hotel, if the hotel cannot store incoming exhibits), cost of signage and draping for tables or booths. A very rough formula for a minimum exhibit fee adds the above expenses and the cost of a registration plus any other food/beverage costs, then double that total. The ACM should also monitor exhibit rates of related organizations (ARSC, AMS, SAM)

to ensure that MLA’s rates are comparable. Exhibit fees are determined by the Board at its spring meeting, based on the recommendation from the Convention Manager as part of the overall convention budget.

The goal of the exhibits is to make available to MLA members the goods and services used by music libraries and to further closer ties between dealers, suppliers, and music librarians. Making money to defray convention expenses for the Association is another goal, and the need to secure contributions to help reduce costs for convention events is still another. Sometimes receptions and/or coffee breaks have been sponsored, at least in part, by contributions from exhibitors or other corporate sponsors.

The ACM contracts with an exhibit services company to handle cartage of exhibits materials to and from the hotel, if the hotel cannot store these materials. The contracted drayage firm may also supply electrical connections, computer and video display equipment, as well as supply and drape exhibit tables, if the hotel cannot. The exhibit services company should provide floor layout plans at no additional cost; this is ideal, given these providers are often familiar with the host hotel and local fire codes regarding aisle width and egress requirements.

The ACM is responsible for arranging with the exhibit services provider all signage for the exhibitor tables, registration area, exhibit entrance, contributor acknowledgment, and other signage as needed.

The ACM, in consultation with the Hotel’s Convention Services rep, will hire overnight security to safeguard the contents of the exhibits when the exhibit hall is not open to the public. This can be in-house security or contracted from outside. Costs for this service should be included in the exhibits budget.

The ACM must be in close contact with the MLA Business Office regarding exhibitor registrations. As part of exhibitor registration, the exhibitor registration form indicates information and payment for additional attendees (if more than the allowed number per table), meals, tours, and nametags. The ACM must keep track of the names of exhibitors attending and the number of tables for each exhibitor, and provide this information to the exhibit services provider. The MLA Business Office identifies Corporate Patrons and Corporate Members among the exhibitors for proper identification with name badges. During the exhibitor move-in, the ACM should personally distribute exhibitor packets. The ACM also submits exhibitor descriptions and names of registered exhibitors to the MLA Business Office for inclusion in the conference program. The ACM provides clear (PDF) copies of the hotel floor plans to the MLA Business Office for the conference program and mobile conference application.

Program Advertising: The Advertising Manager coordinates advertising for the conference program with fees set by the Board. The inside front and back covers, and the outside back cover are available for advertisements, inside pages, and web advertising is on a first come, first served basis. Instructions for purchasing program advertising (program book and online) are included with the early September message to exhibitors. All advertisers should submit copy as PDF files format directly to the MLA Business Office; however, some will nonetheless submit copy to the AM, who will work closely with the business office to ensure that all ads are accounted for before the program goes to print. The AM works with the web manager to include these ads in whatever mobile application might be used for the conference. A list of all program advertisers is included in the conference program, unless space is unavailable.

Refunds due to cancellation of advertising in the Program Book will be given if they are received according to the cut-off dates identified in the Fiscal Policies Handbook. (FPH, 8.c)

Corporate Members/Corporate Patrons: Corporate Patrons receive the following discounts: 25% off the charge for renting the MLA mailing list (available only up until the conference); 20% off all advertising and exhibit fees; 200 lbs. of drayage/table. Corporate Members receive 10% off mailing list rentals and all advertising and exhibit fees, as well as 100 lbs. of drayage/table. (N.b.: always verify discounts annually with the Administrative Officer.) These discounts must be considered when estimating exhibitor and advertiser income for the convention budget. Corporate Members and Corporate Patrons of MLA should receive preferential locations in the exhibit area, and if possible, a different appearance to their table(s) to indicate their special status, e.g., a different colored skirting or bunting for their table(s). Signs for their tables should indicate that they are Corporate Members or Patrons, and their nametags should denote their status. Corporate Members and Corporate Patrons also receive logos by their entries in the printed program and an appropriate designation in the online version of the program (PDF copy of the program and in any mobile conference application such as Guidebook).


Payments. The MLA Business Office receives all exhibitor payments online. If an exhibitor wishes to pay by check, there will be a “bill me” option in the registration. The Business Office and the ACM should double check to ensure payment is made (invoices were not automatically issued for the 2014 exhibitor registrations). The ACM receives and verifies invoices for exhibitor tables and related charges (e.g. electrical, telephone, internet connections), drayage and security, and transmits them to the MLA Administrative Officer for payment. This includes invoices from the hotel, the copy shop (when necessary), and authorized expenses from program and workshop speakers. All invoices should be accompanied by a Request for Payment (RFP) from the CM/ACM (available at For complicated RFPs, please feel free to consult with the AO for assistance/collaboration.

Convention Calendar: Appendix 6.2 is an approximate guideline.