Behind the Scenes: MLA Chapters, What Are They

There are a lot of people who are involved in MLA doing things, there are Section chairs, Committee chairs, Task Force chairs, Board Members, Presidents (new, current, past), Nominating Committee, etc.

Previously I wrote the post, Behind the Scenes: What is the MLA Nomintating Committe? detailing how the members of the Nominating Committee get to be on the Nominating Committee and that they are charged with picking the people to be on the ballot for Board Member and President to be voted on by the MLA membership.

Today I will tackle MLA Chapters:
I will write about Sections in future post but I want to first say Chapters and Sections are different entities. If you belong to MLA you don’t not automatically belong to a Chapter or Section. You have to pay to be a member of a Chapter or Section.

  • Here is a link describing Chapters in greater detail, click on the Chapter for your state to get an overview about it.
  • Here is a link describing the Sections in MLA, click on each Section to get an overview of each one.

I highly recommend being a member of your Chapter and/or a Section because they offer a great opportunity to become involved in the larger group of MLA.

Here is a rough break down of some of the leadership opportunities and positions within Chapters and Sections.  There are a lot of Chapters and Sections and some may have committees unique to their group so I am going to try describe things that are common to all.


There are 13 Chapters and they are organized as groups of states (Philadelphia Chapter being the exception) roughly similar to how the National Network of Libraries of Medicine is organized.  BUT the Chapters are NOT related to the NNLM system.  Just because your library belongs to an NNLM region does not mean you belong to a Chapter. Membership with NNLM does not equal membership with Chapters and vice versa. They are separate medical library groups that just happen to divvy up the members across the United States (and parts of Canada) in a similar way.

Home                  Map of the US showing regions
Image from Chapter Council’s website                      Image from NNLM’s website

Each Chapter has officers and committee chairs (can be found by clicking on the officers link for each chapter on MLA’s Chapter page) and some of the officers and chairs vary according to the Chapter.  I am going to stick with the positions that are common among all of the Chapters. Hopefully after reading this post you are encouraged to join your chapter and you can learn about the other leadership positions and opportunities to get involved that are specific to your Chapter.

Many of the chapters have more detailed information about their officers in their bylaws

In general each Chapter has:

  • Chair (or President)
  • Past Chair (or Past President)
  • Chair Elect (or President Elect) 
  • Treasurer
  • Secretary
    • Midwest Chapter is a little different than others and has two secretaries: Membership Secretary and Recording Secretary.
  • Representative to MLA Chapter Council
  • Alternate Representative to MLA Chapter Council

Terms of service for the Chair and the MLA Chapter Council Representative are three years, but it can vary with other positions (example: Secretary can range from 1-3 yrs depending on the Chapter).  

The South Central Chapter has a very good illustration of the overall organizational structure of a Chapter.

While the duties of the Chairs (elect, current, and past), Secretary, and Treasurer may vary somewhat by Chapter, it is pretty easy understand their overall raison d’etre.  The position of Chapter Council Representative may not be as well known by people unfamiliar with the Chapters. 

Chapter Council:

To understand the position of the Chapter Council Representative, I should probably quickly describe Chapter Council.

(from About Chapter Council)

The Chapter Council of the Medical Library Association is one of two councils serving in an advisory capacity to the Board of Directors of the Association. It promotes interchange among chapters, and, together with its counterpart, the Section Council, promotes interchange among sections and chapters and provides an opportunity for chapters to participate more directly in the governance of the Association through representation of their interests at the Board level. The Council also enables chapters to better define their role and function within the Association through participation in a coordinated, unified representative body.

Basically Chapter Council represents the Chapters as a whole to the Board of Directors of MLA.  Each Chapter has its own Chapter Council Representative who represents their Chapter to the Chapter Council.  (Click here for more specific information on “how” the Chapter Council Representative represents their Chapter.)  The Chair of Chapter Council then represents Chapter Council (which represents the Chapters) to the Board of Directors of MLA.

So here is how the thought of a regular Chapter member can get to the Board of Directors via Chapters.

Chapter Member thought > Chapter officers > Chapter Council Rep > Chapter Council > Chair of Chapter Council > Board of Directors

I hope this helps clarify a bit about MLA Chapters.  As I mentioned I will do a post in the future on Sections.  Liike my previous Behind the Scenes series of posts, all of the information is available online and really isn’t behind the any scene.  But since it is different locations it can be difficult to find making it sometimes difficult to know what is going on. Everything I have written here is available and can be found on MLA’s website, Chapter websites, Chapter Council Website, and the NNLM website.  It is just a matter of finding the information and bringing it together. 

Please let me know if you there is any other subject that you think would be could for the Behind the Scenes series.


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