Behind the Scenes: What is a SIG?

Here we go with another Behind the Scenes post, this one will be about SIGs.  

In my previous post I talked about Sections. SIGs and Sections often get confused with each other, perhaps because SIG information is on the Section Council website and Section Council represents SIGs via the Chair of the Section/SIG Review Committee.  SIGs stands for Special Interest Groups.  SIGs are “ad hoc groups open to all members of the association. SIGs range from a series of informal meetings on a specific, short-term issue to an established subgroup within an MLA section.” 

There are 21 SIGs in MLA (view list here).  SIGs “provide a forum for members with unique interests to identify and meet with others with similar interests without having to fulfill the governance requirements of Sections. SIGs are generally created as less formal and more flexible organizational units, with the advantages of fewer reporting and no minimum membership requirements.” IMHO think of a SIG as the light version of Section.

SIGs are less structured than Sections but offer MLA members with similar interests to get together and share information as a group.  Instead of a Chair, Past Chair, Chair Elect and Treasurer/Secretary, SIGs only have a convener or co-conveners who are the contact person(s) with MLA and who organize meetings and other activities.  Usually the convener submits the SIGs annual report to MLA. The SIGs annual report is much simpler than a Section’s annual resport.  Here is a sample Word Doc of a SIG annual report.

SIG members must be MLA members.  SIGs are not allowed to collect dues or do fundraising, therefore it is free to join a SIG.  That sounds great, but having no money might present problems when it comes to speakers, panels, and fundraising for MLA programs.  If a SIG needs to fundraise for a program then it needs to partner with a Section. Sections are allowed to have a treasury. 

SIG conveners can request a meeting room at the annual meeting.  They can have speakers or panels at their business meeting. But since they don’t have a treasury they cannot pay for speakers or panels.  Additionally, the speakers or panels will not be listed in detail in the formal annual meeting program. SIGs can sponsor a CE course or symposia for MLA CE. The proposals must be submitted 18-24 months before the annual meeting and must follow the established MLA procedures.

SIGs cannot be the only sponsor for an MLA annual meeting program.  They must partner with at least one Section if they wish to sponsor a program at MLA.  Sections, Chapters, and the NPC are the only groups that can sponsor MLA programs by themselves.  Usually Sections, Chapters, and the NPC look for co-sponsors for the MLA programs and SIGs can be co-sponsors. 

SIGs are great way to get involved with other librarians without the cost or the duties/requirements of Sections.  Many librarians are members of both SIGs and Sections.  When looking to get involved choose the SIG or Section that meets your needs. 

As always this Behind the Scenes post was created from information on MLA’s website and the Section Council website.  Understanding the various groups within MLA can get confusing and I hope by compiling the information into a series of posts it can help shed some light on the association.

Since the deadline to apply for an MLA Committee is fast approaching (October 31st) my next Behind the Scenes post will be on MLA Committees and how do you get on them.  Hintapply to join a committee it is a great way to get involved, to learn about MLA and meet people.

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