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Forming a New Section

These guidelines have been developed to assist groups with special interests who would like to consider pursuing Section status. 

Fact Sheet for Groups Seeking Section Status

MLA instituted its current group structure for Chapters and Sections in 1981. This new structure was the outcome of an effort to better accommodate the special interests of MLA members, to provide more avenues for participation to a growing membership, and to provide direct input to the governing structure of MLA–the Board of Directors. This page is intended to serve as a guide for groups with special interests in determining when and if Section status is an appropriate goal for them, and how to proceed once this is determined.

What Does Section Status Mean?

Official Section status in MLA extends certain privileges and responsibilities to the group.


  1. Members of the Section have a representative voice in the governance of the Association since each section is represented on Section Council by its Past Chair and current Chair. The Chair of the Section Council serves as a member of the Board of Directors. Sections can make motions, which, if approved by the Council, are presented by the Chair to the Board for action.
  2. Members of each Section elect a nominee to the Nominating Committee slate. The Section Council selects six Section nominees to be placed on the annual ballot for the Nominating Committee. The Nominating Committee selects the candidates for the Association’s national offices.
  3. Every Section has a meeting time and meeting room assignment at the Annual Meeting. This time can be used for both business and program meetings. Program topics are listed in the Annual Meeting program announcements as well as the Official Program of the Annual Meeting.


  1. Each Section (provisional or regular) must meet eligibility requirements in order to keep its official status. These eligibility requirements include complying with MLA’s Bylaws, Standing Rules of Order and the Criteria for Continued Eligibility of Sections.
  2. Attendance by a Section’s representative (Section Past-Chair and Section Chair) at the Section Council Meetings at the MLA Annual Meeting is required. While on the Council, a Representative will be expected to participate on the various committees of the Section Council, respond to Council mailings, gather required information, and keep the officers of his/her Section informed about Council business.

When is it appropriate to seek Section status?

A group seeking Section status must center around an area not currently being reasonably met or served by an existing section. It must be a significant, long term concern to MLA members. Temporary interest areas are more appropriately addressed by MLA Special Interest Groups.

Key concerns that the Section/Special Interest Group Review Committee will be considering when reviewing a petition for Section status from a group include the following:

  • Is the interest area of the petitioning group of a significant long-term concern to MLA members? Why?
  • Will the proposed Section attract enough members who will sustain and support a new Section indefinitely?
  • Is there sufficient justification that the proposed new section serves a need not being reasonably met by an existing section?

The need to create new Sections in order to respond effectively to the interests of Association members needs to be balanced with a careful review of the purposes, goals, and activities of existing Sections. In some cases, there may be better options, such as MLA Special Interest Groups, for a group rather than pursuing official MLA Section status.

A list of all current regular and provisional Sections and their purposes is included on MLANET. These existing sections receive the documentation submitted by the proposed section so that they can identify potential overlap of purpose. If any potential overlap exists, the Section/Special Interest Group Review Committee will put the two groups into contact to resolve the differences.

What are alternatives to seeking Section status?

Forming an MLA Special Interest Group is an alternative for groups which want to meet together at the annual MLA meeting to discuss areas of common interest, but which do not want to fulfill the responsibilities of being a section. See Special Interest Group guidelines.

Working within an existing MLA Section is another alternative. Many of the Sections are large, with a diverse membership. There is often room within a Section for a group to operate as a “sub-Section.” For example, a special column could be dedicated in a Sections’s newsletter to the sub-Section. Also, part of the Section’s program meeting could be devoted to a sub-Section’s interests.

What are the procedures for obtaining Section status?

Detailed explanations of the procedures for obtaining provisional Section status are below. Please read and follow these procedures carefully. The most important procedures for a group to follow are:

  1. Submission of valid petitions and responses to Form A.
  2. Working with the Section/Special Interest Group Review Committee and existing sections to resolve any potential overlap of purpose identified by either the proposed section or existing sections.
  3. Meeting all deadlines. Because the Section Council meets only once a year, missing a deadline could result in a year’s delay of action on a group’s petition.
  4. Having petition organizers present at the Section Council meeting to answer questions.

Procedures for New Section Recognition

The following procedures will be followed in the process of granting provisional Section status to an interest group. These procedures articulate the principles and procedures found in MLA Bylaws Article XI, Sections 1 and 2.

1. Section Petition Form

The process to establish a new Section in MLA starts with a petition drive. Completed petitions are sent to the Section/Special Interest Group Review Committee. To assist in the verification of signatures, use the Section Petition Form as a model.

2. Form A

After receipt of the petitions, the Chair of the Section/Special Interest Group Review Committee sends a copy of Form A to the petition organizer. This form is designed to gather information for the Council to use in its decision process. The information requested represents a codification of requirements stated or implied in MLA Bylaws Article XI, Sections 1 and 2. This form is forwarded to all members of Section Council by the Section Council Chair. All members of Section Council are required to respond on behalf of their Section so that any potential overlap may be identified and resolved.

3. Contact Between Existing Sections and Proposed Sections

The Section/Special Interest Group Review Committee will act as the liaison between existing Sections and proposed Sections, putting them in contact with each other when potential overlap of purpose has been identified by either group. Such communication functions to assist the proposed Section and existing Sections in resolving the identified potential overlap. It also provides the necessary documentation for the Section/Special Interest Group Review Committee to clearly determine that “the proposed section needs and interests cannot be met reasonably or served by an existing Chapter or Section” as stated in the MLA Bylaws Article XI, Sections 1, part B.

4. Form B

The Section/Special Interest Group Review Committee considers the petitions along with the completed Form A and any further documentation to establish the compliance of the proposed Section. To help in their consideration, members of the Committee use Form B, which is a checklist, to make certain all requirements for new Section status are fulfilled.

5. Recommendations to Council

After consideration and debate, the Committee makes its recommendation to the Section Council. This recommendation will be distributed in printed form to ensure uniformity of presentation by the Section Representatives to their respective Sections for vote.

6. Recommendations to Board

At the Annual Meeting, the Section Council will consider and debate the recommendations of the Section/Special Interest Group Review Committee. After voting, the Council forwards all petitions and supporting documentation to the Board of Directors, with recommendation for approval or disapproval and the reasons for such recommendation. It is highly desirable for one or more of the petition organizers to be present at the Council meeting in order to answer questions.

7. Results of the Board Decision

After considering a petition, the Board approves or disapproves it. In either case, the Section Council Chair notifies the proposed section of the Board’s decision. Approval of a petition by the Board shall authorize a two-year provisional status. Provisional status will be followed by permanent status, provided the terms of continued recognition are met.

8. Signatures on Petition

Petitions to form a new Section shall be signed by a minimum of fifty of the Association’s members with one exception. The Board of Directors may consider a petition with less than fifty signatures where a smaller number of members are pursuing a specific interest which may justify the formation of a new Section.

9. Deadlines

Since the Section Council meets only at the Annual Meeting, there must be sufficient time for both the Section/Special Interest Group Review Committee and the entire Section Council to react to petitions. The Section Council will use the following timetable for proposed Sections:


Date Task Responsible Party
January 1 Petition form completed Proposed Group
February 1 Form A Proposed Group
February 15 Review for completeness of application Section/SIG Review Committee Chair
February 15 Application forwarded to Section Council Chair
for distribution in regular mailing
Section/SIG Review Committee Chair
Feb/March Review of overlap Existing Sections
March Groups put into contact Section/SIG Review Committee
April Form B Section/SIG Review Committee
April/May Formal recommendation to Section Council Chair Section/SIG Review Committee Chair
MLA Annual Meeting Present formal recommendation and distribute copy Section/SIG Review Committee Chair
MLA Annual Meeting Present issue to Sections for vote Section Council Chair and Section/SIG Review Committee Chair
MLA Annual Meeting Section Council vote on issue Section Representatives
Post-MLA Meeting Board vote on issue after presentation by Section Council Chair MLA Board

10. Availability of Procedures

These procedures and accompanying Form A, Form B, and Petition Form are available to any MLA member requesting to see them.

Section Petition Form

This form initiates the process. At least 50 signatures of MLA voting members are required, except that the Board may consider a petition with fewer than 50 when a smaller number of members are pursuing a specific interest which may justify formation of a new Section.

Please use this format for gathering petitions for a proposed new Section. It will greatly aid the Section/Special Interest Group Review Committee in validating the signatures.

Petition to MLA Section Council and Board of Directors

Proposed (name) Section

We, the undersigned, as voting members of the Medical Library Association, hereby petition the Section Council and the Board of Directors for provisional recognition as a Section of the Association. The express purposes of this Section shall be…

Signature: _____________  Printed name: _____________  Membership Category (Regular/Institutional/Fellow): _________________

Form A: Questionnaire for Proposed New Section

This form presents in narrative form answers to questions concerning the future of the new Section. The completion of the questionnaire by the proposed new Section is required by the Section Council for the review process.

The following information is requested by the Section Council Section/Special Interest Group Review Committee. In addition to the required petition, this information will be used to determine the approval or disapproval of new Sections. This information does not represent new requirements for the formation and recognition of new Sections. It is merely a codification of conditions already stated in MLA Bylaws Article X, Sections 1 and 2.

Please be sure that all questions are answered completely. Incomplete or unclear information will delay action on your petition.

  1. Supply detailed information on the purpose, aims, goals, and potential activities of the proposed Section.
  2. Provide a detailed statement on the importance of the proposed Section’s topic. Include the foreseen durability of the proposed Section, the possible future status of the topic, and the contributions the proposed Section could make to the Association.
  3. Provide a detailed explanation of how the proposed Section serves a need not reasonably being met by an existing Section.
  4. Indicate the number of Association members who have signed the petition for Section status. If less than fifty members have signed, provide a detailed justification for the formation of the proposed Section.

Form B: Evaluation Sheet for Proposed Section

This form is a checklist to ensure that all the requirements for the new section are met.

1. Is the stated purpose of the proposed Section consistent with and related to purposes stated in the Association’s Bylaws? Yes No Unclear Unsure
2. Are the aims, goals, and potential activities consistent with and related to purposes stated in the Associations Bylaws? Yes No Unclear Unsure
3. At the present time, does the topic of the proposed Section have significant interest to MLA members? Yes No Unclear Unsure
4. In the future, will the topic of the proposed Section have significant interest to MLA members? Yes No Unclear Unsure
5. Does it appear that the proposed Section will have durability as an ongoing Section? Yes No Unclear Unsure
6. Does it appear that the proposed Section will make positive contributions to the Association and its members? Yes No Unclear Unsure
7. Is there sufficient justification as to why the proposed Section could not function within an already existing Section? Yes No Unclear Unsure
8. If less than 50 MLA members signed the petition, is there a compelling justification for Section status? Yes No Unclear Unsure
9. Is the name selected by the proposed Section appropriate? Yes No Unclear Unsure

Remarks (use additional pages if necessary):


Recommended Guidelines for Section Names and Purpose Statements

Section Names

When selecting a name for a Section, it is preferable to use terminology that is general enough to incorporate all aspects of a Section’s activities and purposes into as few words as possible and is consistent in form with the majority of other Sections of the same type.

Preferred: Libraries; health sciences

Less preferred: Library, resource center; health science

Section Purpose Statements

Section purpose statements should be concise, to the point, and include only information about the purpose of the Section. It is preferable to begin the statement with a phrase such as “the purpose of the Section is…”

Provisional Section Compliance Procedures

Year 1

In Compliance?

Yes — In compliance after year one

Section continues as aprovisional Section — continue to Year 2

No — Not in compliance after year one

  1. Formal Notification by Section/SIG Review Committee
    2. Follow-up by Committee in six
    3. After six months — in compliance?

Yes – In compliance after 6 months

Section continues as a provisional Section; or after year 2, Section/SIG Review Committee recommends Permanent status

No – Not in compliance after 6 months

Section/SIG Review Committee sends second notice

Year 2

In compliance?

Yes — Section/SIG Review Committee recommends permanent status


  1. Third notice from Section/SIG Review Committee requesting response before Section Council meeting
  2. Depending on response, Section/SIG Review Committee recommends permanent status or withdrawal of recognition

Fact Sheet for Groups Granted Provisional Section Status

Once a Section has been granted provisional status by the MLA Section Council/Board it is the responsibility of the Section to fulfill the following responsibilities:

  • Bylaws
    • Following granting of provisional status
  • Elect Officers
    • Chair
    • Chair-elect
    • Secretary/Treasurer
  • Promote Membership in the Section
    • For example, submit an item to the MLA News
  • Collect Dues (if desired)
  • Conduct a Program at MLA Annual Meeting
    • National Program Committee (NPC) distributes forms and gives filing dates; immediately following the MLA meeting
    • Forms to be filed are: program specification, presenter data, and preferred meeting times
  • Submit Objectives, Mid-Year and Annual Report to MLA Headquarters
    • Headquarters distributes guidelines and gives filing dates
  • Consider Establishing a Committee Structure for the Section, e.g., Nominating, Membership, and Bylaws Committees
  • Newsletter (optional)
  • Submit Annual Declaration of Section Compliance to Section Council
    • Council distributes form and gives filing date (Spring)
  • Designate a Section Member as a Nominee for the MLA Nominating Committee
    • Council distributes form and gives filing date (Spring)
  • Provide Information for the MLA Directory Immediately Following the MLA Annual Meeting
    • Headquarters distributes form and gives filing date (Fall)
  • Provide Information for Section Council Directory
    • Council distributes form and gives filing date
  • Complete form to “Gather Information to Promote Section Membership”
  • Supply Information as Requested by the Section Council. Requests are received throughout the year through mailings from the Section Council Chair to Section Representatives.
  • Develop a Section Procedures Manual

Time Required for Process

Because all petitions must pass through three decision-making bodies (Section/Special Interest Group Review Committee, Section Council, and MLA Board of Directors), significant time may pass before final action.