BCLA Perspectives

Getting involved with BCLA

From the editors: We asked 2019/2020 President Chris Middlemass about how to get involved in the BCLA. She shares her experience, explains the different BCLA divisions, and gives insight to joining the BCLA Board of Directors.

My biggest regret?  Not getting involved with BCLA earlier in my career.  I graduated when there were few jobs, and whatever you landed tended to define your career.  I took all the courses on different library sectors, but ended up as a lifer at the Vancouver Public Library.  I’ve had fantastic opportunities through the years at VPL, as public libraries evolved, but I lost contact with other sectors.

I jumped head first into the deep end in an elected Board position of Conference Chair. I was recruited by someone who had served on the Board–in the days before websites it was hard to get the word out and recruit fresh blood. The position was two years, the first year you developed the program for the conference, and then chaired the conference the following year. (This position doesn’t exist now.) I worked with other people from different sectors, and found it a most rewarding experience, especially as it helped to round out my knowledge of library practice beyond my day job in public libraries.  

I’ve held other positions and worked as a volunteer with the conference.  I’ve built a fantastic network of folks in a variety of libraries, archives, and related organizations.


BCLA members find opportunities to explore their interests through the Association’s Sections, Committees, and Interest Groups (SCIGs). SCIGs represent some of the most current thinking and debate on overarching library issues. BCLA encourages member participation in SCIGs to compliment experiences in the work environment, provide perspectives and opinions on diverse subjects, and add to the diversity and strength of the Association. – Divisions

Getting involved with any of the sections, committees and interest groups is a great way to grow your professional network, and to expand your knowledge of other sectors, or take a deep dive into a specific topic of interest.

Our Association Divisions are comprised of Sections, Working Groups, Committees and Interest Groups.

Sections represent a minimum of 10% of the Association membership. Sections are formally constituted and will have elected officers, constitutions, bylaws, and annual meetings.  A representative of the Section sits on the BCLA Board of Directors.

Current sections are:

  • BC Academic Libraries
  • Library Technicians and Assistants
  • Young Adults and Children (Find out more in this issue!)

Committees and Interest Groups allow members of the Association to connect over a common interest in some aspect of library service that is not represented in the formal structure of BCLA.  The members of the group may decide whether to be called a committee or an interest group. The group will select a Convenor, and the BCLA President and Executive Director are ex-officio members of the group. The Convenors of Committees and Interest Groups provide advice to the Directors and the Executive Director and assist them generally. They attend meetings of the Directors when requested, and perform such other duties as may be entrusted to them.

Current committees and interest groups:

  • Accessibility Interest Group
  • Cataloguing & Technical Services Interest Group
  • Continuing Education Committee
  • Community-Led Interest Group
  • First Nations Interest Group
  • Intellectual Freedom Committee
  • Information Policy Committee
  • Libraries Across Borders Interest Group
  • Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Interest Group (Join the fun!)
  • Mentorship Committee
  • Multicultural Services Committee
  • Public Libraries Interest Group
  • Readers’ Advisory Interest Group (Help save this group!)

Special committees or working groups are established as needed by the Board to address specific topics, and are not ongoing groups.


Anyone can put their name forward for a Board position. The Nominations Committee prepares a slate but encourages nominations from the membership as well. We try to balance, for example, between academic and public sector representations. A nominee must be a member of BCLA and be nominated by three other members of the Association. When the Nominations Committee proposes a slate, they also open a call for additional candidates.  

If you are interested in a role on the Board, chatting with someone who has served is a great start.  They can give you a sense of the type and volume of work, and the time commitment. There are an average of four full Board meetings per year, more as required.  Plus additional meetings for the “table” officers, or the Executive: President, President Elect, Past President, Secretary, Treasurer Elect and Treasurer. Many meetings are by phone.  Board members may participate in working groups tasked with drafting new policies, procedures and proposals for consideration by the Board, and ultimately the membership. Employers generally like to support participation in the profession and recognize the development value to you, the employee. However, an employer likes to know the potential impact on your work and benefit to the organization.  It is a good idea to have the facts in hand and get support from your employer for your volunteer activities where they may impact your “day job.”


Word of mouth and relationships are helpful for getting your name out there–if you know anyone on the Board or another position, let them know your interest. I believe that for someone new to the profession, getting involved through the interest groups is the way to build their “brand.”  Also volunteering at the conference.

For new grads, checking out the mentoring program is a good way to start. Also, choosing one of the interest groups that represents an area where they could build some expertise outside of their day job is a great idea. It sometimes is hard to do a cold call, but contacting the chair or convenor to express their interest is the best way to get a sense of whether this group is for you.

So, in a way, getting to the BCLA Board is through your activities as a volunteer and the relationships you build.