Running successful Standing Committee meetings

Guidance for Standing Committee Officers


This guide helps Standing Committee Officers to understand the process of running a successful Section.  We focus on how Standing Committee members should work together and the importance of high-quality meetings.

Roles and responsibilities of Standing Committees (SCs)

The IFLA Rules of Procedure set out what is expected of the Standing Committee and all Officers should be aware of them.

The Sections are the main focus of specialist professional activity in IFLA.  Standing Committees are expected to facilitate active dialogue with their Section Members (those IFLA Members who choose to register for that Section).  

Members of a Standing Committee are elected in a personal capacity and should contribute to the work through ongoing activities or projects.  They do not represent the view of an IFLA Member.  See full details of their roles and responsibilities.

How to get started and to involve your membership

Sections comprise two kinds of members:

  1. members of the Standing Committee identified through an election every two years [we'll call these SC members].
  2. IFLA Members and Affiliates that register for the Section each year when they pay their membership dues [we'll call these Section Members].

Discussion and network connections are one of the reasons many organizations join IFLA; see the list of Membership benefits that are highlighted for new Members.

Use an IFLA mailing list, Section Facebook page, or other online forum to prompt discussion amongst Section Members. You are responsible for ensuring that these discussion forums are regularly used by proactively prompting discussion.

You should regularly attempt to define your Section Members’ needs and how IFLA can uniquely meet those needs.  To communicate what you are doing, write an action plan which includes the longer term objectives as well as the details of the projects and activities that you will work on during the year. Keep your Section Members informed about progress on your action plan and involve them if possible in drawing up a new one. 

You can set up working groups to carry out work for the Standing Committee.  These can include Section Members and SC members, as well as others outside the Section membership with specific skills.

The planning of a programme session at the Annual Congress (WLIC) is one way to attract a wide range of people in discussions and to disseminate ideas but it should not be the only activity that a Section Standing Committee organizes. To maximize impact of such a programme session, Sections should disseminate a summary of the outcomes and incorporate these in post-Congress activities. Each year, Sections should consider what sort of activities they will run at the following Congress and these might include more practical discussion sessions to obtain feedback and input.

Keeping in touch during the year

Based on your action plan, SC members can decide how to work together: whether to hold physical or virtual meetings during the year or collaborate virtually, or a mixture of both. Officers should stay in regular contact with all SC members to track and report progress, discuss key issues, request input to projects and finalize pieces of work.

There are some tips for communicating with your SC members or project group during the year.

Mid-term meetings and other meetings during the year (in persron or virtual)

It is good practice to convene a meeting of some kind between Congresses to keep things moving.  February is often a good time to do this as it is halfway through the IFLA year (the so-called ‘mid-term meeting’) and means you can prepare and finalize any input you wish to submit to the Professional Committee which meets in April.

A Standing Committee meeting that is not part of the WLIC is either convened by the Chair or is requested by at least five SC members. A quorum is more than half the SC members so, if a quorum is not present at the meeting, then the other SC members should be consulted by email or some other means.

Who can participate in a Section meeting?

SC Meetings are in general open and you can also consider proactively inviting representatives from among your Section Members to bring in their ideas.

For more information about who may attend, see the IFLA Rules of Procedure (7.4). 

It is possible for specific items to be discussed under closed conditions, as set out in the IFLA Rules of Procedure (see R7.6-7.10).

To ensure that as many people as possible are aware of a Standing Committee meeting taking place, and can therefore submit questions or ideas for the agenda, make an event announcement on your Section’s webpage.  Anyone outside the Standing Committee can then contact the Chair if they wish to participate, or can propose an item for discussion. After the meeting, create a news item to publicize the main outcomes of the meeting (whether these are full minutes, a summary, or reports on progress).

Preparing a meeting agenda

The Officers should prepare a draft agenda and share it with SC members and Section Members (and ideally also make it public) in advance of the meeting. We provide a suggested agenda for the August SC meetings as an example.

For meetings held outside the WLIC, it is useful to find out in advance who will attend so the agenda can be adjusted to take account of this. 

Prioritizing items and reducing discussion time

It can be useful for the Officers to estimate in advance the amount of time needed for each item, so you can manage the meeting effectively.  If it might over-run the time available, think about prioritizing items and identifying which items could be addressed through a written report that can be shared before or after the meeting.

It is sometimes difficult to brainstorm ideas and work on details with a large group of people in a meeting. Use individuals or working groups to come up with ideas and draft proposals before the meeting so that there is a starting point for the discussion and SC members can focus on the items that need decisions.

Use virtual communication (email or Basecamp, for example) between meetings as much as possible.

  • Focus discussion on items that cannot be dealt with outside the meeting time.
  • Keep administrative items brief. Instead, the main part of the meeting should focus on the Section’s action plan, and activities.
  • Make sure you take time every so often to think about your longer-term priorities and planning.  
  • Don't let events-planning dominate the meeting.

During the meeting

It is the Chair's responsibility to ensure the meeting is effective, that everyone has the opportunity to contribute and express an opinion, and that everyone leaves with a clear understanding about what has been agreed and who is responsible for carrying out any actions. The Secretary should keep notes during the meeting to record agreements, actions and responsibilities.

At the start of the meeting, ensure that:

  • all SC members have seen and agree to the agenda. If anyone has any new items they wish to add, decide when these will be discussed.
  • everyone knows who is who, any guests are identified, and it is clear who may speak and when.
  • everyone understands in advance what should be the focus of the meeting and that you might cut short an item if time is running out.
  • all SC members know they are expected to contribute to activities and projects and the work should not fall on a few individuals.
  • everyone is aware that the Secretary is taking notes and will share these with the SC members after the meeting.

At the end of the meeting ensure that:

  • the SC members know how and when they should report on progress.
  • the Secretary has all the notes they need to record the decisions from the meeting.
  • there are no outstanding items. If so, make a plan by which these can be addressed after the meeting.
  • it is clear when the next meeting will take place.

After the meeting

A list of actions and responsibilities from the meeting is important. Perhaps more important is that you follow up and ensure there is progress in carrying out these actions.

The notes and actions should be written up by the Secretary and circulated to all SC members ideally within a few days of the meeting. Everyone should have a chance to make corrections. At the same time, update your action plan and circulate it to SC members.

It is not necessary to share detailed minutes of the meeting with Section Members but you should give them an update of the meeting in some form, along with any project progress reports. You should also provide a brief and public report of your meeting on your Section web pages.

Your action plan can be shared on Basecamp or Google Doc, for example, so that each individual can regularly and briefly report on progress by typing a few sentences into the document. Keep projects moving during the year by requesting at least quarterly updates and think about convening a virtual meeting (as mentioned above) to stay in touch.

standing committees, SC meetings, agenda, Officers

Last update: 31 January 2017