Conference Handbook

A. Biennial Conference Purpose

The biennial conference of the North Carolina Library Association furthers the purpose of the Association, which are to promote libraries, library and information services, and librarianship, and to champion intellectual freedom and literacy programs. It provides a forum for discussing library-related issues and opportunities for professional growth. The conference supports both formal and informal networks of libraries and librarians and helps the profession identify and resolve special concerns of minorities and women in the profession.

In addition, the biennial conference provides revenue for the Association.  Distribution of conference revenue is determined by the Executive Board upon recommendations from the Finance Committee.  The biennial conference provides opportunities for continuing education.  Programs and exhibits provide information about new concepts, new services, and new products.  Library personnel in the state have opportunities to make presentations in their areas of expertise.

The biennial conference provides opportunities for networking.  Whether participants are gathering around a snack area, waiting to talk to an exhibitor or for a meeting to start, or attending a meal function, they will meet and talk with others whom they will find interesting and helpful.

The biennial conference provides opportunities for promotion of the profession through publicity, outreach and community interest.


Pre-conferences offer opportunities for constituent and related external organizations to present topics of interest to the profession in more intensive, in-depth session than are offered during the conference.

Pre-conference activities are coordinated by the Conference Committee and pre-conference bills are paid by the conference treasurer. Profits from pre-conferences are divided as follows:

NCLA sections, committee and round tables: 25% (conference)

75% (sponsoring group)

non NCLA affiliated groups: 50% (conference)

50% (sponsoring group)

B. Conference Committee

Successful conference planning requires creativity, professionalism, thoroughness and organization, foresight, patience, and a sense of humor.  It is a rewarding challenge.

The Conference Committee has responsibility for the biennial conference and should be representative of the Association Membership of the committee should reflect the diversity of the membership in terms of types of libraries represented, employment categories, regions of the State, ethnic background, and gender of members.

The Chair of the Conference Committee, the NCLA Vice-President/President Elect, is responsible for choosing and organizing a group to plan and oversee the conference. S/he is also responsible for monitoring the work of the Conference Committee and its subcommittees while working closely with chairs of sections, round tables and committees of NCLA.

Elements of the organizational structure may include, but are not limited to, site selection, program planning, exhibits, registration, publicity, finance, placement center, hospitality, local information, tours, etc.

The Chair of the Conference Committee reports to the NCLA Executive Board on a quarterly basis. The Executive Board is responsible for approving site for future conferences and all registration rates and fees, including exhibitor fees.  The status of the conference plans and conference finances should be a part of each report by the Chair to the Executive Board.

C. Site Selection

In selecting a site for the NCLA Biennial Conferences, historically the Association looks first at the three things identified by ALA’s Chapters in a 1988 survey: meeting facilities, location and cost. To elaborate, we have to determine:

  1. Are the conference facilities contained in one easily accessible area? Do the meeting rooms meet our needs, including number and size? Is exhibit space adequate and easily accessible? Are all of the above inviting to attendees? Are all facilities fully ADA accessible?
  2.  Is the location centrally located and accessible by car to all members? Many members choose to drive to the conference for one day only. It has been forty years since NCLA met outside the Triad, the Research Triangle area or Charlotte. Will the location afford attendees safety?
  3.  Can the participants afford to attend; and will NCLA make money? The two are interrelated. Cost of meeting facilities is critical. Will the local convention bureau arrange a beneficial financial package? Are caterers reasonable and competent? Are hotel rates reasonable, will NCLA benefit from the hotel package, and will attendees stay at conference hotels? A number of attendees appreciate the option of a less expensive conference hotel.

These three major criteria will play the largest part in site selection, but in addition, the Association needs to consider, in general order of importance:

  • Historically, how easy has the local convention & visitors bureau been to work with (meaning do they ambush us with hidden costs, do they solve unforeseen needs for help and information and are all of our people treated pleasantly?) Are they flexible?
  • How much hotel space is available within easy walking distance of the conference? Attendees prefer not to drive in and park daily, and shuttle buses have not been traditionally used.
  • Are dates available which meet the Association’s needs? In recent time the Biennial Conference has been held during October or early November of odd calendar years.  Conferences begin on Wednesday morning and finish Friday afternoon, but allowances must be made for set-up and pre-conferences on Tuesday. Historically, how supportive have the local libraries been? Their cooperation is general is helpful and parties or socials sponsored by local libraries have often made past conferences more appealing.
  • Does the location offer restaurants, shopping, cultural and historical sites, libraries et. al., that attendees would care to visit?
  • Have we been equitable in locating conferences in various parts of the state? (People should not feel slighted in any instance due to the importance of the other factors listed above.)
  • Can overall costs be reduced by negotiating for more than one conference, either in conjunction with NCASL or for biennial conferences?

The Site Selection Committee for the Executive Board is appointed by the President-Elect. The committee should use as many of the above criteria as possible in preparing a list of possible sites, assigning weight to the most important while realizing that no site can meet every need.

The Site Selection Committee should begin negotiations as early as possible and offer the Executive Board a number of options early enough that they may make an informed decision without being rushed.  It is also incumbent upon the site selection committee to be aware of the recent financial health of both the conference and the association in order to pursue options best suited to the association’s financial needs.

D. Exhibits

Exhibits are an important component of each NCLA Conference. The inclusion of exhibits provides an opportunity for librarians, vendors and company representatives to meet and exchange information and concerns. In view of the increasing use of telephone contacts, these face-to-face meetings become even more important. Exhibits offer librarians a chance to examine and to evaluate new titles, products and services. In addition the fees charged to exhibit booths are a significant part of the Conference income.

The Exhibits Committee should make every effort to compile and maintain a mailing list, which includes companies whose products and services will appeal to all types of libraries and librarians. Exhibitors should include both established and emerging companies.

The selection of a decorator may, to some extent, be determined by the Conference location. Some sites will have their own decorating staff; at other sites, it will be necessary to contract with an outside decorator or exhibit service. It is important to identify a decorator who can be flexible and who will be on-site throughout the Conference. [Nothing ever goes as planned.] The decorator or the Conference site staff should be prepared to handle pre-Conference shipment and to assist with shipping when exhibits close.

Booth layout will be planned by the decorator and may be influenced by the exhibit facility’s structural features. Booths should be one standard size but should allow for doubling or tripling

Booth assignments are made by the Exhibits chair as the reservation payment is received. Companies who respond early are usually assigned the choice locations. Traditionally, the Exhibits Committee has tried to avoid placing competitors in near-by booths.

The exhibit hall layout and a list of exhibitors should be included in the Conference materials. Each booth should include signs with the company name and the booth number. Booth numbers are crucial and should probably be a separate sign since some exhibitors will use their own company banners. The layout, an exhibitor list, and booth signs make it possible to find companies with a minimum of confusion and inconvenience. All representatives should have standard Conference name tags provided by the Registration committee.

Because many companies will be using expensive equipment, security and equipment are important concerns – both for the exhibitors and the Association. The exhibit hall should be secure (guarded, if necessary) 24 hours a day and either the Conference facility or the Association should have adequate insurance coverage in effect.

The primary concern in planning exhibits should be bringing librarians and vendors together. Unfortunately, the scheduling of the Conference programs rarely allows free time to visit the exhibits. Therefore, plans should be made which will encourage visits to the exhibit hall. Extended hours on the first day of exhibits provide a good opportunity to browse when there are no other scheduled programs or meetings. Serving early morning coffee or afternoon soft drinks in the exhibit hall is another way to encourage people to attend the exhibits.

Exhibit passes should be available for people who are not registered for the Conference. Allowing the public to attend exhibits provides an excellent opportunity for out-reach and publicity.

E.   Finances/Conference Treasurer

The conference treasurer has two major responsibilities with respect to the biennial conference: budgeting and general accounting.

The budget process is a function based on historical information from past conferences, which provides a plan of spending for each area of conference responsibility. It is a basic financial blue print from which local arrangements, the placement center, exhibits, etc., are able to plan their specific areas of the conference with the amount of dollars available.

The purpose of the general accounting function is to inform the various planning participants about their progress relating to the initial budget and to inform the Board of NCLA, through the NCLA treasurer, whether the conference is projected and/or has been a financial success. General accounting functions should be conducted according to general accounting principles.

A further purpose of general accounting is to keep the NCLA treasure informed regarding revenues and expenditure for purposes of reporting this information within the organization’s tax return and financial statements, which are audited.

F. Program

The Program Committee for the NCLA Biennial Conference is responsible for planning the three General Sessions as well as working with the NCLA Biennial Conference program planners designated by the various NCLA committees, round tables and sections. The Chair of the Program Committee is a member of the Executive Board of the Conference Committee

Programs are planned with the needs of the NCLA membership foremost, but also to attract non-NCLA affiliated groups with an educational focus.

The Program Chair must make all contacts with the program planners of all NCLA committees, round tables and sections. A list of these is located in the NCLA Handbook

Non-NCLA affiliated groups which have been included in the past are the North Carolina Writers’ Network and the Friends of the North Carolina Public Libraries. The Program Chair should include other groups as identified. Increasingly, there has been a demand for meeting rooms and time slots for users’ groups of major bibliographic utilities and integrative automated library systems, many of who may not be NCLA members. The Program Chair should work with the Registration and Conference Committees to determine registration fees or waivers for these non-NCLA affiliated groups and individuals.

The Program Subcommittee is appointed by the Chair of the Conference Committee.  Membership of the Program Subcommittee is representative of the NCLA membership at large and as such should include academic, public, and school librarians as well as library educators. The Program Subcommittee selects the speakers for and determines the format of the three General Sessions subject to overall approval of the Conference Committee.  As much as possible, the Program Subcommittee will select speakers who an address some aspect of the Conference theme.

The Chair of the Program Committee works in especially close contact with the Chairs of the following committees: Publicity, Registration, and Local Arrangements. As soon as the Chair of the Program Committee determines the formats and times of the General Sessions and receives plans from the program planners of the various NCLA committees, round tables and sections, this information is passed on to the Chairs of the aforementioned committees.

Program planners for the various NCLA committees, round tables, and sections look to the Chair of the Program committee for leadership in terms of general ideas and suggestions for speakers, size and arrangement of meeting rooms, food and refreshments and time slots and length of time for sessions. The Chair of the Program committee facilitates the planning of jointly sponsored sessions and encourages informal as well as formal sessions. Although not responsible for making hotel reservations for speakers other than the General Session speakers; the Chair of the Program Committee should remind individual program planners to make hotel reservations for speakers for their programs. Based on the anticipated audience and estimated attendance, program planners communicate to the Chair of the Program Committee specific instructions regarding the room setup arrangement desired and audiovisual and electrical setup required. Table talks are defined as informal sessions, which may be repeated, and are designed for discussing various issues of interest among no more than 15 people. Audiovisual and electrical setups have not traditionally been provided for table talks because of the expense involved and the fact that, since large areas are often sectioned off to accommodate multiple table talks, noise can be a distraction when audiovisuals are used.

A General Session is planned for every day of the Conference, which traditionally has been held from Wednesday through Friday, with pre-conference events and early registration occurring on the preceding Tuesday. One of the three General Sessions is designated the Ogilvie Lecture in honor of Phillip Ogilvie, former NC State Librarian. The Ogilvie Lecture addresses the professional issues in librarianship. The third General Session, sometimes occurring in conjunction with the NCLA Conference Luncheon held on the final day of the Conference, is usually recreational rather than instructive. The formats of the General Sessions may vary according to the content of the information to be shared, including, but not limited to lectures, panels, skits, musical performances and slide shows.

Speakers who are librarians and educators usually require the reimbursement of travel and lodging expense. In cases where there is no set speaker’s fee, a modest honorarium of $300 - $500 is appropriate, particularly for non-NCLA members. The Program Chair will make every attempt to accommodate schedules of speakers for both the General Sessions and the individual programs.  Although speakers for the General Sessions may also be obtained through contact with various speakers’ bureaus, prices for non-librarian speakers range from $3,000-$10,000 plus reimbursement of travel and lodging expenses.

Serving as the advocate for financial support NCLA Conference program planners, the Chair of the Conference Program Committee is a member of the NCLA Finance Committee during the year proceeding the Biennial Conference and as such attends regularly scheduled and called meetings of NCLA Finance Committee. The Chair of the Conference Program Committee serves as liaison from the Executive Board and in this capacity gives updates on funding decisions regarding Conferences programming.

G. Conference Registration

The purpose of conference registration is to handle pre-registration and registration of delegates to the conference. The focus of the committee should be on the provision of effective ad professional customer service with a consideration of the best use of volunteer professionals’ time and cost effectiveness.

Responsibilities of the conference registration committee are:

  • To provide a clear format by which conference attendees may pre-register for pre-conferences, conference and special events or register on site at the conference.
  • To expedite the pre-conference registration, conference pre-registration, and conference registration processes which include the production of name tags, tickets for special effects and receipts to make the best use of volunteer professionals’ time and meet deadlines for completion. In 1991, a computer program was written specifically to process NCLA conference pre-registration and registration data and to print nametags, tickets, financial reports and other reports.  Before use each biennium, the program must be updated to reflect new registration information, meal functions, and costs. Decisions to otherwise update the software to make the program generate additional information should include the consideration of the cost to location and mobility of the computer system on which the pre-registration/registration program is loaded so that members of the pre-registration committee can give maximum assistance to the chair in the entry of pre-registration data and so that work can be done on the program at the conference after registration desk hours.
  • To develop procedures, establish a convenient location and hours of operation, and provide adequate volunteer staff to distribute pre-registration materials and register delegates on site at the conference. Volunteers who are recruited from various kinds of libraries are more likely to sign up to work needed days and times at the registration desk. Before the conference a decision must be made whether or not to have a single or multi-station network to register patrons on site. One must consider the level of customer service desired (e.g. relative amount of time when a number of people are registering at the same time) versus the cost of renting and programming a multi-station network when making this decision.
  • To provide a mechanism for the collection of outstanding monies and/or provide refunds at the time the delegate requests registration materials from the registration desk. During the 1991 and 1993 biennial conferences, the conference treasurer sat at the registration desk to handle the collection or refund of monies.
  • To provide verification of NCLA membership and/or the opportunity to conveniently join NCLA at the conference. The NCLA administrative assistant has been traditionally stationed at or near the registration desk to answer questions regarding membership and registration fees and to recruit new or renewing members.
  • To provide accurate and detailed financial accounting of money transactions o the conference treasurer.(Generated by the aforementioned computer program in 1991 and 1993.)
  • To provide an accurate and detailed account of the number of delegate who pre-registered or registered by type (member, non-member, library school student, vendor guest, speaker) and by day to the Conference Chairperson.(Generated by the aforementioned computer program in 1991 and 1993.)
  • To provide an account of the number of delegates registered for special meal functions to the Conference Chairperson and the Local Arrangements Committee.(Generated by the aforementioned computer program in 1991 and 1993.)

All registration rates and fees are approved by the NCLA Executive Board. The Chair of the Conference Committee establishes policy regarding which speakers, guests, etc. do not pay fees to attend the conference.

The Registration Chairperson works with the Publications Chairperson to design an appropriate pre-registration form and name tag to enhance the theme of the conference. The Registration Chairperson interacts with the Program Committee Chair to identify special events to be placed on the pre-registration form and with the Local Arrangements Committee Chair to arrange adequate and convenient registration facilities at the conference.

H. Local Arrangements

The planning done by the Local Arrangements Committee will be essential for a successful conference. Therefore, it is imperative that good lines of communication be established among the committee chair, sections and round tables.

The Local Arrangements Committee has responsibility for making all arrangements pertinent to the selected site. The Local Arrangements Committee has responsibility to make room and space assignments, to make provisions for audiovisual equipment, to investigate all conference liabilities, to arrange all meal functions, to make decorative decisions, to provide hospitality, to arrange tours, to make room assignments for speakers, to arrange transportation for speakers, to handle any special needs as stated by the ADA, and to provide requested entertainment. It is also necessary that all deadlines be strictly adhered to.

The Chair of the Local Arrangements Committee is responsible for choosing and organizing a group to oversee the various responsibilities for local arrangements. The Chair of the Local Arrangements Committee should be a local person. The Chair of the Local Arrangements Committee will work closely with all other committee chairs.

The Chair of the Local Arrangements Committee reports to the Chair of the Conference Committee

Listed below are the specific responsibilities of the Local Arrangement Committee:

  • All arrangements for flowers should be made through this committee. All meal functions should be handled by this committee.
  • Reasonable deadlines for guest speaker room arrangements should be handled by this committee.
  • All room assignments for sessions, table talks, etc. will be handled by this committe
  • This committee should investigate all conference liabilities.
  • All arrangements for special entertainment should be made through this committee.
  • The conference will provide traditional equipment; specialized equipment such as modems, video projectors, etc. will be provided but at the rental expense charged back to the section.
  • Special needs request such as signing for sessions; food allergies, etc. will be handled to the extent which is possible.
  • General session equipment will be provided by the conference.
  • Equipment will be rented from local companies. School may no longer be able to provide equipment.
  • During the conference, walkie-talkies should be provided for some members of this committee.
  • Hotel and motel room assignments should be handled by the local housing authority.
  • It is our policy to provide specialized services (babysitting charged back to the recipient of the service; specialized transportation) in as much as possible.
  • This committee should develop a checklist of all costs of room setup.
  • One month prior to the conference, this committee should send to each session chairperson a confirmation of what is expected in the way of equipment, room size, etc. for the session presentation. The chairperson should respond to make any corrections.
  • This committee should look into the possibility of a communications center (internet) with a charge to the users.
  • This committee should have a preliminary budget in hand and adhere to it.This committee should provide services of traffic control in the exhibits area on the opening and closing days of the conference, the security for the exhibit area, and safety and security for the conference participants.


I. Publicity/Publications Committee

The most obvious and immediate purpose of the Publicity Committee is to promote the conference and convey all of the details so that NCLA members and supporters will choose to register for the conference. However, as with any publicity effort, there must also be an awareness that we are promoting and building a certain image of the organization. In that sense the impact of the conference publicity is subtle and cannot be measured merely by the conference registration statistics.

The single most significant issue for this committee is the determination of the conference theme. The president, in conjunction with the conference committee, will develop a theme for the conference.

The publicity must express and interpret the theme. Consequently, the Publicity Committee cannot really begin its work until the theme is selected. Thus, it is very important that the theme be chosen several months in advance of publicity target dates, so that the committee and graphic artists have plenty of time to develop a logo, advertising and other promotional materials.

In 1993, after we selected the theme, we held a logo contest to get the best artistic interpretation of the theme.

The publicity needs to stress the significance of the biennial conference to the members. It must also make them think that it will be fun. The challenge is creating a conference image that both implies continuing education and late night parties with wine and cheese.

Since the conference publications are the final repository for all the conference information, the Publicity Committee works very closely with all of the other committees.

When choosing committee members, it is wise to look for the following skills and talents:  marketing instincts, graphic skills, attentiveness to details and deadlines, understanding of the complexities of the NCLA organization, bookkeeping (for the conference store), understanding of printing techniques. Obviously, no one person possesses all of these, but the committee needs to have a variety of members.  It would be preferable that the committee chair have secretarial support, a fax machine, modem, software that is compatible with the other committee chair and compatible with the graphic designer and printer.

The basic tasks of the committee are:

  • Pre-conference Publicity This includes announcements in professional journals, announcements to exhibitors and use of e-mail/listservs.
  • Pre-registration Packet The goal of the packet are (1) To promote the conference by providing information about the programs, speakers, workshops, meetings, exhibitors, etc. (2) To provide details about registration.
  • In 1993, the committee chose to compile all of the program information into a booklet, rather than sending out a stack of flyers produced by the various committees, sections and round tables. The booklet looked more professional and it was easier to use. The trade-off was that individual sponsors did not have the opportunity to design their own publicity, unless they mail an additional piece out.(In 1993 many committees did choose to mail out something and it was felt that these extra mailings helped to boost enthusiasm for the conference.)
  • The other important piece in the pre-registration packet is the information about registration and lodging. The major challenge is to make the information clear so that people will quickly send in their registration form.
  • One other key element in this packet is the information conference participants will need to find their way to the conference site, find their hotels, parking, etc. Whether they pre-register or not, they do not receive any other mailings, so this packet contains everything they might need to register for the conference.
  • Conference Program   This piece expresses the theme, describes every single conference activity, provide information about time and place of all activities.   It also serves s a history of the biennium as well as a general promotional piece for the organization and for the exhibitors.   Since it functions as a guidebook and calendar for nearly two thousand people for four days it must be a convenient format.   For this reason, in 1993 we chose to pare it down to the most essential information, so that it would not be bulky or confusing.

Other responsibilities of the committee are:

  • Dealing with the media prior to and at the conference. Unfortunately, this is usually shortchanged because of all of the other responsibilities.
  • Conference Store: This involves ordering merchandise, keeping up with inventory and bookkeeping, setting up and staffing the booth at the store. In 1993, we ordered several things with NCLA logos, but we chose not to buy anything that could not be sold at future conferences.
  • Signs at the Conference: These are the signs that are posted outside of meeting rooms and banners for the general sessions. Also, the committee is responsible for signs in the exhibit hall. In 1993, we chose to create signs for the meeting rooms that listed all of the events that would take place in that room on each day, rather than individual signs regarding each program. This saved printing money and it avoided the hassle of having to post signs for every conference session.
  • Name tags: This is handled by the Registration Committee and Publicity Committee. Since the registration software allows us to design and generate the nametags, the main responsibility of the Publicity Committee is to order appropriate supplies.


J. Conference Placement Center


The North Carolina Library Association provides placement facilities at its Biennial Conference. These facilities are intended to provide an opportunity for conferees to review information about job openings, make applications to these openings, and interview for employment to representatives. In addition, it allows employers who are seeking individuals for employment to review resumes from individuals who are seeking employment, and to interview those who meet the requirements for the job. Facilities are made available at no cost to the users.

The Chair of the Placement Center is responsible for choosing members to work with plans and to staff the Center during the conference. Representation should include academic, public, school, special libraries, and library school students. Contact is made with other chairs of the Conference and Association Committees.


  1. Employers should make every effort to list positions ten days before the conference. Announcements are accepted at the conference.
  2. Employers should interview individuals for only those positions which actually exist and are listed with the placement center. If an employer is recruiting for a position which is not yet authorized and/or funded, notice to this effect should be given on the job order and during the interview.
  3. Interviews should be conducted in private and without interruptions.
  4. Employers should check the message center frequently and acknowledge all messages.
  5. Employers who are not interviewing should state on the job order where resumes may be sent.


  1. Applicants should provide as complete a resume as possible.
  2. Applicants should not interview for positions unless they have a resume on file with the placement center.
  3.  Applicants should be prepared to provide an employer with copies of resume and names and addresses of references.
  4. Applicants should check the message center frequently and acknowledge all messages.
  5. Applicants should make every effort to submit resumes prior to the deadline. Resumes are accepted at the conference.

Web site

The conference Web site is at:

Policy on Releasing Conference Attendee List

There will be a check box on both membership form and conference registration to indicate release ore non-release of contact information.

Two lists will be sent out free to corporate vendors who register as exhibitors for conference and request a list.  These two lists will be of the attendees before and after conference.

There will be a charge for non-registered vendors for lists in excess of two at the discretion of the Executive Board.