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Andrea Schurr's picture

How to present RUSA/STARS Preconference



Preconferences are held at the beginning of the ALA Annual Conference each year.  They do not receive financial support from ALA and are meant to be self-supporting.   This document is designed to lead you through the process for presenting a successful preconference.

Getting Started

Preconference program proposals must be submitted to the RUSA Conference Program Coordinating Committee 18 months in advance of the program, so you will need to get started early, usually 2 years in advance.  Often a section committee will have several ideas for a preconference and will debate the merits of each.  You should consider the following points:

  • Is the topic relevant to members of ALA and RUSA?  Is it current?
  • Will the program appeal to enough conferees to ensure a substantial audience?
  • Will the cost of the program fit within the budgets constraints of ALA and RUSA?
  • Has a similar program been done recently?  Will this program bring anything new to the discussion?
  • Is the program appropriate for a preconference or would another venue be more suitable?
  • Is the title descriptive?  Can a potential attendee tell what the program is about by looking at the title?
  • Who are potential speakers for the preconference?
  • You will want to appoint a preconference planning committee with a chair to organize and run the preconference.

Writing a Preconference Description

When writing or editing preliminary program copy, remember that you are writing copy to market a product. You must not only provide the required information, but also present it convincingly. Write the copy as if you had to justify program attendance to your boss.

The copy should answer the following questions:

  • Who should attend?
  • Why is the topic important?
  • What will program attendees gain to help them do their jobs better?
  • What bonus information will attendees gain? Are there special hand-outs or freebies?
  • Who will be giving the program and what are their credentials?
  • How will the program be conducted? (panel, speakers, small group interaction)
  • Is advance registration required? What are the fees?
  • When is the program?
  • Where is the program? (If it is off-site or requires advance arrangements, say so.)

After writing or editing the copy, read it aloud or show it to someone else. Does it interest you? Would you want to attend the program after reading the copy? Did you leave anything out?

When writing copy, remember:

  • Place the most important information first.
  • More is not necessarily better. Nothing is more intimidating to a reader than a long, jargon-filled description. Keep it simple. Keep it short.
  • Use the active, not passive voice.
  • Write your copy and then rewrite it, edit out words and phrases that contribute nothing.


  • Announce the preconference on the appropriate listservs, including local listservs in the conference city.
  • Remember that people who live close to the conference site may not usally attend ALA but may want to attend the preconference.
  • Consider using social media and wikis, such as ShareILL.
  • Consider passing out advertisements at ALA Midwinter events prior to the preconference.  Circulate information at other library oriented events as well.
  • If you have corporate sponsors, consider asking them to publicize the preconference on their websites or listservs.
  • Ask the STARS webmaster to include information on the STARS website.
  • Request that the event be added to the American Libraries Calendar of Events online.
  • Work with RUSA staff to write a press release.
  • Remember to begin your publicity far enough in advance of ALA Annual so possible attendees can make their travel plans.

Calendar of tasks for preconference subcommittee

Once you have settled on a topic, a title, and potential speakers it’s time to get to work.   Following is a calendar to guide the committee in its work:

  • Annual Conference 2 years prior to preconference
    •  Identify topic and title, appoint committee.
    • Consider potential cosponsors, corporate sponsors, and budget.  Remember that you must get approval from RUSA to contact any coporate sponsors.
    • Notify the STARS Excutive Committe as soon as possible that you are considering a preconference and get preliminary approval.
  • After Annual Conference
    • Contact potential speakers to see if they are interested.
    • Committee Chair submits proposal to RUSA Office no later than the following January 1st.
  • Midwinter Meeting 18 months prior to preconference
    • Stars Executive Committee approves the proposal. 
    • RUSA Program Coordinating Committee evaluates proposal and submits it to the RUSA Board with a recommendation.
    • Committee continues to work on preconference planning.
  • Annual Conference 12 months prior to preconference
    • Committee continues planning for preconference, including speakers, handouts, evaluation forms, cosponsors and corporate sponsors.
    • Committee reviews budget and publicity.
    • If event is to be catered, consider getting support from a coporate sponsor.
  • July prior to preconference
    • Committee Chair submits the Preconference Workshop Program Form online.
    • RUSA staff finalizes budget.
  • August prior to preconference
    • Preconference chair submits the proposal to the RUSA Publications Committee if the proceeding will be published.
  • September prior to preconference
    • Preconference chair confirms arrangements with speakers
    • Preconference chair submits list of sponsors for approval
    • Preconference chair submits information to RUSA for news releases.
    • RUSA staff submits meeting request form by October 1 with room size/layout and orders AV equipment.
  • November prior to preconference
    • Preconference chair confirms sponsor funding.
    • Preconference planning committee starts publicizing the event so that potential attendees know about it when they make conference hotel reservations.
    • If there will be a publication submit copy to the RUSA Publications Committee.
  • Midwinter Meeting 6 months prior to preconference
    • Committee reviews details for the preconference.
    • Preconference chair submits preliminary program copy information.
  • March prior to preconference
    • Preconference chair submits final program copy.
  • April prior to preconference
    • Preconference chair sends handout to RUSA staff for reproduction including evaluation forms.
    • Confirm that the registration list, nametags (if provided) and other materials will be available.
    • Preconference chair submits list on non-registered participants (speakers, committee).  Make sure you have alloted for them in your budget.
    • RUSA notifies Chair of final head count and catering arrangements.
    • Make sure speakers have a copy of the agenda, PowerPoint presentations are ready to be loaded on computer, etc.
  • Annual Conference when preconference is held
    • Preconference planning committee arrives early to check setup and greet speakers.
    • Preconference committee staffs registration table, keeps time for speakers, helps with Q&A sessions, hands out and collects evaluations, and in general makes sure everything goes as smoothly as possible.
  • July after preconference
    • Preconference chair completes publications.
    • Preconference chair submits requests for reimbursement.
    • Preconference chair submits evaluation of program to RUSA.
    • Make sure speakers get thank you letters.


As noted earlier, preconferences do not receive financial support from ALA and are meant to be self-supporting.  The RUSA Executive Director must give final approval to both the budget and the registration fee, and no registration fees should be publicized until this approval has been given.  Please note that only official members of the preconference planning committee may attend the preconference at no charge.  Following are some items to consider when planning your budget and registration fees:

  • Corporate Sponsorship
    • Can be asked to support program or catering costs.
    • Must be approved by the ALA Development Office and be registered as Exhibitors for the Conference.
  • Printing
    • Publicity, registration, handouts, name tags, etc.
  • Postage
    • Publicity, registration confirmation, and other correspondence.
  • AV and computer equipment.
  • Speaker Expense
    • Usually limited to non-librarian speakers.
    • Estimated expenses are $200/day for hotel, $40/day for meals, and $450/day for transportation.
    • Check with the RUSA office for the most recent guidelines on reimbursing speakers.
  • Meeting space rental if not held at a conference hotel or the convention center.
  • Expenses for free registrants, including speakers/presenters and planning committee members
    • Meals, registration packets, badges, etc.
  • Catering
    • Breaks, meals, coffee, etc.
  • ALA Overhead
    • Cost is set annually by ALA and averages 20%, although it could be higher.
  • RUSA Office Expenses
    • Photocopying, faxing, and postage will be charged to the preconference.


You may ask another ALA unit or committee or outside organization to cosponsor a RUSA/STARS preconference.  The request must be reviewed by the Conference Program Coordinating Committee and then submitted to the RUSA Board of Directors for approval.   If the cosponsor is part of a RUSA Section, the Executive Committee must give approval.  Otherwise, the approval decision rest with the cosponsor.

RUSA links

  • RUSA Guide (and calendar) to meetings,programs, preconferences and workshops  (information on budgets and funding is available here)
  • RUSA Preconference/workshop proposal
  • RUSA Program Proposal Form
  • RUSA program evaluation form
  • Other Topics to Cover in This Document

    • Logistics such as: Table and technology setups should reflect the nature of the preconference.
    • Possible review of final agenda by exec before the preconference - these events reflect on STARS as an organization.
    • What is a preconference?  General guidelines for types of activities, learning outcomes, etc.
    Geneva Holliday's picture

    STARS Exec needs to know ASAP if a committee is thinking about proposing a program and needs to approve the actual program proposal before it goes forward to the RUSA Conference Program Coordinating Committee




    Geneva R. Holliday
    ghollida at email.unc.edu
    Head of Interlibrary Services
    University Library
    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

    Andrea Schurr's picture

    Since STARS Exec is actually the body that puts forward any preconference (and program) proposals, should we alter the RUSA forms such that the proposing committee provides all information necessary to pass along to RUSA, but it is clear that the form is submitted electronically to STARS Exec (not RUSA)?  Then, someone on exec could copy and paste the information into the official RUSA form for submission of any approved preconferences - or, we could create an automated system for doing so. 

    Kenneth Carriveau's picture

    I think Andrea's suggestion is good. It would be nice if ALA Connect had something akin to Google Docs that we could use to create the form and collect the data. The spreadsheet could be shared with whomever needed it, and could be exported/merged into the proper RUSA forms for approval at that level.