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Conference Manual

Compiled by Barbara Cox, 1985,
Second edition by Linda Newman, 1990
Updated by: Sylvia Bender (1994), Linda Zellmer (2000), Julie Sweetkind-Singer (2006), Katherine Rankin (2008).


Traditionally, the Western Association of Map Libraries meets each Fall and Spring. The President should call for host sites as needed at each meeting. Any member within the WAML Principal Region willing to host a WAML meeting may offer to host a meeting at any time by contacting the President. It is assumed that the volunteer has the approval of their institution, as accommodations and certain expenses will be borne in-house.

The President will confirm the meeting in writing with the host upon acceptance and reconfirm at least one year in advance. The President should see that the future host has access to a copy of the Conference Manual. If a host withdraws, the President, with assistance of the Vice-President, will locate another site as soon as possible.

Meeting sites should be selected at least two years in advance. They should be announced at all WAML meetings, in the Information Bulletin, and posted on the Web Site as soon as established, but no later than the preceding meeting. The host should select dates most appropriate for the local situation, activities, weather, etc. Consideration should be given to potential conflicts with meetings of other cartographic organizations. An effort should be made to consider joint meetings with organizations such as ACMLA, MAGERT, and other cartographic organizations.

Meetings should alternate between California and other locations in the Principal Region. California locations should alternate between north and south as much as possible.

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The meeting dates, theme (if one is established), and call for papers should be announced during the Business Meeting at the meeting prior to the conference. This information should also be included in the Information Bulletin, on the WAML Web Site, Maps-L and other list serves. WAML Liaisons should be given information on the theme and meeting details so that it can be announced at meetings of other organizations and included in the organization newsletters and bulletins. Announcements should be sent to other organizations about 6 months prior to the meeting.


The Membership Manager will provide mailing labels with addresses of all members. The host should prepare the meeting announcement and registration materials. This information should be mailed to members in the United States and Canada approximately eight weeks prior to the meeting date. Appendix A contains a sample registration form. The Registration fee should include the mailing expense if it can not be borne by the host institution. The host should also announce the meeting and the URL for the conference web site in News and Notes and Maps-L. The mailing should only contain essential materials. Additional items may be distributed to attendees upon arrival.

The registration mailing should include:

  • The Program, which should be in at least a semi-final state.
  • A Registration Blank requesting advance payment; Cut off dates for optional tours, meals, housing, etc. should be noted PROMINENTLY; checks should be made out to WAML.
  • Housing information: the host should arrange a block of rooms in a convenient hotel or dormitory or provide a list of nearby accommodations. Blocks of rooms should usually be arranged 6-12 months in advance. Limiting members to a small number of locations eases transportation problems. People seeking roommates should be able to indicate this on the form. The host may pass along this information.
  • Local Transportation Information: information on nearby airports, public transportation and taxi fees to the campus or meeting site should be given; include a local and/or campus map to assist; many items may be obtained from the local tourist office or chamber of commerce for free; if possible, arrange local transportation through the school vehicle pool.
  • Parking Information: Describe on-site parking arrangements, costs, and restrictions.
  • Emergency Phone Number to contact people attending the meeting (this may be the host's library's number).
  • Web Site: The mailing should include a URL for a web site concerning the meeting.

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Although the Vice-President has formal responsibility for planning the program, the host, having the local resource information, contacts possible speakers and makes local arrangements. The President should also maintain contact with the host in preparation for officiating at the meeting.

The meeting usually lasts two days with the Executive Committee meeting before the standard one-and-a-half day program. Conferences are normally scheduled for Thursday and Friday with the Executive Board meeting Thursday morning or Wednesday afternoon. Be sure to allow two hours for either a workshop or roundtable discussion sponsored by the Education Committee. Field trips may be scheduled for Saturday. Appendix B contains a sample timeline.

A meeting may or may not have a theme as determined by the host and the Vice-President. The host may call for papers at least 9 months prior to the conference by requesting them at earlier meetings, in the Information Bulletin, or via Maps-L and other listserves. Speakers can also be recruited from local institutions, government agencies, and appropriate commercial contacts. Appendix C contains a sample speaker letter.

Speakers normally do not receive honoraria. The Executive Committee may authorize expenses or an honorarium in unusual circumstances (such as a person giving an entire workshop).

Normally, one hour is allotted for papers, including time for questions (45 minutes for a presentation, and 15 minutes for questions). Unavoidable delays should be expected; speakers should be cautioned to speak within time limits. If shorter papers are scheduled, remind speakers to allow 10 minutes of their time for questions. Speakers often need time to set up or hand out materials.

When recruiting speakers, the host should identify the audience to encourage talks neither too general nor too technical. Obviously, point out that we are cartographically oriented and even non-map speakers should relate to or use maps in their presentation. These details of our organization and of the meeting should be reiterated in a letter which confirms the exact date, time, and place, and asks if the speaker will need any special equipment for the presentation (slide projector, computer projection system, etc.) weeks before the meeting. Because the paper may be submitted to the Information Bulletin, ask the speaker to provide a prepared text at the time of presentation. Commitment for copy in advance is much more effective than subsequent solicitation.

The President, host or volunteer moderators may introduce speakers at the meeting. In any case, a brief synopsis of the talk and biography of the speaker is needed. The host should also introduce the speaker to the President, if the time and situation allows.

The host should pass a sign-up sheet each day to record attendance. The sheet should provide space for attendee's name, institution, office phone, and E-mail address. The President may also ask that committee preferences be noted on the sheet.

The host should ask the President if time should be allotted for Committee meetings (without conflicting with the meeting program.)

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The meeting room should hold about 50-75 people and be equipped for audio-visual presentation, including Internet access. (If possible, it is a good idea to have wireless Internet access.) If possible, the room should contain a portable bulletin board or other display device for speakers' maps. A podium should be available. It is best if this room can be locked during lunch and at night. Smoking should not be allowed in the meeting area.

If an adjoining room is available, it should be used for breaks, vendor displays and give-away items brought by members, as on-going discussions with vendors can be disturbing. Long tables and bulletin boards should be available for displays. A separate area or table should be provided for food and drinks for the breaks.

If possible, provide a place for conference attendees to check their email, including guest passwords and guest wireless access.

A registration table, which will seat two or three people, is needed. As registration may continue during the meeting, place the table just outside the actual meeting room. Supplies needed include: name tags; receipts for cash payments; felt tip pens; pads to pass for attendance and other lists such as dinner sign-ups; push-pins; water pitcher and cups for speakers and extension cords.

Transportation for group activities (including dinners, field trips, etc.) may be arranged by renting vans for the meeting. This is most inexpensively done through the host motor pool, but they may be rented from commercial sources. This cost should be prorated in the conference registration. When travelling as a group but in separate cars, have cell numbers of people in the various vehicles in case plans change.

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The host should be prepared to accommodate vendors, preferably in a space adjoining the meeting room which can be closed off from the meeting area. The amount of space available will dictate the number of and space given to vendors. Vendors normally require tables and bulletin boards, but electrical connections may be needed. Vendors should bring special equipment.

A letter or email should be sent to vendors that have attended past conferences, are currently members, or might be interested in participating in the conference. (Appendix D contains a sample vendor letter.) If the vendor is interested in attending, they should be mailed a registration packet that includes an explanation of the local space and equipment circumstances. The vendor packet should indicate if products may be sold at the meeting. Vendors may choose to display for a certain time period (e.g. 1-5 PM on one day). Some vendors may choose to send materials to be passed out at the meeting. Vendors who are not members are charged $50 in lieu of the basic registration fee (this should be mentioned in the letter to vendors). Vendors who are members of WAML do not have to pay the $50 vendor fee, but do pay registration fees; they often contribute voluntarily to the program expenses. If they wish, vendors may be formally recognized as having contributed specifically to a special function, such as the field trip, cocktail party, etc. and should be mentioned on the final program as "Contributors." Appendix E contains a sample vendor application form.

Vendors should be introduced at the beginning of the conference and given an opportunity to briefly describe their materials or services. The Secretary should be given a list of vendors attending, their contribution, and if they contributed toward any special function. This should be appended to the minutes of the meeting. Vendor information should be listed in the final program and included on the list of attendees posted on the Web Site.

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The registration table is staffed by members of the Membership/Hospitality Committee and/or people from the host's office and should be maintained each day for three hours beginning about an hour before the conference. The host should coordinate registration table staffing with the chair of the Membership/Hospitality Committee.

Prepared packets (envelopes or inexpensive folders) for preregistered attendees and unassigned packets for those not preregistered should be available at the registration table. Packets should include final program information as well as copies of materials from the first mailing because some people attending may not have received registration packets in the mail. Additional maps, promotional items (pens, etc.) may be included. Receipts may be placed inside the packets of people who preregister. A receipt book or blank printed receipts should be available for others. Receipts should be issued for all monies received. The people who staff the registration table will have to keep track of all money received.

Appendix F contains a sample worksheet to help keep track of registration and participation information. It is also possible to get a spreadsheet of WAML Members and their contact information from the Membership Manager and to add the columns needed for the conference. This information will be needed for the final detailed accounting. Appendix G contains the Statement of Accounts.

Name tags should be available and may be prepared in advance for those who have preregistered. The name tags can be attached to the packets. Blank name tags should be available for the second day's use if they are not reusable.

Note: Even if there is no on-site registration, have an extra packet or two in case someone loses theirs, and have extra name tags and a marker because people leave their nametags in their hotel rooms.


The Executive Board Meeting is attended by the President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, Past-President, and others, such as the host and committee chairs, as invited by the President. The meeting should be held in a room that will not be used for the meeting, because the meeting room may begin to be occupied before the Executive Meeting ends.

The President determines the time and agenda of the meeting, usually 9AM-Noon on Thursday, but it may begin earlier, or be held Wednesday afternoon. The Secretary takes minutes and must be prepared to present a synopsis later at the Business Meeting.

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The Business Meeting should be scheduled for the day after the Executive Board meeting so that the Secretary will have an opportunity to prepare a summary of the Executive Board meeting. The Business Meeting is conducted by the President and is scheduled for one and a half hours, or longer if requested.


Sounding Board is an informal session chaired by the President, which allows attendees to make general announcements and ask relevant questions. Time may also be given for vendors to introduce themselves and briefly discuss their products if they have not done so earlier. Forty-five minutes should be sufficient. It is often scheduled immediately after the Business Meeting and may begin as soon as the Business Meeting concludes.


A coffee break of thirty minutes splits each half-day session and allows time for interaction with the speakers and members. If the host schedules independent lunch time, attendees should be given enough time to locate suggested sites. Consideration must be given of the time it will take approximately 50 people to locate and be served in a restaurant during lunch time. Scheduled lunches may be arranged and are especially appreciated if convenient sites are not available for independent meals. Lunches usually are not part of the program and are listed as an optional expense on the registration form and should be as inexpensive as possible.

A dinner is normally scheduled for either Thursday or Friday night. It may or may not be listed as a 'banquet,' and may have a speaker, who should be 'light' and brief. The occasion may be used for appropriate announcements, awards, etc., or simply be a dinner gathering. The host should locate a site which provides a separate area for groups to reduce distractions from outside noise and activities. To ease bookkeeping, the host should arrange a set menu for a specified fee with a no host bar. The dinner price must include tax and gratuity. The dinner should be listed as an optional expense on the registration form. Because restaurants usually require advance notice, be sure to promise a realistic number. Clarify the restaurant's policies for guarantees and possible last minute additions to the count. The meeting host should arrange transportation to and from the restaurant. This is normally done by requesting volunteers with vehicles, providing vehicles, or suggesting public transportation. The Treasurer should be prepared to write a check to the restaurant at the end of the evening if so required. Other dinner sites may be suggested or loosely arranged for other nights by the host according to local possibilities.

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If the host has a map collection, it should be available for ad hoc or formal tours at a specified time on the program.

More elaborate field trips are optional. They are usually scheduled for Saturday with additional fees as required. Emphasis is placed on natural and historical sites or appropriate museums/institutions in the area. If a minimum number is required for the trip to function at a reasonable cost, this should be specified on the registration form. The host may have to arrange for reimbursement if the minimum is not met. The host should determine the cost by calculating a reasonable, minimum number attending. Also specify a maximum number, if necessary. Describe the field trip carefully and note if any special clothing or ability (e.g. hiking) is required.

It is a good idea to bring phone numbers for hosts or tour guides at all the stops because delays happen and schedules change. It is also a good idea to bring cell phones for conference attendees going on the field trip in case people are late for the pick-up.


WAML policy dictates that each conference should be financially self-supporting. The registration fee should be kept to a minimum ($35 if possible), however the amount charged should be sufficient to cover basic expenses such as coffee breaks, mailings (if necessary), and supplies. A lesser amount may be specified for student registration. All meals and field trips are optional. Any exceptionally heavy expenses should be cleared with the President and Treasurer before encumbrance. Typical meeting expense items are:

  • Mailing of meeting announcement and registration materials;
  • Cost of registration materials (printing/duplication);
  • Refreshments for coffee breaks;
  • Meeting rooms; it is hoped that cost for these may be avoided by meeting at the host's institution; they may also be absorbed by a hotel location if rooms are booked for the group;
  • Supplies such as name tags and inexpensive folders;
  • Audio-visual equipment rental (these may also be absorbed at no cost by the host institution);
  • Speakers' fees; this is to be avoided; most local people or our own members should not expect honoraria;
  • Field trips; an optional expense;
  • Dinners and lunches are optional; price must cover all costs;
  • Group transportation costs such as renting of vans for conference and field trip use;

Registration and other fees collected should be documented and turned over to the Treasurer promptly with receipts/bills/invoices for payment or reimbursement.

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The President writes 'thank you' letters to all speakers, the host, and anyone assisting the host with the conference or with facilities. The host provides the President with a list, including addresses. Appendix H contains a sample thank you letter.

The Secretary should send a copy of the minutes to each member of the Executive Board. After approval, the minutes are forwarded to the Editor for publication in the Information Bulletin and News & Notes.

The host should mail a completed registration packet to the WAML Archivist.

The host should distribute a conference questionnaire for attendees to rate the program, activities, speakers, etc. and make recommendations for future programs. These might be placed in the packet and be gathered at the end of the program (e.g. Friday afternoon) or could be mailed out after the conference. The host will give the President and Vice-President a summary of the questionnaires with any suggestions regarding future conference. Appendix I contains a sample evaluation form.

The conference host should submit a financial statement to the Treasurer. See Statement of Accounts in Appendix G.

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Appendix A: Sample Registration Form
PDF   Word Document

Appendix B: Sample Timeline
PDF   Word Document

Appendix C: Sample Speaker Letter
PDF   Word Document

Appendix D: Sample Vendor Letter
PDF   Word Document

Appendix E: Vendor Application Form
PDF   Word Document

Appendix F: Sample Registraton Spreadsheet
PDF   Excel Document

Appendix G: Sample Statement of Accounts
PDF   Word Document

Appendix H: Sample Thank You Letter
PDF   Word Document

Appendix I: Sample Evaluation Form
PDF   Word Document

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