We are MLA: a qualitative case study on the Medical Library Association’s 2019 Communities Transition


  • Kathryn M. Houk Health Literacy & Community Engagement Librarian, Assistant Professor, UNLV Health Sciences Library, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Las Vegas, NV https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0454-8535
  • Kelsa Bartley Education and Outreach Librarian, Librarian Assistant Professor, Louis Calder Memorial Library, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, FL https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8021-8469
  • Jane Morgan-Daniel Community Engagement & Health Literacy Librarian, Assistant University Librarian, Health Science Center Libraries, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4047-8669
  • Elaina Vitale Research and Education Librarian, Biomedical Libraries, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH




Organizational Change, Change Management, Library Association Management, Medical Library Association, Organizational Communication


Objective: In 2019, the Medical Library Association (MLA) adopted a new model of community governance and participation, referred to as the MLA Communities Transition. The Communities Transition was the culmination of long-ranging plans by MLA to support two of its strategic goals: diversity and inclusion, and communities. The reorganization aimed to strengthen MLA member communities, better support programming, reduce administrative overhead, and attract new members. The 2019–2020 MLA Rising Stars cohort was tasked to study the Communities Transition and identify lessons that might be applicable to any major future change proposed for the organization.

Methods: A qualitative study was designed and conducted to investigate MLA member and leader perceptions of the change process, using John Kotter’s eight steps for organizational change model as a framework. A set of fifteen open-ended questions was developed based on Kotter’s model, and seventeen semistructured interviews were conducted to gather perceptions and feedback. Interview transcripts were analyzed using a grounded theory approach to explore and identify several themes across all discussions.

Results: Four major themes were identified: communication between leadership and membership, leadership during the change process, membership investment in change, and instituting change and future recommendations. The study revealed strengths in the overall implementation and execution of the transition, but it also highlighted several perceived issues with communication and information sharing.

Conclusions: Study findings were used to develop recommendations for improved communication strategies and for handling large-scale changes within the organization in the future.


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Additional Files





Original Investigation