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Mary Fellows's picture

Board discussion of Membership Meeting changes for AC 2012

Dear Valued Board Members,

As you know, we had a lively discussion about the Membership Meeting (MM) during our Community Forum on Wednesday, and some feedback on Connect after.  We have a window of opportunity to make significant changes for this summer’s MM, and the window closes on Wednesday (March 1). Therefore, we need a discussion and some direction on this issue.

 Here’s the situation, and our parameters:

1. Everyone agrees that the MM needs a change. We’ve asked the membership for ideas about improving the MM, and they have generously given many. We need to introduce some change to June’s MM rather than waiting 16 months for any real result of our discussion.

2. The changes we make for AC 12 will be interim changes. We’re already limited by timing on some changes (see below) and others need deeper discussion than we can have in the next four days. So let’s try a thing or two this year without being concerned about making things perfect, knowing that we’ll keep improving the MM.

3. Wednesday’s deadline is the last day to change room setup in our requested meeting room. Here is what to know: whatever setup we request is what we live with. We can't change the room ourselves at all or we get charged a lot, and it’s cost prohibitive for the hotel to change it. (The details: conference services assigns rooms based on setup, so that the room is set up in the morning and that setup is used by various groups the entire day.) Whatever room arrangement we ask for, we have for the entire time. So if we have theater style for the presidents program and award presentation, we have theater style for the MM. And if we want tables for the MM, then we’ll have them for the president’s program and the award ceremony. 

 One possibility is an arrangement called Crescent Rounds – round tables with chairs on just one side so audience is facing the podium. That is a possibility if we want to have some sort of table interactions at the MM yet have a setup that works for the earlier events. What we lose in this is any intimacy – we will have to be in a huge room. 

4. For this summer (AC 12), we can't change the schedule and move the MM to a different time slot. It's too late. The MM is on Monday from 12:00 – 1:00, following the awards ceremony which follows the President's program. We have one hour for our MM.

5. If we make any changes for this summer, we will need a working group to implement them. I would see two board members comprising the working group. They would have responsibility for total implementation of any changes, determining how much of the old format to keep, what questions (if we go that route), selecting who’s facilitating, determining the exact timing and flow, creating scripts (with the ALSC staff doing the Distinguished Service Award part only), and most importantly, communicating with members about this new and improved MM. The working group will work with Aimee.  

6. We must always keep in mind our resources - and in this case, a big one is the time of our staff who have many, many responsibilities already Monday morning and can't take on much - if anything - else.

7. We can’t rely on the room where we have the MM to have Wi-Fi (cost-prohibitive for ALA). My understanding is that someone with a mobile hotspot could have Internet access in such a room, but it would be slower than Wi-Fi because it would be cellular access. 


I would like us to agree on some guidelines for the Board to give the proposed Membership Meeting Working Group. Then I would like two Board members to volunteer to be the Working Group. A change can only happen this year if we can muster a working group.


Here, again is the current agenda for the MM:

Membership meeting, Monday 12:00 - 1:00


   Overview of ALSC initiatives

   Presentation of the Distinguished Service Award

   Distinguished Service Award winner remarks

   Recognition of professional award winners

   Floor opens to member comments, questions, and concerns


So here are some questions for us to consider:

Do we want member discussion to be a larger part of the MM?

If yes, do we want small group discussion? If we do, then we will need the room set up with crescent rounds for the entire morning. If we want one large group discussion, then we will order theater setup.

If yes, what do we want from the discussion? Examples: discussion on ALSC initiatives to provide feedback for strategic plan activities, discussion on a mega issue concerning the profession or association to engage members and provide general background for association decision-making, discussion using questions submitted that morning or beforehand to be responsive to member information needs.

If yes, is the information gathered from the discussion captured? How? How is it shared with the membership?

If yes, how will we change the agenda to allow time for discussion? 

If yes, who volunteers to be the Working Team? (Remember: you will be It! You’ll have the power, the glory – and the decisions, the scheduling, the arranging for facilitators and discussion leaders, and the thorough marketing . . . did I mention the power and the glory?!


In advance, thanks so much for your ideas and thoughtful consideration. I’ll review our discussion on Tuesday afternoon and make a decision about changes for this year then. I’ll let you know what those will be!

Let the discussion begin . . .


Nina Lindsay's picture

I'm going to make a pitch for leaving the seating arrangement theater-style. We had some discussion about wanting to create the type of environment we get at Division Leadership, or ALSC 101. But then we run a risk of simply duplicating. And I feel like people appreciate having a single group....that's what membership meetings are about to me, having the membership come together as a single body, made up of many voices.

If what is lacking is engagement, if the MM feels too scripted, then what we need is an agenda that allows for a little more spontanaeity. The theater style, to me, gives a "Town Hall" feel that I really appreciate, and I hope calls to mind for people the idea that they can, and should, stand up and talk. (Unless we want to go Occupy style!....) Why not give a short report on what happened at Saturday Board meeting? It might get some people to attend a future Board meeting...and I know people ask me throughout the conference what Board is up too. Members have to wait quite a while for minutes. And why not ask for input/feedback on items under discussion, such as Dues, the advocacy initiative, restructuring Institute? Hearing about our work in progress, and being invited to comment on it, is a value that members would turn up for, and says to them "this meeting is for you."

I'd like to see the Overview of ALSC Initiatives shortened (if descriptions go in a handout and/or on Powerpoint, then they can just be called out by name, maybe choose one or two to highlight) as well as the Professional awards (again, provide a program with details, show names/awards on Powerpoomt, ask any recipients present to stand and introduce themselves). Before opening the floor to new business, I'd insert a report on Board work, and make that as unscripted as possible....which invites interjection.

Nina Lindsay

2017-18 ALSC President



Ernie Cox's picture

Nina makes so many excellent points which I support:




  • keep the current room configuration and develop new formats organically. 
  • reduce time dedicated to reviewing ALSC initiatives and professional awards (time savings)
  • short report on current issues under discussion by the board and then focused feedback on those items (it would be great to see more member turn out at the Board Meeting II as a result of this report)

In addition to these ideas

  • We could invite members to submit questions as they enter the room for the president's program and book/media awards presentation. Questions could be submitted on paper, via twitter, and the connect space.  These questions could be shared with the whole group and responded to by board members in the MM meeting. 

The board of directors for the Unitarian Universalist Society I attend in Iowa City has begun hosting Listening Posts.  I attended one today to ask some questions but also to see how this format informs their board work and serves the congregation. These are completely unscripted, small group interactions. Creating a space where any questions is up for discussion resulted in a range of issues and genuine responses. An open dialogue might show us that some members have concerns or questions that are very straight forward and easy to address.  Other issues are more complex and we will be so much better prepared to tackle them if we hear from as many people as possible.  

To me the MM should be dedicated to real conversation among members about how to best meet the vision of  ALSC.  Let's do all we can to capitalize on the collective intelligence of the room.



Ernie Cox's picture

I was sorry to miss the community forum and am thankful to have the transcript for review.  Reading through it I wanted to highlight some key elements about the MM that I saw in the transcript:




  • virtual participation - twitter is one way to engage members (both at conference and away) as a means of forwarding questions and interacting with one another, Ustream (or similar technology platforms) can provide a no-cost, reliable way to live stream the meeting (as well as archiving it for later viewing), Nina's idea of a virtual line up of door prizes is great (who would not want to receive that mock CALD/NEW kit when they arrive home?) - these doorprizes could be awarded to people who have submitted questions for discussion.
  • civil discourse (Rita stressed this point about early meetings) - we need to provide a framework for discussion so people feel safe in expressing ideas and opinions. 
  • FOOD - this meeting is during lunch and follows an entire morning of programming.  Can we provide a light lunch in addition to the mid-morning snack?   What if we provided a lunch to members who have RSVP'd that they will attend the meeting?


Julie Corsaro's picture

I like the idea of shortening, per the online discussion and Nina and Ernie's comments, the presentation of the professional awards and ALSC initiatives at the MM. Perhaps, we can give these a bit more exposure in other ways. 

I haven't heard explicit discussion about the Distinguished Service Award presentation here, but I would like to see it remain part of the MM. 

I do like the idea of soliciting topics for discussion for the MM from our members and finding a way to encourage vitual participation given the current parameters. 

As Mary reminded us, the MM is only an hour! I'm not sure how much time even with these proposed changes we will realistically have for discussion. 

Food always sounds good, but I imagine that providing lunch, even a light one, in a convention center or hotel would be a huge expense for ALSC. In addition, we haven't budgeted for it this year. 





Tali Balas's picture

already put forth.

I think the seating arrangement should stay theater style at this point; a short report on Saturday's Board mtg is a nice way to keep people up to date; soliciting feedback on major actions/initiatives like Dues, perhaps we can put forward a question to the membership in advance of the conference; gathering questions at the door that we read could be a great way to engage people who might be uncomfortable speaking in front of the group; the Distinguished Service award and remarks should stay; twitter seems like an easy way to incorporate a virtual component pretty easily.

Food - I always think it adds to any event. I'm sure it's expensive but I think it may be worth it. I do think we should have an idea of cost before committing to providing a snack, like bagels and danish. But I think we'll probably have to commit to the room set-up before we would know the price of food so as much as it pains me to say this, I think we'll have to let the food go for this year.


Nina Lindsay's picture

Perhaps Membership committee would consider the budget for food at the MM as a Friends of ALSC donation?  Also would be an opportunity for FoALSC to solicit donations.

Nina Lindsay

2017-18 ALSC President



Jan Watkins's picture

I am just back from vacation . I like Ernie’s idea about adding a light lunch for those who RSVP for the meeting, as that may interest more to attend.

Jan Watkins

Tali Balas's picture

The Budget Committee actually is charged with dispersing the Friends of ALSC money. We could certainly ask them to fund food at the MM but we still need to find out what the cost will be. $1000 is doable $10,000 is not.

Cecilia McGowan's picture

I concur with the above comments about arrangement of the room.  Perhaps the two board members who are planning this can take our suggestions and come up with a way to solicit what members want to hear about balanced with the short amount of time we have and the amount of information we have to share.  As far as food goes; it would be great to have a budget from Friends of ALSC and perhaps going forward talk to the publishers who sponsor our variety of awards?  BtsB already funds the awards food but we have other publishers who I imagine might also step forward with such a plan.

Carolyn Brodie's picture

It's exciting that our members will see changes for the MM this very summer---following our lively chat about the meeting structure.  They will see that their input matters, we listened to suggestions and we acted.

I agree with comments already made about keeping the room the same for this year.  I initially liked the idea of the tables, but see the value in the standard set-up too.  We can make some changes this year in some respects and then evaluate them, think about them and possibly make some additional changes for MM 2013.

The immediate decision is the room set-up because of the ALA deadline.  The other ideas that were generated about the structure of the programm  in the chat, listed in Mary's note and submitted in this Board discussion can take more thinking to flesh out with a volunteer working team.  But, here's a few things to add to what others have discussed...

The DSA is a very important part of our culture and needs to be highlighted as well as some recognition of the other professional awards.

Food is a good idea, especially since this meeting is from 12-1 pm, but of course it is expensive.  Maybe there are other sources for funding that can be explored as Nina and Celia suggest.  Other thoughts about the food--would we be expected to do it again the next year (if we moved the time at some point in the future, then that might not be an issue).  Food takes time to serve and we have only one hour.  If we don't have tables, would a "light lunch" be tricky to manage while listening to a presentation and/or participating in a discussion?  Though if the "food" is something simple it might work better...we have had smoothies served at conferences here that went to 2 pm.  It was fun and different and gave everyone a boost.

There are other incentive possibilities...the Nook and a book...or other giveaways such as autographed copies of the award books from the presentations in the morning, some of our own professional publication, something virtual (as suggested in the chat...workshop or N/C book), a ticket or free registration to one of our events in the future, a gift card to ALA Editions or other place...

The idea of a focused discussion is interesting and could be publicized ahead of time, such as discussion about the ALSC initiatives in conjunction with the strategic plan or an identified mega issue.  If the ALSC initiatives was the topic then we'd be presenting them, but also have valuable discussion too that might be shared through tweets or later through our blog.  Possibly time would be left at the end for other questions.

Thanks everyone for your good thoughts about MM 2012.