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Karen Schneider's picture

Whither PBA?

I wanted to put a day or two of distance between the Annual 2014 Planning and Budget Assembly meeting before writing an analysis. The meeting is no longer entirely throw-away, which could not have been said about previous meetings that rehashed budget information (without time for actual discussion) or consisted almost entirely of introductions. It was interesting to get a brief, if impromptu, report on ALA publishing. Following the meeting, someone approached me to say in essence that PBA still wasn't effective. I remember feeling some umbrage -- why, of course it was better! -- only to wake up the next morning and rethink that position. 

So on reflection, I'm going to state my own conclusion about the future of PBA: after all is said and done,  as long as it stays in its current form, PBA should be dissolved. There is a significant opportunity cost to pulling together literally dozens of ALA's best minds for 90 minutes on a busy conference afternoon. If there isn't a clear purpose to this meeting, then we are literally consuming approximately three days' worth of human labor for naught. Nobody in that room is looking for ways to fill their ALA conference calendars, and if PBA isn't going to *do* anything, we shouldn't be wasting their time. 

The origins of PBA are murky, but I suspect the Council-list lurker who emailed to say she believed PBA was created in "a spasm of transparency" is probably on target. It was well-meaning, but it doesn't mean PBA serves a purpose now (if it ever did) or should continue.

PBA exists in a strange netherworld. It isn't given the traditional mechanisms of other bodies, such as a leader or a mailing list, nor is PBA given forward-thinking opportunities, such as online meetups prior to ALA. The meetings are convened by the ED and president or president-elect, yet the agenda lacks the focus or intent of other bodies such as Council, BARC, any of the finance committees, or of course, the Executive Board. 

If we were starting over from scratch, would any of us *create* PBA? Even if you say yes--a position I would like to see defended--would we keep it in its current form?

There is nothing preventing ALA from tapping the expertise of the people in that room through other means. The idea that more ALA members should be brought into the planning and budget process is a good one. But it doesn't mean that PBA is achieving that end. What I said a few weeks' back in a personal blog post stands, at least for me. 

Others may feel very differently, and that is why I write this post to the PBA Connect space (since again, there is no other way to communicate with PBA members, making PBA an exemplar of the double standard that Connect is what ALA units are supposed to be using, except no unit except PBA is actually mandated to do so). I would be delighted to be proved wrong on this point. I am very glad that there has been attention to whether or not PBA should exist. I still believe in its present form it is a ghost ship that sails toward nowhere.

Karen G. Schneider

ALA Councilor at Large

Member, ALA Planning and Budget Assembly

Diane Foote's picture

Karen, I can't thank you enough for all you've done to draw attention to this issue and to focus our thinking via the survey, your astute analysis, etc. However, I think calling for PBA's dissolution after one "new"-type meeting is premature, for the following reasons:

1) The ALA Treasurer was absent. The meeting may or may not have been different with him present, but he deserves a chance to work with us on this, and I think we'd benefit from his knowledge.

2) This was the very first meeting after the issue was raised. If it wasn't perfect I think that's okay; as you note it was a clear improvement. Sometimes worthwhile improvements take time to refine.

3) Let's not forget about the ALA strategic planning process; Keith indicated the other day that at Midwinter PBA will have a structured process for providing input, and I'd like to see how that goes before we dissolve.

It may in fact end up being the case that PBA should dissolve. But I'm not ready to say that until after Midwinter, at this point.

--Diane Foote, ALSC Fiscal Officer

Diane Foote
Assistant Dean
Dominican University GSLIS
dfoote@dom.edu, 708-524-6054
http://www.dom.edu/gslis

Karen Schneider's picture

Thanks for posting. Perhaps when Mario has resurfaced (feel better, Mario!) he can weigh in. Another Councilor asked whether ALL assemblies shouldn't get review.  Let me ask: how do we determine if PBA is useful?

Karen G. Schneider

University Librarian

Holy Names University, Oakland CA

http://library.hnu.edu

Elena Rosenfeld's picture

Hey there -

I find myself similarly aligned with the opinion Diane shared.

Yes, in many ways, the PBA meeting was a Q&A-based process to clarify understanding of the previous reports...useful for those directly involved in ALA & Division money management, but not so much for Council representatives.  However, I think (hope?) we can all morph the process rather than calling a complete halt.  I guess I'm intrigued by the possibility of the PBA attendees being part of the future-planning by looking at the financial implications that upcoming initiatives/changes bring forth.

At the end of the meeting, I commented on the fact that this meeting was significantly improved over the last one (granted that was my first experience at PBA); so, I left feeling highly optimistic.

Kerrie Stramler's picture

I would also like to put forth my agreement with Diane's comment and Elena's comment.  I found this PBA session one of the best of my experience.  I still find these meetings useful.

Kerrie Stramler

LSSIRT Treasurer

Karen Schneider's picture

I wonder if we could get Executive Board members to comment on whether they find PBA useful and would seek (and value) PBA's input? Because a lot of the planning comes out of the Board. 

So far the vote is 3-1 in favor of PBA, but it would help to have more input from other PBA members.

Karen G. Schneider

University Librarian

Holy Names University, Oakland CA

http://library.hnu.edu