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