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Mary Ghikas's picture

ALA Organizational Effectiveness Discussion - 2018 - Posted on behalf of the ALA Executive Board

Dear Members,

On behalf of the ALA Executive Board, I’d like to bring your attention to a document for our Council II discussion in Denver. As we hope you’re aware, President Neal recently challenged us to consider ALA’s organizational effectiveness and governance structure with the goal of revitalizing the association.

The attached 2-page document lays out the guiding principles and reasoning behind having such a discussion at this juncture. Several more pages of appendices provide additional lists, links, and information that not only reflect the complexity of our beloved 140+ year old institution, but also provide useful information for our discussion.

This conversation should take place as broadly as possible among the membership. As such, this ALA Connect page has been set up to capture a broad array of feedback. Moreover, information regarding this exercise is being shared with the Committee on Organization, Constitution & Bylaws, Chapter affiliates, and Ethnic Affiliates. ALA staff will also distribute details to all Divisions, Round Tables, Committees, and the Diversity Council.

Anyone attending the Council II session (Monday, February 12, 2018, 10:00am-12:00pm) will be welcome to participate in this conversation and exercise.

Finally, the Executive Board would like to extend its thanks to the LLAMA Division for its recent work on reorganization. Their work formed the basis for the Executive Board’s initial conversations and their outputs are evident in the attached document.

Please start thinking about what you would do to make ALA the ideal organization and what we all can do to get there.

We’re looking forward to the conversation in Denver!

Jessica Schomberg's picture

Keeping this post locked down prevents former and potential future members from contributing the feedback that might make them return or join ALA. I don't understand this decision.

Mary Ghikas's picture

Jessica, this post is marked "public" and shows above as "unlocked"?   Let me know if you are having trouble getting to it.  Thanks.  mg  (mghikas@ala.org)

 

Jason Martin's picture

In order to leave a comment you must log in to ALA Connect. That means any non-members cannot comment.

Dr. Jason Martin

jason.martin@mtsu.edu

615-904-8378

Steven Bell's picture

Hi Jason. 

What about all the tenure track librarians who serve on ACRL committees - and then add that to their dossiers to provide evidence of external service at the national level. They are doing things for ACRL, but they are getting something valuable in return for it. I know for our colleagues that is not the primary reason they serve (although there is quite a noticeable drop in membership for librarians who are 5-7 years in the profession - somewhat corresponding to when librarians on the track get tenured), but it is not just a case of giving and getting nothing in return.

Same deal with ACRL conferences. Yes, you can put on one yourself these days - and webinars too - but having your paper or panel accepted for an ACRL conference is a pretty big deal and also goes a long way toward helping tenure track librarians make the case.

And of course, publishing in ACRL journals - also a big benefit for librarians on the tenure track. Not to mention research and practice ideas for the rest of us to read.

What about all the research ACRL does? The environmental scan? The research trends? The value of academic library studies. These are highly cited. You could not do this yourself.

As a ULS leader, aren't you benefiting from ACRL's power to reach it's 10,000+ members to promote your ULS webinars? Not to mention providing a webinar platform where you can hold the webinar - along with a process for members to register for the webinar. That's a lot of behind the scenes work from ACRL staff.

As far as ACRL Presidents not communicating, when I was doing my three year term I visited 13 ACRL chapters. I wrote blog posts continuously for the ACRL Insider blog. I had a regular leadership column in C&RL News during my presidency year (and invited colleagues to write for it in addition to my own columns). Some presidents may not do the same, some do - or are very active on social media - but I don't think it always a case of never hearing from your ACRL leaders.

And BTW, ACRL knows the value of reorganizing and restructuring. Back in 2012 when I joined the Board, Past-President Lisa Hinchliffe was leading a significant effort to eliminate and merge division-level committees so we would have a more streamlined and efficient association - just as ALA is considering now.

If you're a member and you don't take advantage of this stuff, sure, it's easy to think that you pay your dues and get nothing out of it. But like a lot of things in life, the more you put into it the more you get out of it.

Thanks,
Steven Bell
bells@temple.edu

Steven Bell Associate University Librarian Temple University bells@temple.edu http://stevenbell.info

Mary Ghikas's picture

Jessica, this post is marked "public" and shows above as "unlocked"?   Let me know if you are having trouble getting to it.  Thanks.  mg  (mghikas@ala.org)

 

Emily Rimland's picture

I am not going to Midwinter, so I wanted to say that I am glad ALA is having this conversation. I really appreciate measures like what the Instruction Section has done to go completely virtual. It's not the same as meeting with colleagues in person but it makes it possible to get better participation and still get the networking. Most people/institutions cannot afford two conferences a year let alone one. Plus, if I go to a conference, I don't want to spend it in meetings--I want to hear new ideas or do an in-depth training. I'm looking forward to hearing how the new conference format at NOLA goes. If you want to get people to conferences look at things like SXSW Interactive. ALA has good headliners but check out SXSW's format and concurrent sessions. Look outside the library bubble a little more and bring in more "outsiders" to diversify the content.
I'm in favor of getting rid of paper copies of publications being sent to me (this has to be huge expense and I work in a library so....) in favor of something like one free online training a year (or even something like a MOOC). That would add more value to me and probably to others too. Related to online courses and other offerings, content that's more cutting edge and library-adjacent (e.g. artificial intelligence) along with the other offerings would be attractive. I want things I can't get elsewhere.  Scan the horizon for the big new ideas that will influence libraries and offer those up, help me connect with other libraries interested in that so we can form partnerships. Empower me to be a superbly informed advocate for libraries. I thought a good example of this was the recent ACRL call for librarians to apply for scholarships to attend events related to blockchain and libraries at SJSU. THAT is the kind of thing that I am looking for that would really add value to membership. Thanks!

Aimee Quinn's picture

In reading Ms. Rimland's thoughtful comments regarding ALA Midwinter and the Organizational Effectiveness document, I am struck by several thoughts.  First, I agree with her that too few people or institutions can afford to attend two meetings each year.  As an ALA member since I was in grad school back in 1989, I knew very few people who could actually afford to attend, yet we always managed to scare up the funds, even though it meant 3-4 of us sharing a room and eating at McDonald's or Taco Bell more often than I care to think about.  It was expected by many library administrators that we were supposed to pay our own way, just as they did. 

Next, I also agree that ALA should look outside to other organizations who have large conferences (AMA for one); not just their conferences, but also their organizational structures.  Look for their best practices, especially in creating welcoming environments with people-centered communication at the heart of the organization.

I do not agree with moving all publication to electronic.  I value electronic publications for most materials, but there still does need to be some in print, especially as our world grows more dependent on accessibility services. More and more medical professionals are discovering long-term reading on devices are leading to many physical and mental ailments.  There is a reason larger libraries are creating new librarian positions focused on accessibility services.

The document proposed late last year has some valuable insights into the shape of our organization.  One of the first things which has bothered me since grad school is the unwieldiness as seen by a "Committee on Committees" in the list of ALA Committees.  It is my belief when an organization grows so large it needs a specific committee such as this one, the time is ripe to look again at its organizational effectiveness.  The advent of kitchen table conversations are long overdue.  I think these conversations should be made virtual and offered on a regular basis where anybody can login and contribute such as every Friday afternoon at 1pm EST/10 am PST with people submitting ideas each week what they would like to discuss the next week.  Different ALA staff can moderate so the community can get to know the ALA staff members. 

When I chaired GODORT, that was when I really got to know the ALA Staff.  I had few reasons until that time to do more than say hello when they were at a meeting.  It was both on my part as well as theirs to do more than say hello as they were always running to a meeting or when I called for help on some issue related to committee work.  Those of us who work away from Chicago or DC do not have the opportunity outside of conference to get to know people up close and personal aside from email and the phone that much.

To have an effective organization requires not only dedicated volunteers who understand the mission and vision, they have to share in the goals of the organization.  Since ALA's goals are fragmented, most members only know their area's goals (i.e. ACRL, PLA, YALSA, MPLA, ASERL, NMRT, SRRT, etc.).  Some people belong to many groups within ALA or their local, state, regional, and national groups.  Many more, however, have to choose which one will give them the most benefit as they can only afford one or two.  I chose to keep my ALA membership over others as it gives me the most bang for my bucks. I know many librarians feel the same way and I expect a lot from my association.  I expect it to provide me with good training and quality conferences and I have not been let down.  I know that I have to seek out what I want as the Annual conference is too big.  There is too much overlap and very little coordination.  I find the scheduling too micromanaging.  Instead of asking groups to partner when they are planning similar programs, we have narrowed our time limits to offer the similar programs at the same time forcing members to choose.  That is ineffective and wasteful.

Integrating LIS students who are the future of this industry along with those who choose not to go to graduate school are excellent ideas.  We need to welcome all those who love libraries into our midst and hear their ideas.  This will be our legacy.

It will be interesting to see where Jim Neal's leadership takes us and the how the new scheduling in New Orleans works.

Sorry for the length of my ramble.  I usually do not post to connect but I had something to say.

AQ 

O

Aimée C. Quinn

Jason Martin's picture

What does ALA/ACRL do? (I realize those are two separate entities, but they both suffer from the same problems.) I honestly have no idea. I have been a ALA/ACRL member for some years now. I have chaired several committees in ULS, help start and chair a committee in ULS, and chaired ULS. When my membership expires this year, I will not renew it. As I see it, I pay ALA/ACRL a not insignificant amount of money so that I can volunteer my time to perform work at ALA/ACRL. I remember once being in a meeting when ACRL was kicking off a campaign for conference scholarship donations. One speaker arrogantly asked, "What has ACRL done for you?" My thought was, "Nothing. I and the others in this room have done everything for ACRL." I cannot name one single advantage or benefit to being a member of ALA or ACRL.

After all my time being active in ALA/ACRL, I came to conclusion ALA/ACRL exists just to exist. I cannot name the current ALA or ACRL president, nor any past presidents except for one. That might make me a bad member, but the presidents of ALA and ACRL never communicate with the membership, give addresses at conferences (That I am aware of.), or otherwise appear outside of board meetings. I think professional organizations should exist to provide professional development for their members. When I attend ALA/ACRL conferences all I see are grown men and women dressed as children's book characters and program content that is mostly useless to bettering the profession and careers of those in it. When I am asked to complete surveys about the conferences, the questions are exclusively about my experience with the vendors. Nothing else seems to matter to ALA/ACRL.

We live in a DIY era now. Many professionals have taken to organizing their own conferences because their large organizations are no longer responsive to their needs. Our profession in need of critical examination and change, not breathless propaganda. We need a professional organization that will lead the examination and change. I do not see that from ALA/ACRL, and I do not see anyone capable of doing that in ALA/ACRL.

Dr. Jason Martin

jason.martin@mtsu.edu

615-904-8378

Steven Bell's picture

What about all the tenure track librarians who serve on ACRL committees - and then add that to their dossiers to provide evidence of external service at the national level. They are doing things for ACRL, but they are getting something valuable in return for it. I know for our colleagues that is not the primary reason they serve (although there is quite a noticeable drop in membership for librarians who are 5-7 years in the profession - somewhat corresponding to when librarians on the track get tenured), but it is not just a case of giving and getting nothing in return.

Same deal with ACRL conferences. Yes, you can put on one yourself these days - and webinars too - but having your paper or panel accepted for an ACRL conference is a pretty big deal and also goes a long way toward helping tenure track librarians make the case.

And of course, publishing in ACRL journals - also a big benefit for librarians on the tenure track. Not to mention research and practice ideas for the rest of us to read (not to mention ACRL's commitment to keeping its journals open)

What about all the research ACRL does? The environmental scan? The research trends? The value of academic library studies. These are highly cited. You could not do this yourself.

As a ULS leader, aren't you benefiting from ACRL's power to reach it's 10,000+ members to promote your ULS webinars? Not to mention providing a webinar platform where you can hold the webinar - along with a process for members to register for the webinar. That's a lot of behind the scenes work from ACRL staff.

As far as ACRL Presidents not communicating, when I was doing my three year term I visited 13 ACRL chapters. I wrote blog posts continuously for the ACRL Insider blog. I had a regular leadership column in C&RL News during my presidency year (and invited colleagues to write for it in addition to my own columns). Some presidents may not do the same, some do - or are very active on social media - but I don't think it always a case of never hearing from your ACRL leaders.

And BTW, ACRL knows the value of reorganizing and restructuring. Back in 2012 when I joined the Board, Past-President Lisa Hinchliffe was leading a significant effort to eliminate and merge division-level committees so we would have a more streamlined and efficient association - just as ALA is considering now.

If you're a member and you don't take advantage of this stuff, sure, it's easy to think that you pay your dues and get nothing out of it. But like a lot of things in life, the more you put into it the more you get out of it.

Thanks,
Steven Bell
bells@temple.edu

Steven Bell Associate University Librarian Temple University bells@temple.edu http://stevenbell.info

Gary Fitsimmons's picture

I have a similar experience with ALA/LLAMA. I gave blood, sweat and tears to volunteering so that we could all have an excuse to spend our professional development budgets traveling to tourist destinations with lots of sessions thrown in. I see ALA as an organization offering librarians at large institutions a chance to spend their large professional development budgets on themselves and to support questionable agendas. I am from a small Intentionally Christian institution, and even though I have a decent professional development budget, I cannot justify spending it on ALA anymore, so I am dropping my membership in favor of attending professional development opportunities in organizations who respect the institution I work for and give me much more relevant opportunities for actually enhancing my professional skill sets.

 

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Gary Fitsimmons, PhD
Director of Library Services
Bryan College, Box 7793
721 Bryan Drive
Dayton, TN 37321-6275
gary.fitsimmons@bryan.edu
Phone: 423-775-7196
http://bryan.edu

Nann Hilyard's picture

Jason, we must go to different conferences. (Well, I've never been to an ACRL conference, but I do go to Annual and Midwinter.) I've never seen "grown men and women dressed as children's book characters" except for a few costumed people in the exhibit. They're working for the vendors.

 I've gotten many helpful ideas from conference programs.  There aren't many specialty conferences for my type of library (medium-sized suburban public) so ALA and PLA are what I've attended.  As for ALA presidents (Big ALA or divisions) knowing members personally -- with 55,000 members overall and 7,500 in larger divisions it is difficult for them to know everyone, but they're approachable. I've seen them address the membership at opening sessions. 

More importantly:  ALA advocates on behalf of all types of libraries and all library users (ALA Washington Office). ALA's Office of Intellectual Freedom champions IF and helps libraries and librarians that face challenges to their materials and programs.  ALA is the public face for libraries and librarianship. 

Lisa Hinchliffe's picture

Ouch. As a past-president of ACRL, I'm not sure if I'm hoping you remember me or not. Of course, it was 2010-2011 so I can't expect anyone would recall the details of my work as President (I even have to look at my own reports to the membership/Board to get some of the stats at this point!). But, like other ACRL Presidents, I can say that I spoke at multiple conferences - many of them state chapters (the year I was President, I slept in a hotel rather than at home more than 70 nights ... that statistic I remember!), wrote columns, reports, and all member emails. I architected and led a process that engaged 1000 members in the ACRL strategic planning process and, as Stephen mentioned, led a complete overhaul of division level committee charges. I also worked to secure almost $500k in IMLS funding to enable academic librarians to participate in professional development on the topic they identified as their top priority - demonstrating the value of the academic library. I advocated in higher education organizations to raise awareness of academic libraries and librarians and managed to place an article in Change magazine on our value. I know that I stood on the stage at the ACRL 2010 conference in Philly and addressed the delegates multiple times and I know we asked attendees about more than the vendor floor. I could go on and on but I'll stop here because if anyone is interested - my quarterly reports to the Board are publicly available as is the annual report for the year.

Jason, I'm sorry to hear that the ACRL experience hasn't been what you have hoped for. I truly am. I'll be honest, though, I'm rather taken aback at the way you have characterized your colleagues as "grown men and women dressed as children's book characters" and incapable of leading reflection and change. That is not my experience of the member and staff of ACRL with whom I have worked.

FWIW, in your comment I see you identifying exactly what ACRL does - it provides a platform upon which members can engage, communicate, pursue their passions, etc. It seems to me that ACRL has given you a platform upon which to do just that - you have presented webinars, established communities of practice that you thought useful, etc. I wish you all the best. 

Karen Schneider's picture

In preparing my thoughts about organizational health, I looked up state chapter reports:

http://www.ala.org/aboutala/all-state-chapter-reports#statechapters

This data would appear to be highly relevant to a discussion about ALA organization, because chapter membership is baked into Big ALA, but there are a couple of issues. First, not all chapters are contributing data. In some cases, chapters haven't contributed in several years--in one case, five years. I would think the minimum requirement of a chapter is to report how it's doing. I would bet dollars to donuts the response will be that it's voluntary. If I were more frisky I would challenge the right of a chapter councilor to speak and vote at Council if their chapter had not submitted data for several years. How do we verify that chapters are still active?

Also, the data is not synthesized into reports across the chapters or across time, leaving it to the reader to thumb through PDF after PDF to get a portrait of chapter health and activity.

I consider this indicative of the challenges we have with proposing organizational change in ALA. I am anticipating (5...4...3...2...1) that someone will respond that chapters are very important. Ok, but what does that mean, and is everything equally important? (Divisions are important, roundtables are important, having a huge Council is important, having two conferences is important, every committee is sacred, etc. etc. etc.) At what point does evidence and data play a role in our decisions?

On the plus side, at least questions are being asked and some data is being gathered.

Karen G. Schneider

 

Ruth Boeder's picture

The section of the document that struck me most was the organizational map showing the relationships between various subsections of big ALA. Despite its lack of a key, this diagram of relationships probably gave me the most useful visual representation of ALA that I've ever seen. It reminds all of us that we have a complex organization in response to a complex field. Each of those units has an origin story; they weren't created on a whim but in response to a particular need and context. But as a (comparatively) young ALA member, I largely have no idea what that history is. As we're considering the future, I would suggest that another avenue to explore (and then communicate to new members) might be within our institutional memory, not just our present moment. How many units are still responding to their original charge? How has their context changed? Are they maybe informally or formally meeting a new need/purpose in some way, and how do we communicate this better? Or have we really held onto them through inertia? I agree with other calls in this thread for getting additional data. I wouldn't want to see us end up losing components of this network maybe had evolved for particular needs and environments *but* were still serving a useful function. As the vice-chair of an ACRL IS committee that has been examining and editing its own charge, a concern for legacy has been prominent in my mind and popped up again as I read through the document shared in this post.

Ruth Boeder