ALA Council

How Time During Council Sessions Is Used

  • 1.  How Time During Council Sessions Is Used

    Posted Feb 19, 2018 11:47 AM
    ​Good afternoon, Council colleagues and ALA members:

     

    Here's the text of the entire statement I'd hoped to read during Council III at Midwinter had time permitted. (I had to abbreviate since three minutes goes by very quickly!)
     

    I hope we can use this statement and the brief discussion we began in Denver to keep the conversation moving forward. I look forward to hearing your thoughts, ideas, and comments.

     

    Warmest regards,

     

    Jenna Nemec-Loise, ALSC Division Councilor

     



     


    How Time During Council Sessions Is Used

     

    This issue was raised at both Council Forum I and Council Forum II, but I want to recap the discussion for councilors and members of the audience who were unable to join us for those sessions.

     

    I’m ever grateful for the rich discussions we have at conferences. I look forward to both Council meetings and Council forums so we can do our utmost to move the work of the association forward on behalf of our colleagues who elected us. However, I have significant concerns about the current structure of Council meetings and the way we use our time together: We may not be conducting our business in ways that are as effective, transparent, or inclusive as we believe them to be.

     

    Council I here in Denver is a prime example. Perhaps due to rich discussion at Council Forum I on the previous evening, we concluded Council business quickly and bumped up our ALA-APA session by a full hour. Rather than waiting until the scheduled ALA-APA time of 10:30 a.m.—a time posted in the scheduler for all Midwinter attendees should they choose to join us—we began at 9:30 a.m. and finished before 10. That’s one full hour earlier than we were scheduled to conclude.

     

    On one hand, this seems like a nice problem to have. Concluding business early means we can move on to other things, like visiting the Exhibits floor, networking with colleagues informally, getting coffee and a much-needed break, or running off to that other meeting because you can’t be two places at once. And after all, who wants to extend meetings just to fill up time and say we did?

     

    But what else can concluding our business early and outside of scheduled times mean for our membership at large? How does that look, and how may it be perceived by our ALA peers? Here are a few actual perceptions I’ve heard from non-Council members:


    • "Council is a 'rubber stamp' body that operates at the pleasure of the Executive Board."

    • "Council brings up issues and votes on them without discussion that justifies decisions."

    • "Council discussions are secret and don’t actually take place during meetings."

    • "Council is for councilors."

    • "After being invited by a councilor, I went to sit in on a Council session and walked into an empty room."


    What does this tell us? Two things, I think: (1) That what is perceived, is; and (2) we can and should do better.

     

    We owe it to the members we serve and to ourselves as councilors to examine our current practices and find new ways to demonstrate the purpose, value, and substance of what we do. That starts with making the most of Council meetings and creating opportunities for ALL members—councilors and non-councilors alike—to work, learn, and serve more efficiently, transparently, and inclusively.

     

    Here are a few ideas about how to do so generated at Council Forum I, Council Forum II, and in conversations I’ve had with many councilors:


    • Stick to scheduled time slots. If Council business concludes early, don’t bump other sessions up. This would allow interested members to find us and engage with us as they would expect to do per the online scheduler.

    • Conduct the ALA-APA meeting prior to Council I. If Council I ends early, there is no time gap.

    • Make the most of Council meeting time slots. If Council business is concluded early, conduct break-out discussions on pre-arranged or spontaneous topics of relevance to ALA membership. These activities would engage Council and audience members in conversation and demonstrate councilors’ commitment to maximizing our scheduled time working for the benefit of ALA and our membership.

    • Build on the success of yesterday’s Council II meeting. Rather than making time for break-out sessions only if Council ends early, be intentional about creating member engagement opportunities, adding at least one conversation to the Council agenda at each conference.

    • Move to suspend Roberts Rules of Order for discussion items. Parliamentary procedure is vital when it comes to making motions, putting forward resolutions, and taking votes, and I’m grateful for that process. However, agreeing to speak more informally during discussion may help conversation evolve more naturally and provide broader entry points for those who are reluctant to speak under more formal constraints.

    • Move one Council forum to a morning time slot. This slot could fill the time that remains if a Council session ends early, or it could be scheduled as a separate time slot immediately following a Council session. Since not all councilors are able to attend evening forums, having a morning option may increase forum attendance, engage a broader community, and minimize the perception that Council conducts business or conversation in secret.

    • Duplicate Council Forum discussions on the Council floor. This is perhaps the most critical area where each and every one of us can improve immediately. Let’s say what we say in forum during Council I, II, and III. Not only will duplicating our discussions on the Council floor make them a matter of record, we could also minimize the feelings of disenfranchisement many of our councilors and non-councilors feel when they are unable to attend forum sessions. (And I echo the thanks to LITA Councilor Aaron Dobbs for recording our forum notes and making sure they’re posted for everyone.)


    If we are to evolve ALA and improve our organizational effectiveness, we as Council must model what that looks like—now. If time allows this morning, I ask our Council colleagues to join me in discussing the issue of how Council uses time during conference meetings. Please repeat all the feedback, ideas, and questions you shared during Council Forum I and Council Forum II here in Denver. If time does not allow, let’s continue the conversation on the Council listserv.

     

    Lastly, I extend my deep thanks to ALA President Jim Neal for his immediate attention to the issues I’ve raised here when I expressed them after Council I and for taking swift action at this Midwinter Meeting to make Council sessions more effective, transparent, and inclusive.

     

    Thank you for your time and attention to this important issue.


  • 2.  RE: How Time During Council Sessions Is Used

    Posted May 11, 2018 09:24 AM
    My apologies if this is a duplicate message.  I'm having difficulty posting directly to the Council list.

    Doug

    ================

    Colleagues,

    In general, I'm happy to experiment with the timing and formatting of Council forums.  Heck, we are looking at significant major changes to ALA as an organization and continuing adjustments to Annual Conference and Midwinter, so why not?

    That said, I have a couple of concerns.

    Given that many of us have already made flight plans and hotel reservations not to mention having committed to various committee meetings and events, I'd strongly prefer experimenting with the timing of Council Forums at next Midwinter not in New Orleans.

    I certainly agree with the comment that Council Committees should not be reporting at Council Forums.  However, there's a big difference between "reporting to" and "seeking input from" councilors during forums.  As a past chair of IFC (and speaking only for myself), I brought several draft documents to Council Forums and received invaluable input.

    I never asked for approval of a document at a forum only input and I only promised that any advice given would receive serious consideration before a final draft was presented formally to Council.  The last thing we need during Council sessions is editing by a committee of the whole.

    Please remember that once any Council committee brings a document to Council for its approval, it becomes a Council document.  That document can then be discussed, amended, tabled, referred, etc. or rejected -- by Concil.  Final action always resides with Council.

    Safe travel to all; see you in the Big Easy,

    Doug

    Councilor at Large
    Past Chair, Intellectual Freedom Committee

    J. Douglas Archer
    Peace Studies, Global Affairs and Political Science Librarian

    University of Notre Dame
    201D-1 Hesburgh Library
    Notre Dame, IN 46556


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    Doug Archer
    Peace Studies, Global Affairs & Political Science Librarian
    University of Notre Dame
    Notre Dame IN
    (574) 631-6656
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  • 3.  RE: How Time During Council Sessions Is Used

    Posted May 22, 2018 07:38 AM
    As noted on the Council list, flight plans should not be an issue. The proposed changes make it more, not less, likely that Forum falls within anyone's conference schedule.

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    Karen Schneider
    Dean, University Library
    Sonoma State University
    Rohnert Park CA
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