ALA Council

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The vision of ALA Governance

  • 1.  The vision of ALA Governance

    Posted Jun 26, 2020 04:07 PM

    The work of SCOE has been necessary to address the successful future of ALA.  Their work has been insightful and informative.  In many areas, I agree with them.  We need to be an effective, nimble, inclusive, member-driven American Library Association.  The one issue where I disagree is the role of the Board of Directors to replace the Executive Board as the sole decision-maker of this volunteer-driven organization.  ALA founding documents (Article 6) created the Council for a reason.

    In the spirit of feedback, this is what I have been thinking while at leadership meetings as well as while listening to and participating in SCOE events and presentations.

    Role of Council:

    I agree with SCOE that we need to meet more often but this can be done virtually, allowing for electronic voting and year-round engagement.  Meeting online will address the barriers to participation and influence, including cost, ability to travel and institutional support – Which we now have.

    While in Council, I hear robust discussions that I don't hear in meetings of my more focused divisions and committees.  Those discussions inform my opinions on my professional duties and role as a librarian.  Without the Council's dialogs and with only Standing Committees and Assemblies in which to air ideas, I believe that silo thinking would be reinforced and broader professional issues ignored. With all disputes being settled by a small insular group, there will be no environment to hear the ideas that come from diverse members.

    Council can receive critical, ongoing input from general members and leaders on an ongoing basis if given a chance.  To increase the level of discussions beyond ALA Unit operations, I think both the policy and operation manuals should be reviewed periodically so that the goals, values, and operations of ALA may be affirmed, rejuvenated or retired. 

    Size of Council has been an issue for the need to dissolve Council and its 187 members, but if you add up the assemblies (100) and standing committees (90) mentioned in the Forward Together document it would total of 190 members and have a greater need for more staff and time to organize.

    Another reason to dissolve Council is the cost, which will be reduced now that we can meet with a smaller footprint with our ability to vote remotely and not be tied to the Midwinter/Annual schedules.  As fellow councilors implied how we can make decisions based on fiscal issues when we don't have our fiscal house in order.

    A review of the operating agreement is a must.  This will involve a delicate, but essential balance between independence and shared goals among ALA's components.  If we don't empower Units of ALA, we will lose more members.  To increase member engagement, we must have stronger Divisions, Roundtables, Assemblies, Chapters, Communities of Interest, Working Groups, and Advisory Groups.  These entities address the immediate needs of making standards, awards and recognitions, sharing with publications and workshops, providing an environment for mentoring through personal relationships, incubating leaders, and developing a home for personal development and exploration.  These structures are supported by dues and volunteers and are where members should have their greatest impact and where most members will find their homes within ALA.  If we only have Units and Assemblies, then we would lose the cross-pollination of ideas and innovations that the Council provides.

    The parent ALA entices members by advocating for our priorities, providing a beacon for our profession and a voice for our shared values.  High-level discussions and decision making to assist the members and society should be the work of the Council.  If we vote no on CD#42 it does not mean all the work of SCOE was for not we can still move Forward Together with some of the SCOE suggestions.   Council can still make changes to modernize our beloved ALA. 

    [Jennifer] [Boettcher]
    Business Reference Librarian
    Georgetown University