Message to ALA 2017-18 Council Members from ALA President Jim Neal:
The ALA Executive Board met on October 26-27 to discuss next steps in the executive director search. We met with Courtney Young, chair of the search committee, Dan Hoppe, director of human resources at ALA, and a representative of the search firm to review the process and outcome of the search.
The Board took the following actions, all unanimously supported:
- endorsed asking the current members of the search committee and the chair to continue into the next round of the search
- endorsed continuing to work with the search firm Isaacson Miller
- agreed to review the position posting
- endorsed changing the educational requirements to a preferred ALA accredited Master’s Degree or CAEP accredited Master’s Degree with a specialty in School Media, as per the search committee recommendation
- endorsed moving the question of the change in educational requirements to Council for online debate and electronic vote
On the matter of Council debate and vote, I move on behalf of the ALA Executive Board, that the educational requirements for the ALA executive director position be changed to a preferred ALA accredited Master’s Degree or CAEP accredited Master’s Degree with a speciality in School Media.
Discussion of this resolution by members of ALA Council will proceed on ALA Connect during November 2-12. ALA Governance Office staff will post documents to ALA Connect for Council members to review as part of the discussion, including materials and the transcript from the 2017 Midwinter debate. Please conduct all discussion on ALA Connect and not on the Council list.
ALA Council will then proceed to an electronic ballot and vote on the resolution via Connect poll during November 13-20. This is not an anonymous poll as people’s names with be associated with their votes as they are in open Council meetings. The results of the vote will be announced on November 21.
Thanks, Jim Neal.
It would be helpful to know whether there were candidates in the first round who would have been strongly considered for the Executive Director position if they had had the MLS or equivalent, but who were not considered because they lacked only that credential.
While I understand that a reversal of the two resolutions passed by Council requiring the MLS for this position would allow the Search Committee to move forward in the way that they (and the Executive Board) would like, I have strong reservations about the advisability of taking an online vote for a decision of this magnitude. I would prefer that this motion be introduced at Midwinter so that a discussion can take place on the Council floor instead.
I have no problem with the discussion and voting on this issue taking place online in Connect. We never have 100% attendance at Council meetings and at least with an online discussion and vote everyone can participate. The issue was fully debated on Council floor and the vote was close (won by 3 votes??).
I don't think we should wait to discuss again in person. Let's move on. Candidates with an MLS or CAEP certainly are welcome to apply and I'm sure will be considered.
Thank you, Jim and everyone else involved, for getting us to this point! It's clear how complex and nuanced your consideration throughout the process has been.
I voted for the corresponding resolution at Annual, and I plan to vote for this one. My reasons are the same: ALA serves libraries and librarians, but it is not a library itself. The Executive Director needs to be an exemplary association executive, which is its own profession with its own practices, competencies, and capabilities.
At the same time, of course, the successful candidate should share our values and library ethos. The MLS is one possible proxy for assessing that qualification. However, our values as a profession are not some secret knowledge revealed through a credential: they comprise broad views about the world and how people and information should move through it. If we've done our job as a profession in advocating for our values, people without the degree or a librarian background will join us in enacting those values. That's advocacy. And we need a library advocate in the ED role who can manage an extremely complicated organization with our professional ethos at the center of complex decisions.
By requiring the degree for the Executive Director, we imply a specific educational background is necessary to really understand our profession's values. Are our values really that opaque?
I fully support the recommendation of the Executive Director, the ALA Executive Board and the Director Search Committee to broaden the job description to MLS preferred. As I stated during the previous discussions, adding candidates with a MLS or CAEP broadens the pool. Per Jim's comment above, "online discussion and vote are covered in the by-laws". In NY, the professional organization, the New York Library Association's executive director does not have a MLS degree. He thoroughly understands the important role of libraries in the community - school libraries, academic libraries, special libraries, public libraries .... He works with the NYLA Council, sections, roundtables and membership. He is able to see library issues with an objective eye and listens to the field.
One does not need a MLS degree to understand our core values. Let's broaden the language and move on - there are important issues taking place nationally and internationally that need our attention.
I support discussing and voting on this recommendation online,
Previously I opposed dropping the MLS requirement. In light of the experience of the Search Committee, I now plan to vote for the recommended change trusting that the Search Committee will find someone fully committed to our core values and who understands the complexities of our organization and its members. Thanks very much to the committees for your efforts.
I too support dropping the MLS requirement. ALA faces many of the same challenges other associations face.
Our core values are pretty straight forward and I wouldn't hire someone who had problems with them, but they are completely unique to our industry.
I would prefer to have a professional association manager manager our association. We deserve to have a professional leading the staff side of our association. Let's get a leader in that profession on board to help us.
I have been following this conversation for some time now. Since it seems that there is much determination to seek an executive director who is not a librarian to lead us, I hope that we in the membership will obtain some more explanatory details from our leaders.
Until then, I will continue to wonder why it is that the American Bar Association has a longtime lawyer with a law degree leading the helm, the American Medical Association has a longtime physician and MD as their executive director, yet now we have passionate people in the library field asserting that libraries would be better off represented by a professional association that is not led by a professional librarian.
I assume that these conversations will lead us to consider whether our commitment and significant investment in accrediting library programs is taking the profession in a constructive direction.
Recently I have read a number of articles asserting that hospitals are best run by doctors rather than by bureaucrats; the assumption is that it takes someone who has practiced in the field to fully understand the industry they represent. Similarly, it has always seemed to me that only someone who has served as a credentialed librarian can completely understand our context.
Since so many of my colleagues feel otherwise, I look forward to hearing why and gaining a better understanding of their position.
Melora Ranney Norman
See relevant policy post lower in thread:http://connect.ala.org/comment/89314#comment-89314
In an email to the Council list, JoAnn requested that we post our comments to this motion on the Documents and Discussion Connect page. In order for the the input from Councilors to be properly seen and recorded, I ask that we move this there. That's where I'm about to post.
Straight link to alacoun email I just sent:http://lists.ala.org/sympa/arc/alacoun/2017-11/msg00003.html
Melora raises some very valid and important issues, and I completely share her point of view. And thank you, Melora, for contributing your thoughts to this discussion.
Council has voted twice on this issue; both times the result was the requirement for the MLS degree. Would we be taking a third vote if the search committee had actually identified viable candidates from the first pool? I suspect not. Since it appears that Council will indeed be voting electronically on this motion, I urge councilors to keep in mind that we are not setting policy merely for this particular search, but for all future Executive Director searches.