ALA Council

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  • 1.  From TAG in preparation for the March 10 Council Meeting

    Posted Feb 15, 2022 11:27 AM

    Dear Council Members,

    As we head into our March 10, 2022 Council meeting, TAG is providing information to you in advance to help you think about where we stand regarding transforming ALA's governance, what we hope to achieve in the upcoming meeting, and discussions we plan to convene in the months leading up to Annual in June. No one wants this work to extend indefinitely. We are hopeful that we can make decisions soon that will propel us forward.

     At our January Council Meetings, consensus was found in the following areas:

    In January, it was determined that the Council prefers a one body model. This has been approved in concept. The composition of this body will be determined in upcoming meetings prior to the Annual meeting in June. 

    We voted to accept, in concept, six guiding principles regarding function:

    1. ALA's governance priorities must be set with the benefit of regularly solicited input from its Members and affiliated Units.
    2. A mechanism (Taking ALA Pulse, or TAP) must be in place by which ALA leadership places current and emerging governance issues before the ALA Members and Units for input.  Such issues may include ones that are identified by the ALA leadership as well as ones initiated by ALA Members and Units.
    3. ALA leadership must report to the ALA Members and Units on a regular and timely basis on identified governance issues and on any developments on related issues and priorities.
    4. ALA Staff and possibly a designated Committee must regularly review, organize and report input received through the TAP mechanism. 
    5. ALA Executive Board of Directors must regularly refer emerging and ongoing governance issues to a BODY OF KNOWLEDGE (BOK) to examine the complexities of the issues at hand and advise the ALA Executive Board of Directors on options that should be considered.
    6. The BOK should be sufficiently large so its advice can be considerate of input from a diversity of views and perspectives, but sufficiently small to enable meaningful engagement of the diverse knowledge and expertise of its members.

    We also voted to accept, in concept, seven guiding principles related to culture:

    1.  A Body of Knowledge (BOK) should generally make its recommendations by consensus. If needed, parliamentary procedure can be employed to resolve differences of opinion by a majority vote.
    2.  To provide informed and credible input to the ALA Executive Board, the BOK must receive all relevant analysis (legal, financial, human resources issues, etc.) of the issues it is asked to comment on.  It must receive such analysis well in advance of a meeting, so each member can review it and be fully prepared.
    3.  Deliberations of the BOK must be at a high level. In the interest of good time management, minor amendments that do not alter the intent of a proposal must be delegated to the ALA Executive Director or the ALA Governance Office for processing, as they see fit.
    4.  A BOK must have an Agenda Planning Committee (APC), which has the authority to determine what to include and what to exclude from the BOK's agenda.  Legitimate reasons for the APC's decision to reject an item would be the degree of relevance and connectedness of the proposed agenda item to ALA's mission, as well as the degree to which the item is time sensitive.  ALA Bylaws may establish a method by which a proponent can appeal the APC's decision.
    5.  If the size of the BOK is substantial, all efforts must be made to engage all its Members and their insights in the BOK's deliberations, and thereby ensure that relevant input is not missed before decision making. Diverse discussion methods should be employed, to enable as many members as possible to participate.
    6.  Given the potential large size of the BOK, meeting time must be treated as a precious commodity, to ensure that time is logically allocated based on the significance of the issues at hand.
    7.  TWO HATS discipline: Given that a BOK is to be a constituency based body, it is crucial that all its members understand that their role IS NOT to serve solely as ADVOCATES for the constituency that elected them.  Although it is their duty to present relevant constituency input, they must also listen to others with open minds learn from their input, and make balanced and fully informed decisions for ALA.  Constituency representatives must inform the units that chose them on how this process works, so no one ever develops the incorrect expectation that their representatives must vote as they order them to. The person chairing the BOK should emphasize the TWO HATS process at the start of every BOK meeting.

    There appears to be consensus that regardless of its function, Council will benefit from reducing the number of Councilors.  Discussion of the composition of the Council including the final size will happen in a series of meetings to be convened by TAG in the months leading up to the Annual Conference in June.

    At the March 10, 2022 Council meeting, we hope to determine whether it is the will of Council to become an advisory body or remain a policy making body. The TAG task force recommends that Council become an advisory body.


    It's important that our governance structure is set up to best work for our Association. The current structure has Council as the policy making body, but the Executive Board has the fiduciary responsibilities and frequently acts on behalf of Council. In most organizations, the fiduciary and policy responsibilities reside in the same body. This model would bring clarity regarding governance to members. 

    As an advisory body, Council could take on a greater role in discussing and debating relevant and timely issues without getting bogged down in procedure. Focus on process rather than substance sometimes takes on a conversation of its own and valuable meeting time is lost. As an advisory body, matters would come to Council where they could make recommendations and craft policy for Board consideration. Councilors bring rich expertise and a range of experiences to the work of Council and it is imperative that they serve as a Body of Knowledge to the Association. Every Council meeting should be an opportunity to strategize, create solutions, and bring awareness to current and relevant issues of libraries. 

    If Council is an Advisory Body, how would policy get made? 

    Policy could come from a variety of places.

    1. Council could:
      1. Identify an issue
      2. Discuss, deliberate, and research the issue
      3. Craft policy to address the issue
      4. Recommend action to the Executive Board
    1. A Committee could:
      1. Identify an issue
      2. Discuss, deliberate, and research the issue
      3. Craft policy to address the issue
      4. Recommend action to the Executive Board
      5. OR bring the issue to Council for all of the above
    1. Members could:
      1. Identify an issue
      2. Discuss, deliberate, and research the issue
      3. Craft policy to address the issue
      4. Recommend action to the Executive Board
      5. OR bring the issue to Council for all of the above

    With the approval of Action Items 1 and 2, Council identified six guiding principles regarding function and seven principles regarding culture as outlined above. Governance will benefit from the oversight that Taking ALA's Pulse would bring. This is envisioned as a way to continually look at effectiveness and responsiveness of all areas of governance. There would also be value in introducing an agenda committee to work in tandem with the Resolutions Committee with the charge of aiding the creation of agenda that are relevant to the priorities and work of ALA. With these in place, membership could have confidence in the work of ALA leadership with an advisory model. 

    The Action item for Council's consideration at the March 10 meeting is as follows:

    Moved, That the TAG Task Force's mandate be extended until the ALA Council determines that its work has been completed, that the motion on the ALA governance structure that was included in part C of the TAG Taskforce's report (as amended by Council) be sent back to the Taskforce for further consideration, and that the TAG Taskforce be directed to proceed as follows:

    Arrange to have a virtual Council Meetings scheduled for March, April and May 2022, with the purpose of continuing the discussion of the TAG Task Force's recommendations;

    Direct, That, in preparation for the virtual Council meetings, the TAG Task Force develop and present for Council's consideration its proposed composition of a reduced size ALA Council, functioning as an advisory body, and that the TAG Task Force also present options for the proposed composition of the new ALA Executive Board;

    Direct, That, in preparation for the virtual Council meetings, the TAG Task Force prepare, for Council's consideration, ideas to advance the implementation of the `Taking ALA Pulse' (TAP) concept, as a method of bringing feedback and issues from ALA Members, Units and Affiliates for Council's consideration in its potentially added role as a Body of Knowledge; and

    Direct, That, in preparation for the virtual Council meetings, the TAG Taskforce present, for Council's consideration, measures that could promote the culture for the effective functioning of ALA Council, with such measures including, but not limited to, improvements to the Council agenda development process, Council evaluation tools, Exit interviews, and more.

    Potential Amendment 

    Although TAG is recommending that Council be an Advisory body, it is recognized that retaining Council as a policy making body has support. To that end, and in the interest of time management at the upcoming meeting, this amendment could be introduced and substituted: 

    Moved, That the motion be amended by replacing in part 2 "advisory" by "policy making".

    What happens next?

    TAG will be hosting an information session for Councilors on Wednesday, Mar 2, 2022 at 3:00 p.m. CT for Council members to discuss the above motion and ask questions. A Zoom link will be sent out closer to the date. Any one who is unable to attend the meeting, is welcome to ask questions about the motion any time prior to the Council meeting on the 10th. My email address is TAG's goal is to have people as informed as possible going into the March meeting, so please don't hesitate to send questions to me or any other TAG members.  

    If the motion passes on March 10, either as written or amended, TAG would then plan a series of discussions for Council leading up to June Council meetings. These would begin in late March with the goal of having well defined motions for votes at the Annual meeting. Topics of these TAG lead meetings will include Council & Board composition, TAP oversight & review, and Council effectiveness.

    Thank you all for your willingness to explore the future of ALA Governance. I truly believe we are on a path to creating a more responsive, effective, efficient, and inclusive governance structure. 


    Amy Lappin, Chair

    On behalf of the Transforming ALA Governance Task Force

    Amy Lappin
    Deputy Director
    Lebanon Public Libraries

  • 2.  RE: From TAG in preparation for the March 10 Council Meeting

    Posted Feb 15, 2022 06:27 PM

    Thank you for this great summary and overview of the TAG situation. If we move toward the Council acting in an advisory capacity, and the Executive Board adds policy-making to its duties, I fear we risk losing adequate representation for the diverse groups of librarians. Professional librarians from smaller libraries and from school libraries often lack the CV experience to run for or get elected to the Executive Board, thus eliminating their voices in actual adoption of policies. If this is the case, I fear that in the attempts to address efficiencies – because let's face it, Council meetings take time, and due to the sheer number of participants it can be difficult to manage - we risk becoming less representative, less effective and diluting our impact as an organization. (...And we all know that  recommending action doesn't really have any weight.  I worry the important discussions of council – where all library types and sizes are represented – will be less robust when councilors know the Executive Committee won't benefit from the details of the debate.)


    I am a new councilor so I came to this conversation a little late. Am I missing something? I would love to connect with someone more knowledgeable to talk this through.









    Lisa Scroggins

    Executive Director


    P 307.237.4935 x115


    307 E 2nd St, Casper, WY 82601

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    E-Mail and correspondence to and from me is subject to the Wyoming Public Records Act and may be disclosed to third parties.



  • 3.  RE: From TAG in preparation for the March 10 Council Meeting

    Posted Feb 15, 2022 09:16 PM

    thank you to you and to the Transforming ALA Governance group for your continued work on this important project.

    Thank you, too, for highlighting the value of a Council-like body becoming advisory, which strengthens the various streams that policy can rise up from: from members, through a stronger and more thoughtful process; from the Council-like advisory body; from the Executive Board. Through representation on the advisory body and the Executive Board, we'll have increased opportunity for representation from members of color through stronger relationships with our national affiliate groups and from divisions, which strongly represent library workers of all types - academic, school, and public. Anything we can do to give our members more direct impact on Board composition (as the TAG process does with more directly elected members) and therefore on policy also ensures a diversity of representation.

    It is time for us as members to trust the people we elect. These are our colleagues, and our member-elected Executive Board representatives and our member-elected division leadership have the same responsibility to be reflective of the desires of membership as any of us on Council do - except, because they are groups much better sized to ensure robust conversation on topics and not on process (as Amy points out), there will be the opportunity for more conversation on policy and policy direction.

    We on Council cannot expect from other groups what we will not do ourselves. Perhaps we as a body continually worry about the ability of these elected bodies to be responsive and inclusive because we know that Council is not. Perhaps we as a body worry about these groups enacting policy in alignment with member direction because we don't - and this conversation, about Council, is a prime example. For years and across task forces and groups and across member surveys, etc etc etc the members have been saying they do not find the work of this body to be of value, and would like to see Council dissolved. Not only have we completely ignored the wishes of members, we have also turned a huge investment in finding ways for members to engage more deeply in our association as a whole into years of conversations about us. It is time for this to stop.

    Stephanie Chase
    PLA Division Councilor