ALA Council

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  • 1.  ALA is in Trouble: My Perspective and Experience Serving on this Board

    Posted 7 days ago

    Dear Council,

    It is my opinion, as a sitting Executive Board member of the American Library Association (ALA), that ALA is fiscally unstable and overall in trouble. My intention in writing to you is to share my current analysis of ALA and to tell you my perspective and my truth. You, as the governing body, and the membership are the only chance ALA has if it is going to make it.  

    Here is the Google Drive folder for all the documents linked in this letter and more. I have edited documents to remove confidential information or responses from elected, voting board members. Board members, please feel free to share your responses from ALA Connect to Council if you want to provide any clarification on your position at the time. I only shared my own comments from ALA Connect, a quote from the Executive Director in an ALA Connect post, along with her answers about sponsors for 2023 LibLearnX, and text messages from a hired contractor who posed as ALA’s lawyer to get me off of the board. Other than those messages, all other documentation are either official ALA reports or my messages from the ALA Connect Executive Board list.

    If reading this letter on Google Drive is easier, you can access it here. 

    This Issues


    From my perspective, there are 3 major reasons for why ALA is fiscally unstable and will not last the next two years. They are: 1) finances, 2) staff leaving and 3) the Executive Committee and ALA staff circumventing the Board’s authority.


    1 - The Finances 

    Conference Services 

    2023 LibLearnX in New Orleans and 2023 Annual Conference Chicago are projected to lose $398,000 this year. Please refer to EB 3.2  the “Conference Services” tab


    LibLearnX which was projected to bring in 2,000 paid attendees and 200 vendors, has only brought in 1,600 paid attendees and 88 paid vendors. LibLearnX is projected to lose the Association $224,000.  


    Also, the “GFBYDEPT” tab of EB 3.14 shows Conference Services having expenses totaling $1 million. I may not be reading this correctly. An explanation in New Orleans will be helpful.


    [While writing this statement, I have just realized that financial reports are now presented as revenue and expenses instead of assets and liabilities which is very different, financially speaking]


    One of ALA’s largest revenue streams is now a liability and is losing money for the Association. The loss of revenue from conferences to this magnitude is unprecedented for ALA. In February 2022, I requested for the topic of Conference Services to be put on the agenda. Although it was put on the agenda, I was blocked from discussing this topic. 


    Low Visibility and Participation of Sponsors 

    I was concerned when I did not see any sponsors listed on the website nor in American Libraries Magazine for LibLearnX, especially knowing that LibLearnX was $224,000 in the negative. I first asked the Executive Director and received no response. Then on Thursday, January 19, 2023, I asked the Executive Director at the Joint Budget Analysis Review Committee (BARC) and Finance and Audit Committee (F&A) meeting about sponsors for 2023 LibLearnX. Both the Executive Director and the Associate Executive Director of Publishing confirmed that LibLearnX has sponsors. I followed up in ALA Connect with some questions and here are the responses. 


    I am concerned about the current and future sponsorship of ALA. From my viewpoint, it appears that sponsors were not fully included until I raised questions. ALA staff did not inform the board of the major change in the lack of participation with sponsors. Whether this was intentional or not, this is cause for major concern. 


    For access to the complete folder with documentation about low sponsor participation, click here. 


    Fundraising vs Revenue-Generating Financial Model 

    ALA’s financial model has shifted to a fundraising (contributed revenue) model from a revenue-generating model. You can see the consequence of this reflected in the Treasurer’s report, ALA CD 13 - slide 3

    There is a $1.9 million operational deficit because there wasn’t enough revenue generated to cover the expenses. Now the financial narrative is that ALA is financially sound because we are waiting on a grant to cover the deficit.  If ALA needs grants to cover expenses, then ALA is not financially stable. 

    I am also concerned that part of the positive “revenue” that has been presented includes funds from open staff positions, which is NOT revenue. I asked at the Joint BARC and F&A meeting how much of the positive revenue reflects the staff positions that are currently unfilled at ALA. The Chief Financial Officer is working on getting that information.


    2 - Massive Staff Resignations 

    Key ALA staff,  with years of experience and institutional knowledge, have been leaving the association at alarming rates. The Board was warned about this at least twice and nothing was done. As a result of this, the association has lost (and continues to lose) some amazingly talented people who have great connections, experience and are passionate about libraries. 

    A few key staff members who have resigned, (there are more) are the ½ of the Communication Marketing Office, the Executive Director of CORE and the Associate Executive Director of Public Policy and Advocacy.

    The implications of this are huge for ALA, libraries and the people they serve. The impact of this spreads wide and affects all. 


    3 - Executive Committee and ALA staff circumventing the Board’s authority 

    Below are examples of Board and Council decisions that were allegedly made by either ALA staff or the Executive Committee. This list demonstrates that the Executive Board and ALA staff members do not understand their roles and do not follow the constitution and bylaws. .

    Allegedly:

    Link to complete “3% Raise and Days Off” folder, click here

    • ALA staff created Prison Standards and Standards for the Blind and gave them to the Committee on Diversity to adopt them. (Staff do the work of members, not the other way around.)
    • In the creation of the Prison Standards, as told during the ODLOS report during the October Executive Board meetings, ALA staff interviewed incarcerated ALA members to develop the Prison standards. (This is wrong on multiple levels.)
    • ALA staff initiated the dissolution of ASGLA without Board knowledge. 

    (ASGLA is technically not dissolved, nor is CORE a division, because of an illegal vote that was confirmed at the 2022 Annual Conference in Washington, DC by current parliamentarian Adrian Stratton and former parliamentarian Eli Mina. This belongs to Council and needs to come to an official vote for both, according to our Bylaws).

    • ALA staff giving ALA staff unapproved days off.

    I, as an Executive Board member, was told that I needed to present a proposal to the Board in order to ask the Board to vote on giving ALA staff Indigenous Peoples’ Day off. However, ALA staff gave ALA staff Juneteenth off,  and a week at Christmas and did not seek Board approval. The Board had to go back at the third Board meeting at the 2022 Annual Conference and approve the Juneteenth because ALA staff cannot make ALA policy.  Things are out of order. 


    My Story

    I want to be clear that my story is from my perspective and even if the intention was not to ostracize me and weaponize my voice, that is how I feel as a result of events and actions that occurred while serving on this board. 

    There have been aggressive attempts to silence my voice on this board. Although the optics now appear that everyone has a voice, the multiple attempts to silence me has left me traumatized and I am only a fraction of my former self. 

    I have been accused twice while serving on this board of verbally attacking the Executive Director, the first time was my first year on the board and the second time was in June. Unfortunately, recordings of Executive Board meetings are discarded, however there were Board members present that can speak to these incidents.  

    In June 2022, at the Annual Conference in DC a hired contractor to survey board effectiveness accused me of attacking the Executive Director when I asked a fiscal question about a separate reception for the Executive Director to meet with members that the Board did not approve. My concern was that there was already a reception for all members and that the ED should be having a reception for the staff, not the members, since she was hired to lead staff. In addition, I was concerned about ALA spending money on receptions when the staff had just been furloughed and I was questioning the finances.  

    I have asked for topics to be discussed and have been met with much resistance. Click here for messages that I later perceived to be attempts to silence me. My agenda items have been rejected under the last two administrations. 


    As a result of the multiple attempts to silence me, and other experiences I have in librarianship, I am no longer open to having 1:1 isolated meetings unless I trust the colleague. I now need witnesses present. 


    Apologies

    I do regret that many of these experiences have affected me in a way that prevented me from fully serving the members. 

    I want to be clear that this message is out of concern and respect for the members and in no way is there any intent to harm anyone. 

    Secondly, I want to apologize to anyone that may be harmed by this message. My intent is not to harm. My intent is to share my perspective of the state of affairs of the American Library Association to its governing body, Council, and its members. At this point, I believe that only Council and the membership can turn things around. 

    ALA is dissolving and has become a shell of its former self. If an intervention does not happen to ensure that the Executive Board, ALA staff, and Council fulfill their obligation per the constitution and bylaws, ALA will not make it. In the midst of the Operating Agreement discussion, Division and Roundtables need to consider, if things do not turn around, how they will be able to still provide services, without the support of ALA. 


    Conclusion

    This is my view as a current Executive Board member of the American Library Association. Based on my experiences serving on this board during my term, I expect allegations of me being aggressive, petty, and attacking people to be a tactic to deflect from the topics I have discussed in this letter to you. I do not expect people to clearly answer any questions being asked. I expect answers to be very lengthy and confusing. There may be some blame. If these tactics are used, as they have been while serving on this board, I hope that calling it out in this letter encourages participants to pause, choose honesty and transparency, and move forward with a mindset to save the association. 

    I will no longer serve on this board if things continue to operate against our bylaws. I will see how Council responds.  If Council decides that all is in order and the association has been operating according to the bylaws, I will respect your decision and resign from the Board. 

    Please share and talk to members about the directions of ALA. The power of the association is with its members. The collective voice of members runs ALA, and things need to change. I am open to having conversations with ALA members and Council members in New Orleans. I have difficulty with online communication and may miss your e-message. If you run into me in New Orleans and want to talk, please grab me, and let’s chat. 

    Thank you for reading this. I truly want this association to be the best it can be. Libraries and the work that we do is too important for us not to have the courage to engage in difficult conversations.


    Thank you and very best, 

    Libré



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    Libré Booker
    Founder
    Living Green Garden
    She/Her/Hers
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  • 2.  RE: ALA is in Trouble: My Perspective and Experience Serving on this Board

    Posted 7 days ago

    Dear Libré and Council,

    As always I want to ensure a transparent and democratic process is upheld in both our Executive Board meetings and our Council meetings and take concerns very seriously. Voicing our concerns and differing opinions is of the utmost importance to making the best decisions as a group, and we are thankful to have members and member leaders who speak up and speak out for our profession, for library workers, the communities we serve, and libraries as an institution.

     

    Tomorrow, Wednesday, the ALA Executive Board will be discussing finance & budget issues during our virtual meeting. Council will discuss those same issues this weekend, Saturday and Sunday.  The documents from those meetings and the recent BARC and Finance & Audit meetings are/will be available to all members.

     

    Council, if you have questions about any of the points raised that may not be addressed or shared during our Council meetings this week, we may figure out time and space in which to have any conversations Council feels are necessary.

     

    I look forward to hearing robust discussion and conversation to make ALA the best it can be and am always here for ideas, questions, and concerns around the association and its governance. The strength of our association is indeed in our collective voice and our collective action.

     

    I am here to work with our members and member leaders to continue strengthening ALA and look forward to seeing you in New Orleans both in person and virtually.

     

    Sincerely,
    Lessa



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    Lessa Kanani'opua Pelayo-Lozada
    ALA President, 2022-2023
    Adult Services Assistant Manager, Palos Verdes Public Library
    She/Her/Hers
    lessaforlibraries.com
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