To: Members of the Council of the American Library Association
From: Betty Turock
Re: Cautions Raised by Recommendations and Resolutions
Annual ALA Conference, Washington, DC.
June 23-28, 2022
The Existential Threats to ALA
In this moment ALA faces three existential threats: 1) a lack of fiscal stability and sustainability; 2.) a major decline in membership; and 3) no new initiatives directed to increase Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, the key to the democratization that has shown significant growth in the recent history of ALA. Yet today we are asked to vote on the restructuring and reorganization of governance. This is a vote on whether to retain Council as a policy making body. Every vote counts and must be taken seriously. A vote yes will not merely move work along, it can in the future be interpreted as ending the Council as a policy making power and reducing it to an Advisory Body of Knowledge with all policy making vested in the Executive Board alone. The threats and the actions on today's agenda are incongruent with ALA's critical needs at this time.
The Fiscal Crisis and Membership Decline
Throughout the focus on reorganization no reports or plans have addressed the amelioration of the fiscal crisis. We have spent a pivotal amount of time, energy, and resources on reorganization, which has become a debate about where the policy decision making and, therefore, the power should reside-in the Executive Board or the Council.
In the last report from the Fiscal Analysis Working Groups, it advised that a comparison of the costs of the proposed reorganized ALA with the existing status was impossible until the reorganization is in place. Yet any librarian with budgetary responsibility makes these cost comparisons on an annual basis. Without them no new services or programs could be instituted or older less effective ones retired. The recommendations proposed come forward with no comprehensive fiscal analysis conducted. The loss of members continues even as we bemoan their decrease in meaningful involvement and engagement in the work of ALA. Where are the concrete recommendations to ameliorate these exigencies?
The Big Debate
We have discussed and debated the demise of Council's power in the policy decision making arena. Council, the largest and most democratic body in the Association, is confronted with becoming a shadow of itself as its power is diminished to an Advisory Body of Knowledge and ALA policy making is solely vested in an Executive Board whose powers are remarkably increased along with its costs since Board members' expenses are paid while those of Councilors are not. No one doubts Council requires a reformation, but where is movement demonstrated toward that vital need? The Executive Board may entertain but not adopt any of the Council's recommendations. Where are the criteria by which the Executive Board will accept or reject Council's recommendations? Why is the power of ALA's only directly voted upon route to leadership, Council, diminished and at the same time an internally selected group, the Executive Board's power is increased? No answer to that conundrum is forthcoming.
The Follow Through
TAG recommendations reference the National Association of Librarians of Color (NALCo). We must have assurance that a means is in place for NALCo to become a voice with agency that can further Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. The vision for a viable ALA must focus on fiscal stabilization and sustainability, increased membership, and active member engagement, together with clearly formed actions to continue the hard-fought democratization of ALA through the advancement of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) as a guiding principle for directing the Association's energies and resources in the future.
Betty TurockPast President and Honorary MemberAmerican Library AssociationProfessor and Dean EmeritaRutgers University
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