Hello from your local Chapter Councilor to the American Library Association. This past week I attended Council Forums and Council meetings virtually and this is my report.
Want to be a Councilor?
Brief note that my Chapter Councilor term is up in May. While I am more than happy to serve a second three-year term, I would also be happy to pass the privilege and responsibility on to someone else. Feel free to contact me directly and I can discuss what is involved. I was lucky to follow in the footsteps of Marti Fiske (with some gap coverage also by Virgil Fuller, thanks Virgil and Happy Birthday!) who did a terrific job for us.
ALA Conferences Overview
The January professional development conference (with speakers and activities and vendors) is becoming known as LibLearnX, and all the committee meetings which happen at ALA in January are… still kind of called Midwinter. It’s a little confusing and I asked specifically if this lack of clarity was intentional and was told by the Conference Committee that they are really trying to spin up LibLearnX as a “whole new thing” and so they don’t use any of the Midwinter verbiage which, to my mind, leaves people to figure it out on their own. LibLearnX does look pretty interesting and now all of the speakers and activities are at “no conflict” times, in case you were thinking about attending in the future. Next LibLearnX is in New Orleans, always a great conference location.
Next big conference for ALA is in Washington DC June 23-28. It is still somewhat up in the air whether this will be in person, virtual or hybrid. I have been advocating for a hybrid conference as I think it allows for better accessibility as well as access for Councilors from far-flung states as well as some serious cost savings for people from smaller chapters but there has been some push back on this, so stay tuned. Report follows….
Report on Meetings
The major things I did this time around were attend all Council Forums and all Council Meetings. The Forums are places where Councilors can discuss items which will be appearing before Council, to be available for Q&A, and to wordsmith and hammer out changes so we don’t take up time at the meetings which are highly structured and have a lot going on. I’ll try to give you a loose sense of what went on with the understanding that not everyone cares about the national organization’s minutiae. If I did not cover a thing that you care about, please get in touch. All of the documents I mention should be linked from this page. I’ll try to pull out links for important documents.
Council Forum – Tuesday Jan 18th 7:00 – 9:00 pm
This forum was all about discussing the motions and the Transforming ALA Governance Task Force (TAG) which is part of the ongoing Forward Together plan from ALA that has been part of a member-oriented initiative from approximately five years ago. It’s been slow going. The web page for this overarching plan is here.
The most recent step was the appointment of TAG to actually draft resolutions and commensurate bylaws changes that would actually put these plans in motion. As you might expect, this is going even more slowly than folks anticipated and so the bulk of Forum I was discussing people’s issues and concerns with the two main governance model plans that TAG put forward which are available on this page here.
Of important note is that both of these involve a radical re-assessment and likely shrinking of Council’s remit. There are some Councilors who object to any substantive changes and so there are kind of three plans on the table where one plan is “stay the course.”
Council I – Weds Jan 19th 3:00 – 6:30 pm
This meeting was a combination of a lot of reports (we get some reports read to us even though they were in our packets. I have opinions on this practice) and I pulled out a few pieces of information I found useful, under the guidance of ALA President Patty Wong. At the ALA-APA (ALA Allied Professionals Association – a branch of ALA with a different non-profit status allowing for things like lobbying) meeting, we learned that ALA-APA is running a surplus, which is nice. They have struggled with useful revenue streams and they have been doing some professional development seminars that seem worthwhile. Their website, slightly out of date but with accurate contact information.
The ALA Code of Ethics is now live including the new ninth principle about social justice which may be helpful to some of you in your work.
Folks might also be interested in the report from the (new) Committee on Sustainability because I know that is of interest to many in this state.
Council Forum – Weds Jan 19th 7:30 – 9:30 pm
This forum was almost entirely committed to discussing Round Table readjustments and more of the TAG resolutions which were coming up in Council II and III
Council II – Thurs Jan 20th 12:30 – 4:30 pm
There were some Round Table readjustments which were mostly paperwork-driven and seemed non-controversial but required voting
- Dissolve Staff Organizations Round Table (SORT)
- Dissolve Library Support Staff Interests Round Table (LSSIRT)
- Create a Round Table with the new name of the Library Support Staff Round Table
- Establish Coretta Scott King Book Awards Round Table — this has been happening for 50 years under the aegis of (most recently) the Ethnic & Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table (EMIERT) and could not longer happen that way because of rules governing what is committee work and what is Round Table work. This should be fine.
Piece of trivia that I picked up at this meeting: 38 State Chapters do not have many school librarians in them because there is a separate school library association, the way we have VSLA (obviously some school librarians are members of VLA, or both). The only reason this is a big deal is that these groups wind up not having representation at ALA because only one state chapter can be an ALA member. So there is some back and forth about representation of school librarians at ALA especially as we are discussing changing the make up of Council. Currently AASL has a representative to Council. We did not get to vote on the Resolution to Support School and Youth Services Librarians Facing Increased Intellectual Freedom Challenges because of time spent discussing TAG which was too bad.
We also spent about 30 min at the end of the meeting with the information that ALA’s Parliamentarian was retiring at the conclusion of the annual meeting. This was big news and too bad because he is a treasure. There were then testimonials and little Zoom speeches which were both adorable and also time-consuming.
Council Forum Friday Jan 21st 7:00 – 9:00 pm
The membership committee led some discussion of new ALA membership levels. Previously ALA has had a mishmash of confusing membership levels which make becoming a new member a chore. We discussed some of the changes that were happening, to get voted on during Council III. There was also some discussion of how to manage the large amount of things we need to do at Council III since people felt
- That many people with hands raised using Zoom software were not called on to discuss items which was a problem. This appears to be its own digital divide issue since staff need to manage many things at once running the meetings, but it’s a problem.
- That we did not get to some of the items for Council II pushing them to Council III which was also full. This is a combination of better enforcement of time limits, more awareness of what needs to happen, some better management of tech issues (many people had trouble voting which delayed the meeting getting started) and differences in prioritization about whether it’s better to let everyone talk or better to call the questions once consensus seems to be approaching.
Ultimately what looked like it was going to happen was some of the actions at Council III were pushed back to a meeting-to-be-named-later which will happen in February.
Council III Monday January 24th 3:30 – 6:30 pm
A lot going on this meeting including memorial resolutions as well as honorary membership resolutions. The latter became another digital divide issue because those discussions happen in closed session which is simple in person and devilishly difficult in Zoom because staff have to either evict unknown non-Councilors or expect them to leave on their own.
The simplifying membership levels discussion passed. This was NOT a discussion about dues levels which will be set separately. I spoke in favor this resolution since I think both simplifying the levels as well as raising the income threshold for non-salaried members from 30K to 45K could potentially let more people join ALA at lower price points. I will speak against a dues increase if one is suggested, though I expect to be in the minority.
There was a very good discussion around the DEI scorecard and voted to use it as the primary means for ALA’s measures for DEI. Read more about the scorecard here.
Of specific note is that while this is a general DEI scorecard, the main parts which have been “built out” are regarding racial equity not accessibility/disability or other diversity initiatives. These are definitely in process but it’s worth understanding the context of this document which I encourage people to check out.
We approved the budget and approved the operating agreement. ALA is in a better place in terms of budgeting now under Tracie Hall as executive director than under the interim ED.
We approved honorary Memberships to ALA Past President Jim Neal and ALA Past President Maureen Sullivan, both well-deserved in my opinion. Over 200 pages of documentation. Phew!
Of note is that we did not get to several member and round table initiated resolutions because of this time crunch. We also didn’t vote on the final TAG resolutions but we plan to in February. Please contact me if you have feelings about this or just want to talk about it. Last item was the announcement of Sara Dallas (NY) and Kathy Carroll(SC) to ALAs Executive Board.
I did not attend any other programming at LibLearnX but I will point to the Youth Media Awards list which is available as an 11-page document here.
And for a good list of all the book awards, this vendor website is better than anything I found on the ALA website, no endorsement should be inferred.
Thanks for reading to the end! There was a lot going on and I was happy to be able to participate and represent the state of Vermont at the American Library Association.
VLA Chapter Councilor