Vermont Chapter Councilor Report – ALA Annual 2020

I attended the American Library Association’s first virtual conference between June 17th and June 27th. This was the first ALA Annual with new Executive Director Tracie Hall who was replacing acting Director Mary Ghikas who was filling in after the retirement of Keith Michael Fiels. Hall took over at a really difficult time with ALA reporting challenging financials even before COVID-Era consequences. I am, and have been, a big fan of her work.

Council meetings–both Forums which are for informal discussion and Meetings which is where business gets done–mostly worked out well. The last Council meeting normally happens at 8 am but thanks to the virtual meeting featuring members and Councilors in their home states, meetings were in the afternoon in Vermont so that they could be not too early in Hawai’i. Meetings took place over Zoom with voting taking place via an online voting tool that worked fairly well. While there were some accessibility challenges–the Director of the California Library for the Blind is on Council and had lots of useful feedback–we were able to complete our business. Here are the actions I took.

1. Before Council, I assisted in crafting a resolution with members of SRRT: ALA CD 45 Resolution on Developing Library Security Policies in keeping with ALA Policy. This was eventually passed in Council by a wide margin and will result in the creation of a working group to issue some policy recommendations for libraries. You can read the passed document here (PDF). This was not as strong as some had hoped for, but a decent start.

2. I spoke to a resolution during Council ALA CD 43 Resolution on protecting privacy and safety in coronavirus-related library policy just supporting libraries privacy policy while encouraging libraries to not impede public health investigations. The general gist was that libraries shouldn’t do proactive listing of patrons who visit, but if patrons or staff get sick, libraries should provide information to help contact tracing. It’s a complicated issue and there was a lively discussion. You can read the passed document here (PDF).

3. Two big topics for the forums as well as the Council. One was  from Committee on Organization regarding dissolving the  Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS), Library and Information Technology Association (LITA), Library Leadership and Management Association (LLAMA) and  Association of Specialized, Government, and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASGCLA) divisions. These will be replaced by Core: Leadership, Infrastructure, Futures as a division at a later time. This is a multi-year process and, while sad, was the way these individual groups wanted to go, so voting for it was the thing to do and nearly everyone did. I believe you can read the report here (PDF).

4. The last big thing is the ALA Forward Together plan which is a huge restructuring project. It passed after a lot of discussion and is a beginning to really thinking how to make ALA more welcoming and accessible to more members and maybe less bureaucratic. It involves a lot of bylaws changes and other things but we were just voting to mostly get the process started. You can read the report here (PDF), I expect there will be many more related votes.

On a personal note, I’ve been using ALA Connect and finding it a complicated kind of messy system and have been talking to the Community Engagement staff to see if we can’t make it a better and more useful tool for ALA members. I would encourage VLA members who are also ALA members to interact with it and feel free to give me some feedback and I can maybe pass it along and help things get improved.

We got a lot of feedback on ALA‘s financial situation which is not great. There will be a special Council meeting in September to vote on some financials and I’ll pass along that information. All documents for this Virtual Meeting can be found on this page (look for VIR in the lefthand column).

I would also like to draw attention to ALA President Julius Jefferson Jr’s first official act: ALA takes responsibility for past racism, pledges a more equitable association. It’s an exceptionally strong document and makes me optimistic for ALA maybe being able to adapt and change. Full text here

It is my pleasure to serve as your Councilor.