ALA Council Aims to Refocus Structure, Budget | ALA Annual 2018

Council revisited its ongoing plan to reorganize for effectiveness and efficiency, adopted several important resolutions, and more at the 2018 Annual ALA Conference,

As part of its ongoing plan to reorganize for greater effectiveness and efficiency, the council of the American Library Association (ALA) announced during its meetings at the annual conference (held June 22-26 in New Orleans) that it will implement additional methods for the members at large to engage with council, including online office hours and appointment scheduling with members of the resolutions committee. To simplify the amendment process, the resolutions committee has developed an online form, which is currently being tested alongside the current method using printed motion forms. Feedback can be sent to

ALA president Jim Neal led a conversation on organizational effectiveness to inform the work of a task force of the executive board led by Maureen Sullivan. Council members called for more inclusivity; eliminating redundancies; better use of virtual engagement; better communications; more transparency and accountability; a focus on all library workers, not just librarians; enlargement of the organization’s international scope; and effort to better engage students and new professionals. Meg Delaney, a council member from Ohio, suggested delivering more ALA info at state conferences, asking “How can we take our content where they are?”


Continuing the theme of organizational transformation, ALA Treasurer Susan Hildreth made plain that the association’s shortfall issues are not being treated as business as usual. In addition to the single year’s budget, as usual, she presented a three year plan to get back in the black “in 2022 if not before.” To get there, ALA plans to spend a total of $6.8 million on IT, $1.4 million on advocacy, and $745,000 development over the three years (totaling $1.9 million in the first year, $2.2 million in the second year, and $4.6 million in the third).

This “investment supported by net assets,” as Hildreth called it, is a departure from ALA’s usual practice of balancing the general fund each year. As such, Hildreth presented a new form of financial summary which included assets as well as operating cost, so councilors could see where the funds will come from.

ALA plans to shift staff so as to create 2.5 new development positions without increasing headcount, and to implement a Customer Relationship Management system. In Advocacy, ALA plans to coordinate legislative efforts around the 2019 Annual conference, which will be held in Washington, DC, and to add a fly-in event around when the federal budget drops. ALA is also developing return on investment metrics to assess the efficacy of these investments, decreasing and reallocating current expenses, and developing a plan to manage in alternating years which, because they host only one divisional conference instead of two, see lower revenue.

ALA is looking to finance its $3 million in capital needs through either long-term financing or asset sales, said Hildreth, who also noted that ALA’s divisions are also using $2.2 million to invest. From the floor, councilors suggested a grants manager and a cost of living increase for ALA staff. Neal’s response that if the budget is in the black it will be used for that purpose was met with applause.


Council adopted several important resolutions at this conference, leading off with one to honor African Americans who fought library segregation. In this unanimously adopted resolution, ALA acknowledged the fundamental injustice, cruelty, and inhumanity of racially segregated libraries, apologized to African Americans, commended those who risked their lives to integrate public libraries, welcomed all African Americans to libraries, encouraged libraries to defend ALA code of ethics principal 1 [to provide the highest level of service to all users, equitable service policies and access; and accurate, unbiased, and courteous responses to all requests], and determined to review its own policy documents and internal procedures to make sure the reflect principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion.

Also adopted unanimously, after a long string of endorsements from individuals, roundtables, committees, and divisions alike, was a resolution calling on federal agencies to ensure enough documentation for seamless reunification of families separated at the border, calls on the U.S. government to honor the legal status of refugees, and calls on its members to contact their representatives regarding the criminalization and separation of refugee families at the border, as well as reaffirming ALA’s existing resolutions in support of immigrant rights and access to materials in appropriate languages for children in detention centers.

Council also adopted a resolution on gender inclusive bathrooms, in response to incidents at this conference in which convention center security prevented some attendees from using the restrooms designated as gender inclusive. The resolution called on the association to require that convention center staff follow ALA policies with regard to gender inclusive restrooms, and treat attendees with respect. It also originally called on ALA to set up as many gender inclusive restrooms as allowed by its contracts, with a goal of 100 percent, but an amendment proposed altering the language to “a sufficient mix” which, after spirited debate, passed.

Those arguing for the amendment raise the issue of the comfort of those who may prefer to use a single-sex restroom, particularly those from other countries or different faiths, survivors of sexual assault, and those seeking to escape sexual harassment, while those who opposed the amendment stressed that the ambitious goal of the original was necessary to achieve real change, that gender inclusive restrooms are for everyone, and that the vague language of “sufficient” did not provide a concrete target, noting that the current ratio is not sufficient, and suggesting 50, 80, or 90 percent. The amended resolution was adopted with only one dissenting vote. Council also passed a resolution commemorating the 25th anniversary of GPO access and supporting a Federal act to modernize it.


The Intellectual Freedom Committee has rebranded Choose Privacy Week as Choose Privacy Every Day, and is now tracking challenges to non-book materials, displays, and programming, as well as building a toolkit on controversial programs as well as social media guidelines. At the committee’s suggestion, council adopted a new interpretation of the library bill of rights on meeting rooms which has been updated to strengthen the guidance on non-discrimination and addresses fees; an update to the interpretation on library-initiated programs as a resource to consider the needs of persons with disabilities, and one on service to people with disabilities for dealing with vendors.

ALA’s Budget Analysis & Review Committee (BARC) recommended against approving a recommendation on fossil fuels in the endowment, and after debate, Council concurred with BARC’s position. Ironically, almost immediately thereafter, Rebekkah Smith Aldrich of the Sustainability Roundtable delivered a report on a survey which found that ALA is not currently seen as a leader on sustainability, and called on the association to take its leadership to the next level.

The committee on diversity determined not to expand its focus on roadblocks to leadership to include LBGTQ librarians and librarians with disabilities, but to keep its focus on racial and ethnic diversity, and to that end is reviewing the existing research, in anticipation of presenting a report at the next annual conference. It is also working on a toolkit for hosting community conversations.

The Graphic Novels member interest group has been approved to become a roundtable; council also approved a change in the bylaws so that if an elected councilor cannot serve, the next highest vote getter takes the seat, in lieu of leaving it vacant.

The final council session closed on some good news, as ALA executive director Mary Ghikas announced the final tally of attendance at the annual conference: 17,599 total, comprised of 12,432 attendees and 5,176 exhibitors. Though that’s down from last year’s 22,702 total in Chicago, it’s up from 16,454 in Orlando, and beats the Association’s forecast and budget for attendance in New Orleans.

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