ALA Council Forges Ahead | LibLearnX 2023

At the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference in June 2022, much discussion in Council sessions involved the organization’s transformation—specifically, streamlining ALA’s structure and governance through the consolidation of its Constitution and Bylaws. At LibLearnX, the Special Session: ALA Bylaws Convention, convened on Friday, January 27 to consider and finalize the draft general revision of the ALA bylaws, took on the work that remained unfinished.

liblearnx logoAt the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference in June 2022, much discussion in Council sessions involved the organization’s transformation—specifically, streamlining ALA’s structure and governance through the consolidation of its Constitution and Bylaws (see “Governance Transformation Picks up Steam”). At LibLearnX, the Special Session: ALA Bylaws Convention, convened on Friday, January 27 to consider and finalize the draft general revision of the ALA bylaws, took on the work that remained unfinished.

ALA President Lessa Kananiʻopua Pelayo-Lozada set the stage, stating, “Today is a historic bylaws convention. Only a few times in ALA’s history has the council convened itself for the purpose of reviewing and updating the way we govern ourselves, and this journey has been about six years in the making.” The committees and groups charged with that work included the Steering Committee on Organizational Effectiveness (SCOE), Forward Together Working Group, Forward Together Resolutions Working Group, Forward Together Fiscal Analysis Working Group, the Transforming ALA Governance Task Force (TAG), and the Constitution and Bylaws committee (CBC).

Brian Schottlaender, chair of CBC, noted that after Council voted to rescind the ALA constitution, CBC was tasked with creating a thoroughly revised set of bylaws. Between September and December 2022, the committee requested comments, receiving upward of 100 responses from across the association. Draft 4 of the Bylaws General Revision was released on January 13.

No amendments were submitted for 12 of the 18 bylaws articles at the meeting. Of the nine amendments requested for the remaining six articles, only three were passed. Two modifications were made to Article 6, amending the language around Council duties and—in a heavily debated change—the number of councilors-at-large elected directly by ALA, from 50 to 36. ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee was added to the list of standing committees.

The final approved version of the draft will be presented to ALA membership to vote on in the spring, to replace the current constitution and bylaws. “The decisions we make will have an impact on the way our association functions for decades to come,” Pelayo-Lozada said, “but they will not be set in stone. By modernizing our bylaws today and being responsible about our time and realistic about what we need to do to move forward, [we will] continue fine-tuning our association in perpetuity.”

As the meeting wound up, the mood was celebratory. “Many of us have been working on this for six or seven years in different ways,” said Keturah Cappadonia, outreach consultant for the Southern Tier Library System, NY. “It felt great to make progress.”



At the Council I meeting on Saturday, January 28, ALA Executive Director Tracie D. Hall went over Executive Board Actions since the 2022 Annual conference, including the board’s approval of a one-year ALA–Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE) joint working group on equity, diversity, and inclusion, to be composed of two cochairs and approximately 10 members, and—in December 2022—approval of past Treasurer Maggie Farrell to serve as ALA representative to the Board of the American Library in Paris for a two-year term.

Looking further afield, Council approved that ALA, on behalf of its members, call on President Biden to cancel student loan debt for all borrowers, as outlined in a letter sent to Biden on August 22, 2022. Council also approved, as amended, a 2022 update to the Resolution in Support of Immigrant Rights.

Much of the Council I discussion concerned association dues—both for individuals and members of round tables. Current round-table dues range from $0 to $20 for personal members and from $10 to $100 for organizational or corporate members—according to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), individual dues have increased between $0 and $5 annually since 2013, while corporate or organizational dues have remained flat. The majority of round tables rely on dues revenue to deliver member programs and value. However, any significant increases in dues may result in some members choosing not to join a round table or not to renew their membership.

The recommended dues structure for round tables—$15 for individual members, $5 for students, and $30 for organization or corporate members—was discussed at length, with Council taking into account considerations about additional costs imposed on members outside the United States. The motion to offer free membership to the International Relations Round Table, and the recommended dues structure, both passed.

Members voted to extend the timeline for the current ALA membership model to FY25. Beginning in FY24 and continuing for five years, all member dues will be reviewed by the Executive Board, which may approve a dues adjustment not to exceed the percentage change in the national average CPI for the previous calendar year, rounded to the nearest dollar.

Prior to Council I, at a meeting for ALA’s Allied Professional Association (ALA-APA), both the current and incoming presidents committed to including ALA-APA in their presidential plans. Pelayo-Lozada has appointed a working group to explore areas in which there can be greater financial capacity for advocacy, and for library worker initiatives and staffing; ALA President-elect Emily Drabinski will continue the work that has already begun by appointing a subcommittee of her Presidential Advisory Committee specifically to address labor issues.



Council II, on Sunday, January 29, continued to discuss the business at hand. Intellectual Freedom Committee Chair Lesliediana Jones reported that in calendar year 2022, 1,212 attempts were made to ban or restrict library materials—985 of these targeting 2,527 unique books. Much of this spike in numbers, she said, is the result of “political entities forming or aligning themselves with local groups and demanding the removal of dozens of books from the libraries in one fell swoop based on lists pulled from social media accounts maintained by these groups.”

ALA members, schools, libraries, and the Office of Intellectual Freedom reported unprecedented pushback during Banned Books Week as well, with a number of drag queen story times needing to be canceled due to threats against performers and institutions. The theme of Banned Books Week 2023 will be “Let Freedom Read.” Peter Coyl of the Freedom to Read Foundation reported that it has joined forces with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), ALA, the Association of Research Libraries, and the Internet Archive on an amicus brief, authored by EFF, to be presented next month when the Supreme Court hears arguments in Gonzalez vs. Google.

Ed Garcia, chair of the Committee on Legislation, reported that the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), the leading source of federal funding for U.S. libraries, saw an increase in $13.5 million in the federal FY23 Omnibus Appropriations bill. However, he noted, 2023 will be a challenging year for ALA, with at least two items of legislation threatening intellectual freedom likely to be reintroduced this year. The House is also determined to cut spending, he noted, and ALA needs to work hard to advocate for library-funding programs in the new Congress.

Carla Davis-Castro, chair of the Committee on Diversity, noted the planned creation of a new subcommittee devoted to the work of condemning white supremacy and fascism. Plans are in the works as well to update ALA’s standards for Library Services for the Incarcerated and Detained, and to revise the 2017 Standards for the Library of Congress Services Serving the Blind and Physically Handicapped.

The Executive Board reported that in the most recently completed fiscal year, ALA realized net revenues of $7.9 million, a favorable variance from a budget of $11.3 million. This resulted from revenues of $59.2 million, which were $14.4 million greater than budget, and expenses of $51.3 million. Revenues were higher than budgeted, and expenses lower. The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) was a particularly strong performer. Total ALA deficits as of November 30, 2022, were $2.6 million; the organization continues to pay down its loans, and its line of credit has been fully paid off.

Several resolutions were passed in Council II, including a resolution on human rights and freedom of speech and expression in Iran, a resolution on revising the code of conduct to include online activity, and a motion to direct the Committee on Organization to create and maintain a process for Executive Board oversight.

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Lisa Peet

Lisa Peet is Executive Editor for Library Journal.

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