Future Perfect:

Suggestions results

score candidates

As the face of the nation is changing, is the face of ALA keeping up? Who is attending conference? Who is on ALA Council? Who are members of ALA?


Voter participation, which currently hovers around 20%, is damning evidence against the idea of an empowered dues-paying membership. Perhaps providing appropriate incentives would make increasing voter participation a higher priority. ALA should set 50% participation among eligible voters as its initial baseline goal (a goal that should probably be raised annually). Three changes would likely make voter participation a higher priority: 1. any election that does not have 50% participation would immediately disqualify any incumbent candidates (that is, the candidates who were already in position to reform the voting process); 2. A small but noticeable percentage of all ALA management level employees' annual salaries would be contingent upon 50% voter participation; 3. Monitoring elections, and tabulating their results, would be entrusted entirely to a third-party, and no one associated with ALA would be notified of voter participation levels until after the election was closed.

In tight times such as these, library systems are eliminating funding for travel as well as association membership. What can ALA do to show to library/city/organization administration the value of conference travel and association membership?

Executive Council should be expanded from 8 members to 24 members, with a 4-member leadership body made up of the President, President-elect, Executive director, and Treasurer. Members would represent the Divisions of the Association and the general membership and would be elected by the membership to staggered 3-year terms. Board members would have term limits of 6 years total (2 terms), with 1 year off before can run again.

The chapters create a link between ALA at the national and state levels. This link is critical and could be severed if Council is dissolved. A new body, made up solely of representatives from state chapters must be created to ensure that this connection is maintained.

Some state library associations are not only large but do a lot of work within their states. These library associations could be better folded into ALA – many members of state associations do not participate in ALA due to the amount of work they do for and within their state associations.


The sheer number of programs and the overlap makes conference attendance daunting and exhausting. Two options:

* Reduce the number of sessions offered and eliminate overlap: Since programs have to be submitted and approved nearly 6 months prior to conference, include programming topics on the ballot and ask people to vote for them (far-fetched!).
* Video/Record: all sessions and create an archive accessible by anyone who attended ALA (for free) or for a fee for anyone who was unable to attend but wants to see a session.

Though small, many roundtables have an impact with the people who belong to them. They provide much needed avenues for involvement to their members, but are often over-looked. A couple of the roundtables have shown immense growth financially and are poised to provide even more support to ALA’s mission – they just need to be given an avenue to do so.

* Many people cannot attend conferences “far away,” especially in tough economic times.
* What about having “virtual conferences” as a replacement for midwinter or at other points during the year. Use this opportunity to showcase the good happening in libraries across the country (similar to Dr. Everhart’s vision tour)
* Avoid overlap with other conferences - For example ALA Annual and ISTE tend to always overlap - collaborate with other library organizations
* More collaboration, less internal talk and promotion.

It's difficult for ALA presidents serving single-year terms to lead significant organizational change, even given a full year of lead time. Finding qualified candidates who can serve multi-year terms would probably dilute the pool of potential candidates. However, what if candidates ran together every other year on a ticket with a shared platform, with one candidate serving the first term and the other serving the second? ALA could get the benefit of a common vision for two years, though no candidate would have to serve more than a single year as president.

Those who cannot attend ALA often attend state library conferences or some who are active in local associations do not participate in ALA because they are so active in their local associations.

There are some committees in various divisions that probably do similar work: can they be combined? Evaluate the committees and reduce the number. There are way too many and some committees barely do work anyway (what’s the point of that?).

Committee members receive discount for participation? Needs to be verified in some way. Reward involvement.

Council elections are a popularity contest and the make-up of council is not guaranteed to be balanced by library type or functions within libraries. Council should have seats that are tied to function/library types and those who run would be categorized in this way and be running for a specific number of seats, rather than just running against a giant pool of others, where name recognition is often the deciding factor.

* Also, now that there are no physical brochures, the webpages for conference need to be amped up.  
* The front page at the very least needs to impart the import of attending conference, as this is the page that we need to include to apply for travel funds in some library systems.

Currently most scholarships or travel grants are for first-time conference goers. While this is great, there is no guarantee those recipients will ever return to conference since they probably lack the funding. At the same time, those who consistently attend conference do not receive any “reward” or assistance for their dedication. (engaged & collaborative membership)

* Promote these scholarships via use of more social media sites to enhance the number of applications received.
* Use updated software to review and enter applications.  
* E-show is extremely cumbersome for those applying and reviewing awards/scholarships/conference proposals. 

Stop this divide by encouraging library job swapping or some sort of promotional job swap day during National Library Week.

This would enable more people to run for Council since they wouldn't have to be away for such an extended stay.

Funding institutions with a sustained ability, interest, and track record in funding libraries at a transformative threshold should be given an official, voting seat on Council and the Executive Board. Currently, only IMLS and Gates would likely be at this level, though Carnegie would have been at this level for many decades. The fact is, this level of funding is going to have a massive influence on libraries and on ALA: giving them an official seat introduces more transparency and efficiency into the process and, through ALA, helps to democratize access to these institutions.

New round tables and interest groups add to the breadth and depth of ALA, but can also bloat the organization. By asking Divisions to sponsor round tables and interest groups, it’s hoped that new interest groups will receive the guidance needed to make a positive impact on the organization and profession.

Limit the number of programs that groups can put on at conference. For example, x programs per division, affiliate, whatever.


This limit will do two things: (1) ensure that there’s representation on the Executive Board from general members and (2) force the ALA Membership to weed out divisions if/as needed, in response to changes in the library landscape.

Why is it so expensive to belong to divisions? Some more so than others... what’s the benefit and how does it benefit ALA?

* Library services are not free-taxpayers pay money to utilize library services and materials.  
* Launch a PR campaign to showcase how taxpayer money has a positive impact on libraries and what the absence of that money could mean.
* Encourage publication by librarians in other fields - we are literally preaching to ourselves.  Continue writing articles for library journals, but attempt to branch out into other mainstream publications as well to promote libraries and all that they offer, especially in tough economic times.
* See “American Libraries” article from August 2008 for more information.