My ALA Mid-Winter meeting this year was different from any other midwinter I’ve attended before. The Sustainability Round Table (SustainRT) for ALA was just approved to become a Roundtable a year ago and as such there’s still some organizing and introductions going on to get started on some of the initiatives we’d like to pursue. As a result of my early involvement in SustainRT I was given the appointment to represent the round table to the Planning and Budget Assembly of ALA. (PBA). As a result of this appointment I had a number of meetings I had to attend to learn as much as I could about how planning and budgeting works for ALA. In conjunction with this appointment was the obligation to attend meetings that were held by the Budget Analysis and Review Committee (BARC) as well as PBA itself. The Budget Analysis and Review Committee meeting provided an opportunity for those on that body to get an update and ask questions about the state of ALA’s budget.
Here are a few things of interest I learned during the course of attending these meetings:
· Publishing has been a significant drain on ALA’s finances in the last year.
· Some of that drain has been due to the acquisition of Neal Schuman by ALA
· There is a great deal of confusion about how “good will” is translated to a balance sheet. (My graduate classes in Business came in handy here.)
· The Annual Conference is “pulling its weight” as far as generating revenue for ALA. Midwinter Conference continually loses money for the organization.
· The number of attendees to ALA Mid-Winter is actually rising over the last few conferences. Dallas was the low, with ~ 4200 attendees. Seattle saw a rebound to over 5000. Philadelphia had over 7000 attendees to Midwinter this year. Costs still outpace attendance, however.
· BARC makes available videos on their website called the ALA Financial Learning Series. Those produced thus far include:
Organizational structure and decision making
Budget Cycle and Process
The Long Term Investment Fund
Round Tables Financial Orientation
In addition to all of these budget meetings, I also had time to actually attend the Sustainability Round Table meeting on Monday morning before flying back to Winston-Salem. The attendance was spare, (only 6 people, 4 of them there just to find out what the round table was about.) We discussed plans for the Round Table including an initiative taking shape to encourage ALA to divest itself from any fossil fuel interests. There was some discussion about whether we would devote our efforts to helping libraries become more sustainable, or whether we were going to focus on encouraging ALA itself to become more sustainable. Since the measure of the sustainability of any effort is determined by the nexus of people, planet and profit, it was suggested that SustainRT might also begin an initiative to eliminate Mid-Winter and just have an annual conference. The group, though small, was very engaged and I look forward to working with them in the coming conferences, and through online channels.