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Yesterday began my term on council. I really, really like it. I can see how it could be frustrating or how some people might rather spend their time elsewhere, but it is a good fit for me. Everyone in the room cares about the profession, are passionate about what they do, think about the issues presented to the body, and a lot of very smart people weigh in on the issues.

Council Begins

If you’re interested in specifics, I have pages of notes, but I thought I’d distill this down to the more generally interesting aspects of council. Yesterday included three meetings: a general membership meeting with the executive board and council, council I where business was conducted, and ALA-APA council which was more informational in nature. Today I went to council II, and tomorrow is council III (the longest of all the council meetings).

The room is huge. In the front is a podium where the president, incoming president, executive director, and parliamentarians sit. There are two large screens where text is projected for the debate. For example, a specific paragraph from a resolution might be projected, or modifications. There are two other large screens that show a live transcript of what people are saying. This is very helpful to clarify the names of the speakers or specific numbers people mention.

There are tables with outlets for the 186 members of council. There are seven microphones that people can approach to speak. Behind the tables are rows of seats for members interested in observing council. The back of the room has a very long table where all the handouts relating to the session are held, and it’s a lot of paper! Yesterday’s stack was easily over an inch tall.

The tone of council is very cordial and civil. I really appreciated this. Clearly people are of different opinions, but it did feel like people could state whatever they felt the need to state. In the first session, many were deferred to later council sessions. The one resolution that really had full discussion and came to a vote was forALA will encourage employers to list the presence or absence of domestic partner benefits. The initial version of the resolution used the word “required” which was a real sticking point for many people. The version that passed used the language “encouraged.” If you’re interested in the discussion, I am happy to chat with you to share!

Last night I went to Council Forum (until 10:30pm here!!) which is an open session with the membership where they can speak out on resolutions before council. Many of the people in the room were on council. Some of the more controversial resolutions (notably the ones relating to wikileaks and labor disputes) came to this group for discussion, which was absolutelyfascinating! Today or tomorrow we’ll address these resolutions with a lot more information about what the membership thinks.

The resolutions we’re considering for the duration include two on wikileaks, two on ALA hotels with labor disputes, supporting the DREAM Act, and one on the Smithsonian’s decision to pull controversial art.

If you’re interested, at all, in how the larger ALA organization runs, what the membership tenor is, or just how council works, I really recommend sitting in on a council meeting and/or Council Forum. It’s good stuff!