There will be action in Council on 6/28/2021, on changing ALA governance, which is raising concerns for some people (zoom to the bottom of this post for details). Of great concern to me right now, ALA is operating in the red and needs members and other revenue. Membership declined 9-10% each of the last two years and has been on a downward trend for a while. I attended multiple ALA meetings on finances because I’m on the Budget and Finance Committee of Core (a division of ALA replacing ALCTS, LITA, and LLAMA; the decline in membership and revenue was an impetus for the combining of the three divisions into one).
On Friday I attended the first two hours of the joint meeting of the ALA Budget Analysis & Review Committee (BARC) and the ALA Executive Board Finance and Audit (F&A) Subcommittee and was heartened to see performance better than projections for this fiscal year so far and to hear ALA Executive Director (ED) Tracie Hall (who is relatively new) reporting on some positive results of her leadership efforts (such as fundraising). Projections had been ratcheted down for conference attendance (virtual because of COVID-19) and for membership, so that tempers the gladness in doing better than projected. ALA membership is around 51,000 and needs to be double that to be healthy. Members need to feel that they are getting value proportionate to the cost of membership.
On Sunday I attended the Planning and Budget Assembly/Division Leadership meeting. ED Hall stated that membership should be a top priority and that “members beget members.” Interim CFO Denise Moritz called for members to encourage colleagues to join. There is danger in apathy that ALA is always going to be there; it is only there as long as there is engaged membership. We need more than the 15% of the LIS workforce that we currently have as members and we have to attract members from adjacent fields. We also need to retain members, including bringing student members into regular membership. Our endowment is too small for our organization even though it has been doing better; it needs to be 2 to 3 times our operating budget. Many budget and governance documents can be found here and I’ll call attention to ED Hall’s report to the ALA Executive Board.
At the Virtual Membership Meeting on Sunday, I heard more financial reports and heard a recap of how our association has had important successes in advocating in Washington, DC (e.g. IMLS funding), has helped libraries with COVID, and other advocacy efforts like ebooksforall.
Lastly the current proposal for restructuring ALA governance contains profound changes! Discussion and amendments are happening in Council (6/28/2021) at this conference. One past-president of ALA just voiced concerns on the ALA email list. Here is the associated timetable and here is a list of Councilors and a webform for contacting them.