Sunday, March 12, 2006

ALA 101 - Part 7: Governance (this means ALA Council)

ALA Council -- Folks seem to either love it or hate it. Here's where I try to answer what it is, what it does, who is on it, and how it relates to the Executive Board.

What is it?

ALA Council (henceforth, just Council) is the large, representative governing body for the American Library Association.

What does it do?

Council in addition to several specific duties set out in the Constitution and Bylaws of the Association, Council sets broad Association-wide policies for ALA.

Who is on it?

There are currently about 182 members of Council. Council members include the officers elected by the Association: President, President-Elect, Past President, and Treasurer. There are representatives from the 54 Chapters (or specific geographic association, however, each area can only elect one "Chapter Councilor" so there are six from New England, one from each state, and no Councilor from the New England Library Association). There are Councilors from the eleven divisions. There are six Councilors from the Round Tables (see my earlier discussion on Round Tables). There are eight members of the Executive Board. There are 100 elected "at large." All Councilors serve three year terms so two out of three years, 33 "at large" Councilors are elected, and the third year 34 are chosen. This assumes that there are no vacancies to fill.

I have a subsequent post in which I ask for your vote, tell you who else running for Council I support, and provide a link to the full list of candidates.

So what's this Executive Board?

The Executive Board (EB) handles the implementation of the decisions of Council and in between the semi-annual, face-to-face meetings of the Association, the Executive Board handles any issues which arise. The Executive Board is elected from the members of Council. To run for the EB a Councilor must have completed at least one full year. EB elections are held at Midwinter, and two years out of three, Council elects three to serve, with two elected the other year. Most of the time (that is, other than when a vacancy occurs), terms on the EB begin at the end of the last Council meeting (Council III) at the Annual Conference. This past January, Terri Kirk, Mario Gonzales, and Roberta Stevens were elected to the EB. Terri Kirk had been filling a vacancy created when Michael Gorman was elected President, so will now have a full three year term. Mario and Roberta were elected to replace Jim Rettig and me.

In addition to meeting at Midwinter and Annual, the Executive Board meets in the fall and the spring for a long weekend. The fall meeting is about the same time as the Division Boards meet. BARC often meets just before the EB, and F&A meets in conjunction with the EB. [BARC and F&A are part of ALA's financial oversight.] The EB also has monthly conference calls, and there is a closed electronic discussion list. The latter two are so that we can most effectively handle the affairs of the Association.

More about Council

Because Council is such a large body, there is a wide range of opinions represented. There are some folks who are more vocal than others, and on the electronic discussion list, it seems that there only a small group which expresses any opinions at all. It would be unwise to make any judgment about Council based on the discussion list. [That list can be read by anyone who is a member. If I can find it, I'll add a link to it in a day or two.]

Because of its size, even the room in which Council meets seems intimidating. In order to be heard, speakers must use a microphone. That alone intimidates many. To allow those with hearing impairment (and to provide a transcript for the preparation of minutes) there is a transcriptionist whose work is projected onto a pair of large screens. This, too, is intimidating. However, many of us have gotten past that, and speak regularly. Interestingly, while it is a large body, there are not organized "factions" or "parties" within Council. From a process stand point it is always interesting to watch.

This is one where I don't know what questions are out there....send me some.

I have been on Council for 10 years now. When I was first elected, terms were for four years. I served one four year term as the Connecticut Chapter Councilor, and then was re-elected to a three year term. When that term was coming to an end, I was elected as a member of the Executive Board. That term ends in June, and I am standing for election as a Councilor-at-Large.


  1. I just read through this series today and it was quite impressive. Thanks! I have added you to my aggregator--not sure how I overlooked you before.

  2. Thanks for the kind words, Samantha. Thanks for the link, Heidi. I actually keep the posts I need and rarely go to the archive.