Wednesday, June 20, 2007

ALA Elections

Well, the elections are over, but in ALA the conversation never ends.

This week I learned that the Elections Committee recommended to the ALA Executive Board that the amount of text that appears on the ballot be limited. This sure flew under my radar when it was first reported. The document involved is part of the EB agendas for Midwinter which are here. It is on the agenda for 9:30 am, and there is a hot link to the document. It is duly reported in the actions of the Executive Board.

I'm happy that they are including links, but limiting how much information a candidate can list about past activities is discouraging. In another document which I have, but is not linked to on the site, yet, the Election Committee notes say "Committee members noticed that many candidates did not include complete biographical information in some cases leaving some categories such as “Honors and Awards” or “Offices Held” blank." So, just because some people do not fill it in, they want to limit what those who have credentials can say. The good news is that there will be a links section.

However, the EB document talks about limiting to "words." So, how do you count words? Microsoft Word (the software) counts individual words. In the printing industry it used to be true that a "word" was 5 - 8 characters. So a URL like the one for my article (still on the ALA web site) which is 63 characters, is one word for Word, and 8 - 12 words for a printer. Who will decide. The unintended consequence (of course there is one) is that if folks put lots of URLs, then the ballot will actually be longer!

The final issue is probably the most important. The EB is being asked to authorize the printing of only one version of the paper ballot. Since some 20 plus years ago, ALA has produced 4 ballots with the candidates in different order on each one. This came from a scientifically based study which concluded that being in the first or second quartile dramatically increased the probability of being elected. Remember, this was when the Nominating Committee lists were shorter because terms were for four years so there were only 25 slots open (normally) as opposed to the current 33 (or 34 every third year).

Is it in the purview of the Executive Board to make a change like this without talking to Council? Is it even their role? Isn't this policy?

The one part of the report (EBD 12.66) which is the EB's job, and would be a very good thing is to have the election notification no longer conflict with ALA Legislative Day.

It is on the agenda for Friday morning (at 9:45, at the moment). I'll probably stop by.


  1. How many paper ballots get used? If it's a very small percentage, then maybe it's not such a big deal?

    When are we going to move to paper ballots only on request?

  2. About 11,000. It could tip an election.

    The other major point is, should the EB decide an issue as big as this? Shouldn't the decision be in Council's hands?