Wednesday, March 06, 2013

ALA Elections - Part 4 aka Why no "parties" in Council

Ok, so sue me. I couldn't resist a subtitle on this post, and especially to talk about "parties."

You would think that ALA Council, with 190 or so members would have some sort of organizing mechanism or groups like other legislative bodies. But, there are no "parties" in Council.

Not that it hasn't been tried.

Back in the 1980s or 1990s there were a group of folks who campaigned together. They were all folks who agreed on some basic principles, and agreed to work together if they were elected. I.m not sure what happened. I think some were elected and some not. My memory is fuzzy enough to not even remember who was in that group. I vaguely recall that it included folks like Jim Rettig (former ALA President), the late ... from Georgia, and others who are very thoughtful reasonable people.

There is a group trying to do it again this year, they are theALA Think Tank Caucus for Council (a Facebook account will be needed to follow this link, I think). The members of this group are:
  • Erica Findley
  • Mel Gooch
  • John Jackson
  • Lynda Kellam
  • Kate Kosturski
  • Chris Kyauk
  • Coral Sheldon-Hess
  • Manya Shorr
  • Patrick Sweeney
They are a part of the ALA Think Tank which describes itself a:
facebook's largest active group of info-sharing for librarians. we #makeithappen and #partyhard TOGETHER.

DISCLAIMER: WHILE we love the American Library Association, we are IN NO WAY affiliated with them. ALA, in our case, stands for "Awesome Librarians Associated" because everyone here is awesome. You do NOT need to be an American Library Association member to be here. You don't even need to be American!"
So why are there no parties (well, organized blocks) in ALA Council? I think part of it is the way in which Council is constructed. Like Nebraska, the legislative body is unicameral, but unlike Nebraska, members are chosen by a variety of routes. First, there are 100 Councilors-at-Large. That is the largest single block, and approximately 1/3 are elected each year to serve a 3-year term.

Then there are Chapter Councilors. There are 54 Chapters covering the states and territories. After they pay dues (as a chapter), they are permitted to send a Councilor to represent that chapter. Those Chapters that are multi-state (New England Library Association, Mountain Plains Library Association, etc.) do not have a councilor since each of their constituent territories already does. That is the second largest group.

Then there are the Division and the Round Table Councilors. Each ALA Division has a Councilor (12) and the five largest Round Tables also each have a Councilor with the remaining Round Tables choosing a joint councilor (the "Small Round Table Councilor"). There are a total of 18.

All ALA Executive Board members are members of Council as is the Executive Director (who typically does not vote). The Executive Board consists of 8 members chosen by Council from its membership plus the Association-wide elected officers (4). The latter are the President-Elect, President, Past President, and Treasurer.

In my service on Council, and I started as a Chapter Councilor, the Chapter Councilors and the Division Councilors meet as groups to discuss issues which affect them in their roles. I believe that the Round Table Councilors meet along with the Round Table Coordinating Committee to talk about their issues.

My experience has been that as a Chapter Councilor, I was representing a group which was as diverse as ALA is as a whole. I reported back to the Chapter, at Chapter Board meetings, and received informal input regularly. Also as an Executive Board member, I received informal input from both Councilors and from ALA members.

In my service and memory, there has never been an issue facing ALA and ALA Council around which there would be polarizing and competing views to the extent that a "party" would form. There are often alliances. When I first joined Council there were a group of folks who generally agreed and sat together. (They sat in the back row or rows, in the middle.) It was more noticeable then because if it were not clear from a voice vote, we voted by standing rather than raising a hand. That group fairly uniformly voted as a block on some issues, the one I remember is that they would never vote in favor of closing debate.

That is my perspective. For what it is worth.

Monday, March 04, 2013

ALA Elections - Part 3

I was handed an unexpected gift this morning. I was actually going to make ALA Elections - Part 3 a different topic (now it will be Part 4), and will do a list of endorsements for Council once I review the final list of candidates. Here is some info about the process.

  • Elections open on Tuesday, March 19.  Between March 19 and March 21 all eligible members will be sent an email with voting instructions.  
  • This year ALA is offering members the option to access the ballot by using their individual credentials and URL that will be contained in the email, or by going to the ALA website and using their ALA member ID.  
  • When you have finished voting you will be able to download an “I Voted in the ALA Election” web badge that can then be affixed to your Facebook page, Twitter, email, or what have you!
  • The election closes on Friday, April 26 with the results being announced on Friday, May 3.
There is an election guide on the ALA web site. That page includes links to all the Association-wide candidate pages, plus a link to a document with the bios of Council candidates.

Among other gems on that page is a list of the 2014 Nominating Committee (on which you can serve only once in your life). If you want to run for something, they are the folks to ask!