Professional Development

Evolution of an ALA Attendee

Wednesday, June 29, 2011 1:26 pm

My last ALA post was about programs and how I didn’t get to see too many, so this post is about the reason why and it’s the leadership post. (One more post to go!)

One of the neatest things about ALA is that it is a conference for anyone with any interest in libraries or information. There’s something there for everyone. You can go to learn, share, network, contribute to the work of the association, and/or participate in governance.

I started going to ALA because of an interest in the work of the association. I wanted to work on committees and productively contribute to what the organization does. And I really like that work. In fact, I wrapped up service on the LITA Web Coordinating Committee at this conference.

The Emerging Leader program, as well as conversations with people I think of as role models, helped me realize that I wanted to get more into the governance side of things, and that’s what most of this ALA was about for me. For example, first thing on Monday I was in a Council meeting until noon, then after a fast lunch, I was in a LITA Board meeting until 5:00. These are seriously long meetings. And at this conference I clocked about 11 hours of Council and 9 hours of LITA Board meetings in addition toauxiliaryCouncil and LITA activities. I can totally understand that’s not for everyone, but it really is something I enjoy and feel that is a good use of my energy. So here’s the rundown:

ALA Council

ala councilThis was my second conference as a Councilor-at-Large. This means that I do not represent a specific body on Council, but rather the people who voted for me. Since I campaigned on a platform about helping ALA adapt to future expectations, I feel I represent people especially concerned with keeping ALA relevant. This conference was ripe for discussion relevant to the constituency most interested in that platform. We discusses the Future Perfect Task Force, the Task Force on Equitable Access to Electronic Content report as well as a Council Effectiveness Task Force. Despite my shyness, this was my inaugural conference for saying something from the floor and I did it twice! My comments were along these lines:

People speaking against the Future Perfect report (notice the fun name… future perfect is “will have been”) seemed to be focused a lot about how we’ve done things in the past or how our current members might not like what it proposed. I suggested that though these comments might be true, this report might have ideas that would make us more appealing to those who have chosen not to join or those who in the future would not find the current model relevant to them.

My other comment was about communicating out. There was a suggestion in the Council Effectiveness report that suggested councilors communicate more with the membership about who they are and what they find important as well as find ways to listen to their constituency. Again, completely in line with the folks who voted for me based on my video or Twitter activities. Several people were saying they didn’t want to be so public or take the time to make videos and that people knew who they were and how to get in touch with them. I suggested that we hear from people who know how to find us but we don’t hear from the many that just think of ALA as a conference for programming with no idea about who is on council, why, or what we do. This doesn’t mean they don’t care about the issues. I suggested we follow the recommendations so that people can learn more about how council works and what issues we are discussing. Anything you want to know? :)

So my first foray into speaking on the floor was basically two comments on the same theme, but I was compelled to speak to the issue twice since we kept coming to the same place.

ALA Council covered a lot of other ground as well: a resolution supporting a UN Report, a resolution to share all council documents via ALA Connect (the Facebook/Acad1/wiki/discussion list/etc of ALA), and others. I was really disappointed that I had to leave early. My flight was cancelled and the only way to get out on Tuesday was to switch airlines and leave several hours early. On the upside, after this conference I feel much more confident of my role and how to function as a councilor.

LITA Board

My LITA Board terms actually begins today, so I just attended LITA Board meetings as a guest at this conference. The main distinction I picked up was that whereas ALA Council focuses on governance and policy, LITA Board appears to be more about strategy and planning. For example, there is a Treasurer of ALA and a Budget Review Committee, so anything financial that comes before Council has been thoroughly vetted and has little discussion. LITA doesn’t have these bodies, so the Board spent much of its time on topics related to budget and membership. LITA’s been working on a strategic plan since I’ve gotten involved, so in addition we’re seeing the implementation of that now.

I also learned about different roles I’ll have to take on as a board member. I’ll have to give up my seat on a committee (makes sense, it allows for broader participation), but will have to take on liaising to a committee to share information from the Board. I joined a subcommittee of the Board charged with dealing with a few issues specific to the budget as well as how to generate more revenue. So at this point I’m ready to dive in!

I think the LITA work will be a nice thing to have in parallel to Council. In LITA, we’ll see concrete results of actions–and fast–where sometimes the work of Council–though meaningful–doesn’t have the same obvious high-impact to the membership.

If you think you’d like doing any of this type of work, and don’t mind learning a few procedural/cultural ways of having conversations (we use Sturgis, for example), I’d love to talk to anyone who thinks they might want to run for office. ALA tends to propose slates of candidates, but any member can run if they get enough signatures. Those candidates are not distinguished on the ballot from slate candidates, and many times they win!

And it’s not all work. We know how to have fun, too!

ala councilors at work

(cross posted to laurenpressley.com with a few modifications)

5 Responses to “Evolution of an ALA Attendee”

  1. Very interesting post, Lauren. I’m glad you had the hutzpah to speak your mind. That can be intimidating. Its nice to see how ALA works for those who do more committee work.

  2. Great post! It is nice to get some “behind the scenes” reporting. (And I can’t say I think of you as shy, diplomatic, but not shy.)

  3. Thanks for speaking up for more communication with the membership. It’s good that we have you to inform us but not everyone is so fortunate.

  4. Thanks, guys. Mary Beth & Ellen, that’s the goal! If you can think of any ways to help get the word out, I’m all ears. :)

    Giz, I’m not shy here because I *know* everyone! But I’m glad I’m not obviously shy. :)

  5. I really like the idea of “communicating out”
    As always, I enjoyed reading your post!


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