The ALA Council is the governing body of ALA. It delegates authority to the divisions of the Association to plan and carry out programs and activities in accordance with policy establish by Council. Council determines all policies of the Association and its decisions are biding unless set aside by the membership (ALA Bylaws Article VI, Section 4 (c).
There are 186 Council members: 100 Councilors-at-Large; 53 Chapter Councilors; 11 Division Councilors; 12 Executive Board members, and 10 Round Table Councilors. Any personal member of the Association can be elected to the ALA Council. The officers of Council are the ALA President, ALA President-Elect and the ALA Executive Director.
About ALA provides an overview of the American Library Association, including ALA’s Mission Statement, Core Values, eight Key Action Areas, strategic directions and governance.
The ALA Online Handbook of Organization, update following each Annual Conference, provides information on ALA’s structure, membership groups, and governing bodies.
Information about ALA Strategic Planning, including a history of ALA strategic planning.
ALA’s current Strategic Directions document, adopted by Council on June 28, 2015, revised 2017.
Information about ALA Legal Guidelines, includes the following sections: A fact sheet describing how ALA's nonprofit status affects lobbying activities; Guidelines governing ALA and political elections; A description of ALA's tax designation; and a FAQ regarding ALA's legal framework:
ALA issues an Annual Report to provide information about ALA’s accomplishments in the past year. Includes the Annual Reports for the current and prior years.
- To annually elect a Council Committee on Committees (COC) upon nomination by the President-Elect and Committee on Committees (floor nominations are also accepted). The COC works with the president-elect to appoint members to Council and ALA committees and develop slates of Council nominees for the Executive Board, COO, PBA, etc. (For detailed information on Committees, please see Bylaws, Article VIII).
- To review the actions of the Executive Board; receive the minutes of all Executive Board meetings; receive reports from the President for the Executive Board, from the Executive Director for the Headquarters staff and from the Treasurer, the division presidents, and BARC on the projected budget for the ensuing year. By directive also receive at each Midwinter and Annual meeting a report from the Freedom to Read Foundation, the Endowment Trustees and the Policy Monitoring Committee.
- To receive the views of the Resolutions Committee about all resolutions presented to Council from Councilors, ALA units, and the Membership.
- To originate and act on all proposed amendments to the Constitution and Bylaws before these are submitted to the membership for vote.
- To establish dues for chapter, organization and corporate ALA members upon recommendation of the Executive Board.
- To receive the report of the ALA Nominating Committee and Committee on Committees.
- To act on petitions from national organizations requesting affiliation with the Association.
- To act on resolutions referred by the Membership.
- To review at each meeting the information on implementation of actions from previous meetings.
- To establish state, provincial, regional and territorial library associations as ALA chapters as provided in the Bylaws.
- To establish a division or discontinue divisions or round tables.
- To establish or discontinue committees and to determine their composition, function and size as the Association's needs require.
- To determine all Association policies; may delegate responsibility to speak for the Association within assigned fields of responsibility in accordance with general Council policies.
- To authorize changes, additions, and deletions in the ALA Policy Manual upon recommendation of the Policy Monitoring Committee following.
ALA’s governance activities are shaped and guided by a series of governance and policy documents.
The Association’s first official document was the Charter of 1897, which was revised in 1942.
ALA’s Constitution and Bylaws are approved by the ALA Council and voted by the membership.
The ALA Constitution is a brief but basic ALA governance document: Article VI defines the roles and responsibilities of Council; Article VII relates to the Executive Board; and Article VIII deals with the ALA Officers and Committees:
Section VI, Council. Section 1.a.-b. of the ALA Constitution relating to Council reads:
- The Council of the American Library Association shall be the governing body of the Association. The Council shall delegate to the several divisions of the Association authority to plan and carry out programs and activities within assigned fields of responsibility and in accord with general Council policy.
- The Council shall determine all policies of the Association, and its decisions shall be binding upon the Association, except as provided in Section 4.c. of this Article.
The twelve articles of the ALA By-Laws cover these areas: Membership; Meeting; Nominations and Elections; Council; Chapters; Divisions; Round Tables; Committees; Finances; Notices by Mail; Voting by Mail; and Parliamentary Authority.
The ALA Policy Manual provides statements of policies, arranged by topic, adopted by the ALA Council:
The ALA Policy Reference File (PRF) contains the full text of policies deemed too long to be in the Policy Manual. The Policy Reference File contains interpretations, process documents, the original Council Document that presented the Policy, and other policy-related miscellany. Many policies in the Policy Manual contain explicit reference to material in the Policy Reference File, but many do not. The digitalization of the paper Policy Reference File was completed by ALA staff in the spring of 2009. Here is the link to the Policy Reference File at the ALA Institutional Repository.
The ALA Executive Office and Office of ALA Governance provide support to and facilitate the work of the Association and all its members, and specifically offer direct service and assistance to the ALA President, President-Elect, the ALA Executive Board, the ALA Council and the ALA Executive Director. The official webpage for the ALA Executive Office and Office of ALA Governance, including a list of services provided by the Office.
The current ALA Executive Office and Office of ALA Governance Staff are listed here.
These ALA committees have committee charges directly related to ALA governance and Council.
The charge of the Constitution and Bylaws Committee is to consider amendments to the Constitution and Bylaws; to review and draft rules for the conduct of Council and membership meetings; to review and draft rules for the preparation of resolutions, memorials, and tributes; and to make recommendations to the Association in accordance with the provisions of articles xi and xii of the Constitution.
The charge of the Council Orientation Committee is to develop and carry out a mentoring and orientation program for new and continuing councilors and to manage the council suite or lounge at the Midwinter Meeting and at the Annual Conference.
The charge of the Policy Monitoring Committee is to monitor the accurate documentation and codification of ALA policy, as determined by formal action of Council; to prepare additions or changes in the ALA Policy Manual following each Annual Conference and Midwinter Meeting, as may be required by motions and resolutions adopted by Council; to review and advise on all unit organization policies to ensure that they are in compliance with Council approved association-wide policies; to provide oversight by review prior to publication of the written text and Policy Manual numbers prepared by ALA staff and report to Council the accomplishment of Council's directives; to be responsible for keeping the Policy Manual accurate and up to date and to call Council's attention to out-dated items to be retired from the Manual or gaps in the presentation of policies.
The Resolutions Committee provides an advisory and channeling function for all resolutions presented for council's consideration, reviewing all resolutions submitted to council pursuant to the criteria established by council. The committee is also directed to provide consistent, in-depth training for all new members.