Unit Level Plan Summary

Reflection and Renewal

As the American Library Association enters a new planning cycle, an important first step is to know what has come before.  Existing plans within departments, divisions, offices and other ALA units contain a vast amount of information regarding how ALA as a whole sees its prospects for the future.  By looking at how units perceive the environment, and how this information is operationalized into goals and objectives, a broader picture of ALA emerges which can be brought forward for further planning purposes.  Of interest is finding similarities, differences, priorities and directions that bring focus to the individual units while informing the total ALA enterprise. 

This report is based upon a content analysis of 36 ALA planning documents (Appendix A, ALA Planning Documents List).  They represent a wide array of ALA units and, therefore, perspectives (with the possible exception of ALA Offices, which are not well represented in the sample).  The overall objective of the report is to point out areas of opportunity or of concern as they relate to planning, not to evaluate or compare individual plans.

In addition to this document, a matrix of topics highlighted in the analysis has been created, Appendix B., Planning Topic Matrix).  This matrix is a summary of the data, providing a general sense of what topics were covered in individual plans. It is not intended to be a fully inclusive line-by-line deconstruction of each document, but a guide to sorting various reoccurring themes, issues, and trends throughout all the documents. As background for this document, a "Working Papers" file was also produced as a functional analysis draft for the consultant.  This draft provides some organization to the data but is not intended to be a stand-alone public report.


ALA planning documents were requested from all units.  Each document was content analyzed by careful reading and categorizing, drawing from the contents of the documents, themselves, not from a predetermined template.  Categories were refined several times, resulting in the emergence of subcategories.  Similar items across plans were drawn together while the relatively small number of unique items where place in "other" categories under their larger headings. 
These analyses formed the Working Papers" document described above. 

Since the documents vary in purpose and format, ideas were extracted whenever they appear in the text and place into the most appropriate category, so some of the items are not necessarily in the emphasis or sequence in which they appeared in the original document.  Every attempt was made to maintain the meaning, intent and spirit of the original authors. 


The content analysis process yielded a number of major areas for analysis.  A full list of all areas can be found in Appendix C, ALA Plan Analysis Areas.  The following list introduces the main areas of analysis discussed, along with their supporting categories, in this text. 

   Statements of purpose.
   Projections of a desired future state.
Environmental Indicators
   Statements of internal or external circumstances that may affect the organization.
   Statements of situations already in progress that can or will affect the organization.
   Ideas of significance that permeate the thinking behind the document.
Key Action Areas
   ALA's official five priority areas: Diversity, Education and Continuous Learning, Equity of Access, Intellectual Freedom, and 21st Century Literacy.
Main Goals
 Planned actions related to the four goals articulated in ALAaction 2005.
Other Goals
 Major areas of action not covered by ALAction 2005.
Key Questions/Final Thoughts
Hypothetical questions raised and other rhetorical comments regarding ALA's future or direction.


The official American Library Association mission statement is:
 "Provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information service and the profession of librarianship to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all."

A few plans adopt the statement in total as the basis for its mission most write their own.  Many of the documents did not include "official" mission statements.  Those that did echoed the sentiments in ALA's statement by stressing concepts of leadership, improvement, enhancement and promotion.  They also focused on the library's role as advocates for larger societal goals such as democracy, intellectual freedom, diversity and equity of access.  Statements were about ...equally divided between those relating to internal workings of the profession or the association units (i.e. coordination or communication between units, increasing effectiveness on the job, safeguarding the association's assets, etc.) versus externally directed comments such as "advocacy and public awareness," or "potent national symbols of democracy."  In addition, some units articulated their purpose as being sources of information, representing libraries or librarians, setting standards or influencing policy.


Vision statements were not included in all documents.  ALA's vision statement, as expressed in ALAction 2005, makes two points-that it advocates for the "value of libraries and librarians in connecting people to recorded knowledge," and for the "public's right to a free and open information society."  Visions expressed in other plans tended to see their future in terms of:
* continuous change, dealing with technological innovation and evolving roles  library staff
* the needs of members and staff, particularly training and professional growth
* keeping the organization responsive
* diversity and inclusiveness
* being critical to communities

As in the mission statements, a strong thread of advocacy also went through vision sections.


Environmental indicators were a major resource for identifying the problems or areas the plans were intended to affect.  General concerns expressed included:

  • Well documented recruitment problems with the library labor market pertaining to an aging profession, the under representation of diversity, the rise in the importance (in libraries and within the association as members) of support staff, and creating the next generation of leadership.
  • Limited resources and the economic downturn that leads to inadequate technology, not enough staff to expand programs, not enough revenue to cover expenses, the cost of maintaining ALA's complex organizational structure, and delays in getting new products to market.
  • Ways to increase members and member involvement, a need to differentiate members by their interests, reaching members as customers.

The environmental scans also picked up certain pervasive issues that are seen as potential impediments to success:

  • Competition: by far, expressions of concern over the highly competitive environment were probably the most often mentioned.  Units are worried about competition in the areas of continuing education and publications, "networking" among members from outside organizations as well as from internal units within ALA.  They compete for members, customers, revenue, resources, media attention and attendees at programs and events.
  • Coordination: lack of coordination, priorities, consensus or direction is often named as a barrier.  Many identified the absence of standard methods, the internal bureaucracy, uneven staff or member follow-through, insufficient coordination between units working on the same or similar projects, and lack of coordination among librarians in the field who share an area of expertise or an audience of users as areas where more coordination is needed.
  • Organizational culture: the term "silo" was used repeatedly to describe ALA's organizational culture due to inconsistent information sharing across units.

The indicators that planners think affect ALA units positively were often described as:

  • Strong public support
  • Excellent staff
  • Opportunities presented by the public's increased interest in formation issues
  • Growing membership in some units
  • The Washington Office
  • Opportunities presented by new technologies
  • Many partnerships
  • Growth in the numbers in allied professions that could be potential members
  • The breadth of ALA's total scope, in type of library, type of member and the diversity of products, services and functions
  • Network of affiliates and chapters

An analysis of the environmental indicators paints a picture of a series of dichotomies that work against unit and organizational coherence. The intense competition feeds the "silo" culture.  Units must vie for limited internal resources. The need to produce revenue frustrates some units who want to "give away" expertise and program to members and others.  An internal fee vs. free struggle, where access for members is sometimes limited by the ability to pay was voiced by some.  Another tension that was mentioned is between member interests and staff functions.  Staff-member collaborations are seen as slowing down processes, contributing to the "slow to market" problems related to some new products. 


An evaluation of trends elicited many areas that resonate with the environmental scan, though not always stressing the same points.  Trends mentioned repeatedly were related to:

  • Competition: statements mostly from PLA were concerned continual competition for public funds and decision making power.  The need to capture attention in the marketplace was also brought up as significant.  YALSA was the only unit to say they have no competition in their general enterprise.
  • Internet:  Internet structure changes and how they affect libraries, the growth of domain names, Internet governance, and the shift to electronic versus paper resources were among trends cited as important to libraries.
  • Labor market: the demand for more information professionals and support staff, use of support staff for technical services, more non-librarians heading up units within libraries, losing librarians to vendors, and the transferability of library skills were among those discussed.
  • Legal:  Trends in legal issues such as copyright, digital licensing, privacy and threats to fair use continue to be important to ALA planners.
  • Limited resources:  seen as a trend, better financial management, the loss of outside funding, tax restrictions, better cost effective measures, more lobbying of the federal government, and cost cutting measures are all of importance.
  • Policy;  a growing concern for library participation in national decision making bodies, influencing key policy areas such as privacy, filtering, the digital divide, E-rate, CIPA and DMCA, along with lobbying for funding, favorable legislation and regulations will all continue to be critical.
  • Technology:  E-commerce and e-government are trends of interest, as are electronic publishing and dissemination, technology-based continuing education, affects of technology on some traditional services or audiences, the need for more staff training.

A few other trends of interest were whether the "value of associating" has diminished, the impact of corporate mergers and consolidations, the ability of libraries to demonstrate return on investment, the generational shift in members and their interests, the continuing need for personal and professional growth, and change as a constant.


Most of the documents analyzed did not discuss values as a separate topic area.  Among those that did, values appeared fairly consistent across units.  Access, diversity, education/learning, service, conservation/preservation, professionalism, intellectual freedom, collaboration, were all mentioned more than once in this small set of items.  In addition, specific units valued the public good, advocacy, good internal organization, member participation, knowledge as an end in itself, research and scholarly communication, and user participation in decision making.


ALA developed five key action areas in its overarching ALAction 2005 plan.  These were Diversity, Education and Continual Learning, Equity of Access, Intellectual Freedom and 21st Century Literacy.  These areas are major themes in many of the documents and are well developed in the goals sections.  Among the ways these action areas were interpreted were as follows:

  • Diversity
    Called a "fundamental value, diversity actions were in the areas of recruitment (through scholarships to underrepresented groups and statements on inclusiveness), resources and services (promoting collections and services for all, respecting a diversity of opinion, recognizing special needs, awarding excellence in multicultural literature), and membership (including persons from diverse backgrounds on committees, developing a plan to attract diverse members).
  • Education and Continuous Learning
    Action areas related to education concerns were centered on professional development (provide to all staff and trustees, provide a mix of opportunities, increase unit-wide communication on this issue, feature practices that move libraries forward), continuing education (numerous offerings, to keep up with change, to develop leadership, in collaboration with other groups, using technology for delivery, and providing them it in a timely manner), and life-long learning (through library services, by providing leadership, by being active partners in the teaching/learning process).
  • Equity of Access
    Statements in this area featured references to libraries as democratic institutions, service to all, connecting learners with ideas and information, the Library Bill of Rights, the inclusion of a full range of resources in collections, universal access, and program content promoting equity.
  • Intellectual Freedom
    Considered a "basic right" and a "core value" of the profession, intellectual freedom is supported by actions that actively defend the rights of users to read, seek information and speak freely.  Units have committees on IF, liaison with the Intellectual Freedom Office, and create materials in support of this area.
  • 21st Century Literacy
    This area focused on the concepts of basic literacy and of information literacy.   Statements addressed skill building (assisting children and adults develop needed skills, preparing users for life-long learning and the use of information technologies, interpreting and promoting information literacy competencies, encouraging reading to children and in general) and awareness of the importance of these literacies (developing publications, facilitating the teaching of information literacy, collaborating with others, defining the role of libraries in these efforts, planning involvement in these issues).


The bulk of goal statements made by most units fit into the four major goal areas established in ALAction 2005, and these were, therefore, used to organize the first set of goals in this analysis.  These goals are:

ALA will have increased support for libraries and librarians by communicating clearly and strongly why libraries and librarians are unique and valuable. (Increase Support)

ALA will be recognized as the leading voice for equitable access to knowledge and information resources in all formats for all people. (Equity)

ALA will be a leader in the use of technology for communication with, democratic participation by, and for shared learning among its members. (Technology)

ALA will be a leader in continuing education for librarians and library personnel. (Continuing Education)

Increase Support
Increasing support for libraries and librarians took on a variety of forms within the plans.  Virtually every plan contains elements of this goal.  A large number of items in this grouping fell under the following subheadings:


  • Positioning units as advocates: a number of general statements reinforce units' desire to be strong advocates by forwarding the role of libraries and librarians, increasing awareness and the visibility of libraries, advocating at all levels of government, advocating for children and young adults, academic libraries, public policy, legislation and institutional change.
  • Leaders in advocacy: Units want to be leaders in supporting library causes, particularly if they are important to their specific constituency.  Many want to help lead ALA's major advocacy campaigns like the Campaign for America's Libraries.  They also want to help members lead within their institutions.
  • Promotion:  ALA units want to promote libraries by developing tools and materials that convey values and reach specific audiences, by expanding the Campaign for Libraries to academic and school libraries, by reaching out to decision makers, by increasing activity of their members in groups across units, by promoting scholarly communication issues, by promoting the concept of the library as indispensable to democracy, and by supporting information literacy efforts.
  • Policy:  Libraries want to advocate for public policy in the information arena, for legislation, and for funding.  They want to stay abreast of these issues and have say in their resolution.


  • External Collaboration: Units want to increase partnerships with other organizations, and with allied professions.  They want to build coalitions with groups with similar interests, increase the number of audiences who view libraries as important partners in education, maintain good relations with accrediting entities, participate in international arenas, represent libraries in relevant coordinating groups, collaborate with higher education, extend resources through collaboration, strengthen existing relationships and form new ones.
  • Internal Collaboration: Within ALA or the profession, units want to work with trustees and Friends on advocacy issues, liaison with ALA committees, cosponsor programs and activities, advise other units on specialized areas of expertise, promote vision and mission to colleagues, increase the number of joint projects, and cooperate with other continuing education providers.


  • Multiple methods of communication: Units have plans to communicate with members on the web, through publications, in forums, at conferences, in press releases, and to a variety of audiences.
  • Publications:  Publication will expand in number and variety, will develop electronic versions, and will be promoted.
  • Issues;  Units will identify and report on issues, communicate to other units on important issues, share information on issues, and promote discussion on "hot" issues.
  • Branding:  Several units indicated they are working to communicate an identity for themselves by creating a "brand" that conveys an image or images of the unit to target audiences. They are working to develop ongoing messages about their focus.


  • By delivery specific messages, some units want to inform various audiences about issues or perspectives of interest to them.  They want to inform government about the needs of communities, inform citizens about government actions or proposals, inform society in general about their contributions, inform constituents through the press, inform library professionals about management issues, prepare position papers and statements, increase the efficacy of publications in keeping members informed, and inform all constituent groups about accreditation issues.


  • Many units acknowledge the need to train library advocates.  They want to create a clearinghouse of case studies for member access, ensure that advocacy efforts are useful in all settings, increase the number of libraries successful in promoting their services, and promote information exchange so members can learn from each other.


Equitable Access
ALA units express strong commitment to a "free and open information society, at the forefront of issues that challenge democracy.  They actualize this concept by:

  • Providing programs/exhibits in languages other than English
  • Creating and disseminating an information equity statement for the 21st century, which speaks to the critical role of libraries and librarians in achieving it.
  • Continuing to set a precedent for libraries in emerging democracies around the globe to emulate.
  • Making ALA services and products fully accessible to persons with disabilities.
  • Supporting initiatives to create a nation of readers.
  • Promoting universal access.
  • monitoring the implementation of the Library Services for People with Disabilities policy.
  • Focusing attention on outreach and service expansion to specialized audiences.
  • Creating initiatives that are inclusive of types of libraries, gender, age, and culture. (ASCLAstrat03)
  • Supporting, as appropriate and feasible, efforts to promote affordable access to information.
  • Developing outreach products and services for small, rural libraries.
  • Empowering youth to participate in libraries
  • Training members, partners, and young adults to be advocates for equity of access.
  • Developing strategies to encourage appropriate allocation of resources to ensure equity of access.

Literacy/Information Literacy
The need for literacy as a perquisite to participation in the information age is acknowledge in plans as units seek to increase the number of key audiences aware of services already provided by libraries as essential partners in literacy development.   They intend to:

  • Continue to lead the way in ensuring that all people are equipped to seek, find and use information resources, thereby becoming fully functional in  global society and encouraging lifelong learning.
  • Increase the amount of effort focused on emergent literacy. 
  • Instructing librarians understand their roles as information and education leaders in their institutions.
  • Help members of the community recognize the contribution information literacy programs make to teaching and learning.
  • Help educators and the general public widely recognize that information literacy is a fundamental competency for lifelong learning.
  • Incorporate information literacy into the curricula of higher education and the workplace.

Public Policy
The association and its units wants to have a comprehensive, clearly articulated public policy agenda focused on equity of access that:

  • Embraces the full range of public policy-telecommunications, education, preservation, student learning standards and the digital age
  • Helps to shape an improvement in public understanding of the importance of equitable access to information resources in all formats for all people.
  • Brings librarians to the table at public policy discussions on key issues: intellectual freedom, equity of access and narrowing the digital divide.
  • Develops a library service agenda to address barriers facing the "information poor"
  • Recognizes libraries as the destination for a wide variety of valuable services and their funding as a community priority.
  • Create opportunities to develop policies that encourage libraries to effectively use technology to serve the community.
  • Recognizes ALA as the leading voice for intellectual freedom, 21st century literacy, education and continuous learning, diversity and equitable access to information resources in all formats for all people.
  • The Instruction Section promotes library instruction programs for diverse populations. (acrlisstrat)

Technology Leader


  • Better Communication:  ALA has a major goal of implementing communication technology that will individualize communication and marketing to members, improve communication between conferences and provide 24/7 access for committee work.
  • Web Presence:   Many units see the web as a major source of communication with members.  They want to use it to make content more relevant, to enhance member relations, to keep information current and accurate, to provide access to the public (adults and children), to support electronic publication, to communicate with unit leadership, to offer improved searching capabilities, and to develop an online employment center.
  • Information Exchange:  Units want constituents to use ALA's technology interactively for information exchange to develop communities of interest and to engage in e-commerce.

Democratic Participation:
Units see technology assisting member participation in governance, in receiving public information, in holding virtual summits, supporting discussion groups and serving as a vehicle for virtual learning.

E-Commerce:  Planners expect technology support with
products and services, conference and event registration and for wider distribution.  New modules that will help purchases of products across units and that will tract e-donations are expected.
Member only and pay per view capacity will help increase revenues.
Publishing goals for the new technology include improved order processing, online reference works, electronic editing and digitized content, customized content delivery, and the provision of news and reviews.

General expectations for technology:  Broad interest in the uses of technology center on being a major player in web based CE, communicating advocacy messages to members and the public, expanding participation in the association, moving member information from print to the web, providing support to program, management, and shared learning.

Knowledge Management: ALA's goal to make useful its "vast" information resources through improved management, preservation and accessibility to their knowledge base is key to their technology planning.  Units want a technology infrastructure capable of staying abreast of changes and innovations (e.g. appropriate use of bandwidths).  The new iMIS system is viewed as the foundation for more integrated functions. "Back office" (i.e. HR, Finance Office) tools are also need, along with more digitizing and streamlining of paperwork.

Member Information:  Information about members as individuals for use across the association ( contact information, identification, history), membership renewal software, and online credit card verification are desired functions. There is also a simultaneous interest in protecting individual privacy.  Overall, units want to use technology to enhance their relationships with members.

Shared Learning
Learning communities:  Units will use communications technologies to provide opportunities for dialogue, participation in forums and meetings.

Tools for learning;  ALA plans to provide a wide array of continuing education programs online, units have "toolkits," relevant publication such as pathfinders, web sites built around issues, and a variety of "content packages," short online sessions, and materials in easily accessible forms.

Clearinghouse:  ALA will offer a broad-based, comprehensive continuing education clearinghouse.  Other units also want to develop clearinghouses around their areas of expertise. 

Leverage:  Member information data will be leveraged to market shared learning products, and "knowledge content" will be leveraged through repackaging in different formats.

Continuing Education

ALA is planning to put a structures and policies in place to launch one or more certification programs.  They will continue to set standards for professional development and education of library workers.

General CE Statements
A number of units included statements of support of the importance of CE for professional development and growth.

Library School Cooperation
Units acknowledge the need to cooperate with schools of information and library science to reach students with training in advocacy, to develop continuing education, and to influence school curricula.

Market CE
ALA's CE plan intends to implement "umbrella" marketing, where all offerings are promoted under one entity or catalog.  Content will be repackaged for resale in "smaller bits" reducing the costs of initial investments.  Licensing of programs and institutes to local associations and groups will bring ALA's CE into new markets.  ALA will market to more individuals as well, taking into account new audiences other than librarians, new preferences and different learning styles. The international market will also receive attention.  Scholarships to CE events are important  to encourage young library workers.  Market surveys and evaluations are used regularly.

Offers CE
Continuing Education is offered my the majority of ALA units in some form.  CE is offered to traditional audiences of librarians, library staff and trustees, but units want to increase the number of audiences for their CE.  CE is held at annual and midwinter meetings, at divisional meetings and conferences, in special institutes and virtually.  They are often at state, regional or local levels, and are frequently co-sponsored by either other ALA units or outside organizations.  Increasingly, CE is seen as "curricula" across units and topics are being calibrated to levels of expertise.

Professional Development
ALA units are keenly aware of the importance of professional growth and development and growth to members.  Among the strategies they plan to use to support professional development are:

  • Provide networking opportunities
  • Encourage members to prepare and conduct poster sessions
  • Support research scholarship, publication and professional service
  • Develop and maintain mentor programs
  • Provide opportunities for other continuing education
  • Give member discounts to preconferences
  • Offer numerous professional development oriented programs at conferences
  • Support librarians in their varied roles and responsibilities within their institutions
  • Develop and refine professional competencies
  • Provide leadership training

Specific CE Topics
Aside from reaffirming their role in offering continuing education, many units identified specific topics they offer, including:

  • Intellectual freedom
  • Literacy
  • Advocacy
  • Diversity
  • Access
  • E-rate programs and applications
  • ERP pool expansion and training
  • Marketing
  • Helping members articulate their work to their organization
  • Training the trainer
  • Leadership
  • Bibliographic control and digital management
  • Cultural programming
  • Fundraising techniques

Statements of interest in other areas of CE involved forming a cooperative structure for coordination of CE and convening the and Congress on Professional Education.

An expanded "CE Planning, Coordination & Communication" team is being recommended to support all internal CE providers to "leverage" ALA's organizational assets.


Another group of goals emerged from the analysis process that, with the  exception of Programs, revolve around ALA infrastructure.  Areas in this section are as follows:

Assess and Evaluation
Organizational Issues
Research and Data Collection

Assessment and Evaluation
Units want to assess needs of members and potential members, the quality of programming and continuing education, and the effects of national guidelines and standards, of outcome measures, and of setting and meeting targets.  They also are focused on learning more about assessment methodologies.

Evaluation stresses, by far, the effectiveness of efforts.  Of interest to units is the effectiveness of:

  • Discussion listservs
  • Unit developed data bases
  • Awards programs
  • Practices and methodologies that may be out of date
  • Technology initiatives
  • Promotional campaigns
  • Alternate materials or continuing education delivery methods
  • Unit programs
  • Recruitment
  • Relationships with partners
  • Economically viable education programs
  • Boards and committees
  • Web access

Some units mention a monitoring function for their programs and the establishment of benchmarks as measures.  Units hold continual reviews of conditions, operations, practices standards, and financial plans.

Strategic planning is seen as part of the evaluation process, providing guidance for operations and leadership activities.

Diversity Focus
Although this section was small, the statements here represent commitments from some units to extend their diversity efforts internally in addition to seeing diversity as a service goal.  Units stress including librarians from diverse populations, broadening diversity concerns and creating organizational environments where all can contribute and learn, maintaining meaningful relationships with ALA units that have a diversity focus, and ensuring that programs and activities consider diversity and the broadest possible audience.

A large number of action items fell under a broad financial category.  All units are involved in enterprises that require a broad concern for budgetary matters that pervades the association. 

Some budget considerations identified included expenses related to setting up institutes, long term investment prospects, funds for recruitment and outreach, general budgeting of operations, programs and support services, funding business plans, and funding ALA offices.

Development processes of acknowledging donations, cultivating donors, encouraging sponsorships, and facilitating individual donations (including online donations) were discussed.  Units want to raise money for research and scholarship, endowments, and new programs.  One unit identifies networking, funding partnerships and member initiatives as ways to expand resources. 

A few references were made to the ALA endowment.  Strategies for the endowment include developing long term investment growth, recommending investment performance improvements, building the endowment to support ALA priorities, and increasing the endowment by two million dollars over three years.

Financial Management
Improvements: Among the activities related to managing the financial resources of ALA as a whole, or its units, were implementation of improvements in check cashing to accelerate reimbursements, cash management, maximizing interest income, in collecting outstanding debts, in improving inventory levels, in risk management, and in the growth of long-term investments. 

Financial accountability:  Units want their budgetary processes well coordinated and facilitated.  The want better budget management, financial accountability, integration of budgetary and programmatic planning, timely information about fiscal needs, better accounting of staff costs, and continual review.  Regulations need monitoring, as do the association's allocations and expenditures.

Units have or want long-term marketing plans for membership, products and services. Among the marketing methods mentioned for publications were direct marketing, print/online packages, conference and online stores, merchandising, and targeting customers.

Financial reports are produced by the Financial Office.  They are redesigning reports for communicating with board, committees and funding sources.  They also produce tax returns and reports.

Revenue Enhancement
Units are aware of their responsibilities to raise revenues for their operations.  Among the revenue enhancement strategies discussed were:

  • Identifying products and services that will enhance the financial picture
  • Repackaging products as new products
  • Recommending new publications
  • Setting fundraising targets
  • Finding potential funding sources
  • Identifying targeted numbers of prospects as potential donors
  • Increasing the annual giving by members
  • Moving current annual donors to higher levels of donations
  • Creating an annual appeals calendar for donations
  • Encouraging planned giving
  • Securing donor prospects for the Freedom to Read Foundation
  • Collaborating with outside partners for shared in-kind contributions, service donations and exchanges to cut costs
  • Expanding the number of successful grant programs
  • Timely acknowledgement of gifts
  • Making new initiatives self sustaining as the produce revenue
  • Increase total revenues and contribution margins
  • Employ technology to reduce costs
  • Leverage technology costs by staying abreast of those technologies that show promise for furthering the association agenda.
  • Tighten the integration of publishing and continuing education, enhancing the marketing and sales climate for both
  • Tighten contracts to improve net revenue
  • Increase membership renewals
  • Lobby for federal funds
  • Develop standard templates for a range of documents that save scarce staff resources and standardize some financial procedures.

Various matters relating to members are well represented as planning concerns for units. 

Committees continue to perform much of the unit work.  Units review their committee structures to meet the current and future needs of members. They are expanding virtual committee memberships for those unable to attend conferences.

Member Relations
According to a variety of statements, ALA's aspirations for its member relations are that it be perceived as:

  • The "best in the world" at focusing on members first.
  • An open membership organization that values diversity and nurtures leaders.
  • A source of networking, in person and virtually.
  • A source of social events.
  • An organization that knows its members as individuals.
  • An organization that communicates and listens.
  • A builder of community and a creator of connections.
  • A provider of relevant, timely information.

Some units believe librarians and trustees will remain core members while others are seeking new members outside these groups, especially with other library workers and allied professions.  Units acknowledge the importance of new members by promoting their services and sponsoring scholarships or discounts.  They want to build awareness, loyalty and involvement.  The member is thought of as more than "just a consumer of goods and services."  Some units want the means to "track all (member) transactions and involvements with the association."  Some units are pursuing more "member-only"  functions to underscore advantages of membership and encourage retention.

Promotion to members includes working with the New Members Roundtable, creating promotional brochures, and "branding" of units to clarify their message.

Member recognition and awards are an important part of the association.  Recognition, according to some plans, is given for:

  • Outstanding achievement by members
  • To encourage and recognize innovation and  motivate practitioners to adopt change
  • Contributions by members to librarianship
  • Contributions by members to keeping their communities informed of critical issues
  • Contributions by members to bibliography and law information service
  • Outstanding leaders and programs
  • Service to the profession and best practices in leadership, management and advocacy
  • Noteworthy research and scholarly achievements
  • Best reference sources and most distinguished contribution to reference service

Units seek sponsors for these awards and recognizes members in their publications.  Recognition is considered important to keeping members active.

Recruitment to various units is incorporated into many ALA plans.  Units engage in a an array of activities to identify and bring in new members.  Among the strategies they use are:

  • Using lists of potential members provided by central ALA staff.
  • Inviting library and information school students to program in their vicinity.
  • Targeting professional development opportunities to nonmembers.
  • Targeting paraprofessionals.
  • Creating incentives for retirees to maintain membership.
  • Recruiting outside of librarianship to other information or allied professionals.
  • Retaining members through enhanced individual contact.
  • Targeting new librarians.
  • Cooperating with other ALA units on joint recruitment campaigns.
  • Targeting members of other divisions with members with common interests.
  • Liaisoning with NMRT.
  • Targeting ALA's many scholarship recipients
    Units are also working on retention of current members.

Member revenues are an important part of many units' financial mix.  Dues are reviewed regularly using review indicators and trend data and in relation to the importance of dues in the revenue stream.  Some dues are tiered, tied to salary.  Units rely on marketing products and services to members for revenue.

ALA recognizes the need to recruit a new generation of librarians.  Units encourage activities that attract outstanding individuals and promote diversity within the profession.  Librarianship is promoted to potential recruits as a vital 21st century profession.  The importance of recruiting people of color and the disabled is reaffirmed as important to the "democracy in which we live."

Organizational Issues
Units are grappling with a range of functional, structural and personnel issues internal to the association. 


  • Units seek accountability from core functions and vice versa.  Structures and responsibilities for this accountability can be continually improved.

Five business areas are identified:  membership, publishing, conferences, advocacy, continuing education, with one Linking area-technology.  Product and service innovation is key.  Marketing to members is a growing function.

Staff training, particularly in technology appears as a needed activity.  Personnel resources are considered inadequate by a number of units. Others want a strong staff organization, the ability to hire temporary staff when needed, and the resources to attract and retain the best staff.  A mix of personnel resources is suggested that includes "internal personnel, outside consultants, and replacement of personnel resources with purchase of a ready-made product." 

• Streamlining the organizational structure to make it more supportive and responsive is a recurring theme.  Units want associations, capable of change, robust and flexible,  able to meet member's changing needs, a more nimble governance infrastructure, and more content-centered.  Individual units mirror the parent unit with their own missions and revenue expectations, often their own boards of directors or advisory committees.  In the continuing education area, a new arrangement is introduced to define an internally collaborative structure in which "coordination" occurs within the collective body rather than in a "top-down," centralized mode.
Programs remain a staple within the association at various levels.  Conference programs are important and most units are looking to expand their offerings.  Programs are a way for leaders to share their ideas with members, define emerging issues, leverage association expertise, and responding to trends.  Some units offer training, resources and act as a clearinghouse in support of member programming.  Program are encouraged at national, state, regional and local levels and members are encouraged to try new formats and delivery.

Research and Data Collection
Units need data for assessments, evaluation, marketing, and other reasons.

Data Collection
Units are either collecting or need Data on members and non-members regarding their needs and interests and how to meet them.  The core units are creating one customer/member database for use by all units for planning and product development.  Ongoing environmental scans, surveys and marketing studies are conducted.

Improved and timely dissemination of current research and best practices is a desired state.   Units also want internal access to transactional data.

Research by Members
Units acknowledge the large amount of research conducted by members, particularly in academic libraries.  This research is seen as influencing higher education information technology, student achievement, leadership and management, science and technology librarianship, and best practices in a variety of areas.  Units want to support and develop research among their members.  The objective is to move the field forward by developing theory, practice and research.  Places to showcase research results are encouraged as well, including forums and publications. 

Many ALA units are involved in the development and promulgation of standards or guidelines.  Work centers on creating , revising, reviewing and disseminating these documents on a regular basis.  Some units also work with outside coordinating authorities on standards, including international groups.  Standards developers are interested in promoting the broadest possible application and use of the adopted standards. 


Many of the plans closed with reflections on the future.  They voiced concerns about a future with more risks and the role of libraries within it.  Generational change is of consequence to an aging profession,  The future of member relations is in doubt as is the best structure for remaining viable as an association and in the field. 

The continuous need for technological upgrades and training is of concern.  Both staff and patron needs in this area will remain high. 

Competition, as noted in the body of this text, is a major worry.  There is a perception that libraries may suffer further threats from the business sector and the Internet and a danger of being perceived as obsolete.

Internally, ALA is concerned with flat conference attendance, the weak economic climate, and unfavorable attrition clauses and restrictions from conference hotels. 

How to coordinate burgeoning continuing education offerings and whether that full coordination is desirable is a question to be answered.

Increasingly, the need to alter relationships between ALA, its divisions and affiliates will have to be addressed.  And the role of Offices must be reassessed in view of greater demands for their services.

The convergence of continuing education, conference and publishing must be sorted out and certification issues must be resolved.


For the most part, there is a great deal of overall consistency in plans.  Clearly, smaller units are taking the lead from core ALA planning and mirroring those themes in their own documents. Themes recur purposefully in different areas, reinforcing what is important to the planners:  communication in various forms, advocacy, revenue generation and continuing education, for instance, resonate throughout.  Other areas, like intellectual freedom and grant funded initiatives, do not have as high a profile. 

What is of interest is the public face of activities represented by the four goals in ALAction 2005 and the shadow infrastructure goals that emerge from the documents.  The inner workings of the units reveal an organization that appears to be highly competitive externally and internally, concerned about limited resources and heavily involved in revenue creation.  There is an absence of detail on particulars of how goals and projections will be realized in many cases so long-term monitoring of accomplishments may be difficult.  Similarly, few plans in this analysis stressed timelines for completion of specifics. 

Regardless of these reservations, these plans show an understanding of what the major endeavors of the individual units and ALA, as a whole, are and what needs to be done in a general sense.  It is clear that most were prepared with care and skill.  In the absence of the full complement of plans in this analysis, very broad generalizations should be cautioned against.  More appropriately, this document can be used to identify issues, reflect on the efficacy of previous choices made, look for areas of consensus or disagreement, and as a departure point for the discussion of the full spectrum of planning topics to be considered as a new planning process is initiated.



The following reports were used  for this analysis:

ALAction 2005 (ALAction2005)
Advocacy Plan Overview Draft(draftadvpl)
ALA Business Plan Framework (busplanfr)
ALA Communications and Marketing Department FY2004 Budget Overview(C&MD)
ALA Finance and Accounting Budget Summary 04 (finacct)
ALA Fundraising and Development Plan Draft(F&DD)
Information Technology at ALA: 2002-2005 (IT0205)
ALA Member Programs & Services Department FY 2004 (MP&SD)
ALA Public Education Campaign (PEC)
ALA Public Program Office Strategic Plan January 2002-January 2005 (PPO)
ALA Washington Office 3 year Business Plan Book (WObp)
American Association of School Librarians Strategic Plan (AASLstr)
American Libraries Business Plan Outline FY 2002-2005 (ALbpo)
ACRL Instruction Section Strategic Plan (acrlisstrat)
ACRL Law and Political Science Strategic Plan (lpssstrat)
ACRL Science and Technology Strategic Plan (ACRL S&T)
Association for Library Service to Children Strategic Plan 2000-2005(ALSCSTRAT)
ASCLA Membership Business Plan Overview FY 2002-2005 (ASCLAmbp)
Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies Strategic Plan for 2003(ASCLAstrat03)
ALCTS Financial Plan (ALCTSfp)
ALCTS Membership Business Plan Outline FY 2002-2005 (ALCTSmbp)
ALCTS Publishing Business Plan (PUBbp)
ALCTS Strategic Plan2001-2005 (ALCTSStrat)
COA/OA (coa/oa)
LAMA Membership Business Plan Outline FY 2002-2005 (LAMAmbp)
LAMA Strategic Plan 1999-2004 (LAMAstr)
LITA (LiTAstr)
PLA Strategic Plan (PLASTRAT)
RUSA Membership Business Plan Outline FY 2002-2005 (RU SAbp)
RUSA Strategic Plan for 2003-2006 (RUSAstr)
YALSA Business Plan FY02-FY04 (YALSAbp)
YALSA Strategic Plan (YALSAsp)