From the Office

Charles Wilt, ALCTS Executive Director

There is perhaps no greater mystery in any association than the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors. The Executive Committee (or EC as we fondly refer to it) has in many organizations received much bad press about its functioning or not, governing or not, controlling or not, and so on. The EC may view itself as a mini-Board whose status in life is to run the association in spite of the Board or regardless of the Board or even in defiance of the Board. The EC is often not thought of as a "real" committee in the sense that the Budget & Finance Committee is a committee or the Nominating Committee is a committee. It is after all not appointed but is "ex officio", deemed so in bylaws. Most EC members are elected to an office first, and then by virtue of holding the office are they EC members.

So what about ALA and ALCTS you ask (or maybe you are not all that interested)?

The American Library Association provides an interesting study in layering of responsibilities. There is of course the ALA Council, that body of delegates that meets twice a year. Needless to say, governing between conferences if up to Council would be somewhat of a chore, since there are some 200 members on Council. So ALA has an Executive Board (EB) consisting of the following: the president, president-elect, immediate past president, treasurer, executive director, and eight members elected by Council from its membership for three-year terms (source is ALA Constitution and Bylaws). Now the EB meets multiple times during the year via conference call, sometimes in person outside conference, but always at conference. FYI: this year's EB fall meeting is October 9-12, which will have passed by the time you read this. According the ALA governance documents, "The Executive Board acts for Council in the administration of established policies and programs and is the body that manages within this context the affairs of the Association, delegating management of day-to-day operation to the Association's executive director. The Executive Board makes recommendations with respect to policy and operation."

Ah, you say, pretty straight forward. But fraught with "definition" problems (what does "acts" really mean?) and therefore open to interpretation as to when the EB oversteps its bounds.

But we're not done yet. The ALA EB has subcommittees and one of those subcommittees is the "Executive Committee". Few people probably know about this one but here is the description straight from the EB web page on the ALA site (located here: Home Our Association Governance eboard).

"To consist of the president of the Association (who serves as chair), the president-elect, the immediate past president, the treasurer, and (ex officio) the executive director. The subcommittee carries out administrative functions on behalf of the Association and the Board; reviews and discusses administrative and policy issues that need to be brought to the attention of the full Board; approves Board agendas, meeting times, and dates; reviews and brings to the full Board for approval the dates, sites, and schedules for ALA conferences; performs ceremonial activities as representatives of ALA; handles administrative communications of the organization and the Board; recommends ALA's relationships with external organizations and individuals; brings recommendations regarding nominations and appointments to the full Board for approval; reviews and approves calls for votes between meetings; performs other duties as required."

So where does this leave ALCTS and its own EC?

The ALCTS bylaws allow for one and its composition is as such: "The Executive Committee of the Board of Directors shall consist of the president, vice-president (president-elect), past-president, and the ALCTS councilor." Note that the Executive Director (ED) is not a member (sympathy is not necessary). I do however attend, willingly. One of the changes being suggested on this fall's bylaws ballot is adding the ED to the EC.

The ALCTS bylaws even assigns the EC some responsibility: "the Executive Committee may meet to consider emergency measures, to make adjustments to the budget, and to carry out action based on previous Board action or preliminary to future Board action."

The Executive Committee the last couple of years has operated very much as an extension of the Board. It meets twice a year in between conferences, usually October and early April. At these meetings, the EC follows up on Board actions from the conference, discusses agenda items for the upcoming meeting, does a substantial amount of planning, and helps the President formulate responses to issues. The EC has begun to include in its discussions select ALCTS members by whose presence the discussion is moved along. For instance, if the EC were discussing the publications business plan, the chair of the publications committee would be invited to attend. During the fall meeting with the beginning of the budget cycle, the chair of the budget and finance committee would be involved. The intent of the EC is to continue to move the business of the association along throughout the year and not wait for conferences. This mode is also true of the entire Board's business. The Board considers actions all year round, many as a result of deliberations at the EC meetings.

The Executive Committee is an essential link in the governance chain of ALCTS. As I said, not only does it move the business of ALCTS along throughout the year, it also serves as the germination point for many ideas, the resolution point for many issues, and the association "focus group". It does not operate in a vacuum or to please itself. It is fully accountable to the Board and the business of the EC is reported out to the full Board after each meeting.

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