Our Voice in ALA Council

Bruce Chr. Johnson, ALCTS Councilor

As your representative in ALA Council, I thought it might be helpful if I explained what Council is and what it is meant to do. Council is the "governing body" of the American Library Association, and is responsible for establishing policy for the association ( ALA Constitution and Bylaws, Article VI). Council is chaired by the ALA President and consists of more than 180 Councilors. Eleven of these Councilors represent ALA's divisions, with other Councilors representing ALA's roundtables and chapters (in most cases state library associations). The remaining one hundred Councilors are elected "at large" and represent no specific constituency. The division Councilors frequently work together because many Council issues have similar potential impacts on ALA's divisions.

Council is ALA's legislative body where the overall direction of the association is discussed and decided. At each ALA conference, Council formally meets for a dozen hours, meeting as well in a number of informal settings called "caucuses" where issues are discussed face-to-face in greater detail. As you might imagine, given the diversity of the library profession, it is often a challenge to arrive at a consensus on controversial issues.

As the ALCTS Councilor, my main responsibilities are to keep the ALCTS Board of Directors informed about issues being considered by Council, as well as addressing the needs of the division and ALCTS members in Council. Council issues about which ALCTS should take a formal position are brought to the ALCTS Board for consideration and action.

Among the issues ALA Council recently has been considering, the following are relevant to ALCTS members:

USA Patriot Act. This piece of landmark legislation was passed in part as a result of the September 11th terrorist attack and is intended to provide law enforcement agencies with additional resources to investigate and prevent terrorist activity. Many librarians feel that certain aspects of the USA Patriot Act pose troubling challenges to information access and library patrons' privacy. Council has taken a strong and unambiguous position opposing federal policies that threaten the free access to information and intrusion upon privacy rights.

Allied Professional Association (APA). The APA has been established by Council to enable ALA to engage in certain functions that are outside the scope of ALA's 501(c)(3) charitable organization mandate. One of APA's missions is to provide structure for supporting and accrediting continuing education (CE) activity. It is clear that many librarians expect ALA (and ALCTS) to be proactive in developing educational resources to help librarians keep their professional skills current. APA also offers the potential for significant revenue generation in the years to come.

Library Support Staff dues rate. Council is very interested in pursuing avenues for more effectively meeting the needs of library support staff. At the recent ALA Midwinter meeting, Council approved a membership ballot initiative to approve a special membership rate that will make ALA membership and participation more affordable by support staff.

ALA Programmatic Priorities. Council approved the following 2005 fiscal year programmatic priorities: diversity; education and continuous learning; equity of access; intellectual freedom; 21st Century literacy. Several of these priorities are central ALCTS focal points.

ALA Executive Board. Council selects the membership of the ALA Executive Board. Membership on the board comes from current members of Council, and Executive Board members serve in that capacity for three years. At the recent Midwinter meeting, Council selected former ALCTS President, Janet Swan Hill, as a member of the ALA Board.

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