From the Office

Charles Wilt, ALCTS Executive Director

charles wilt
A Look at the ALA 2010 Plan (Part 5 of 5)
Goal Area VI: Organizational Excellence

As I mentioned in my October article, the membership and the organizational excellence goals both grew out of a fundamental question as to the purpose of the ALA Plan 2010. Is it primarily a statement of philosophy (as was ALAction 2005) or is it, too, a working document in which the ALA community can draw its raison d’etre? As I said then, I believe the intent of the ALA 2010 plan is to provide the membership a working document, not a statement of philosophy. So here is the last of the five parts of my commentary on the ALA 2010 plan.

Organizational Excellence Goal Statement: ALA is an inclusive, effectively governed, well-managed, and financially strong organization.

Strategic Objectives:

  • Increase ALA's ability to respond effectively to a changing environment.
  • Increase the amount and diversity of revenue sources to support ALA programs and services and meet current and future member needs.
  • Continuously improve ALA's technology capabilities in order to achieve the association's goals and meet member needs.
  • Increase and improve communications, cooperation and collaboration throughout the association, its divisions and round tables.
  • Provide greater opportunities for more members to assume leadership positions within the organization.
  • Strengthen efforts to recruit and retain members.
  • Strengthen efforts to support and collaborate with Chapters and Affiliates.

A goal that holds all of ALA accountable for a well-governed and well-managed organization was probably far overdue. ALCTS has had such a goal with the inception of our own strategic plan in 2001. That goal is always not too far from my own management of ALCTS. It is an essential check against which we have made some very difficult decisions over that past couple of years. An organizational excellence goal does announce to the membership whether it is ALCTS or ALA that there is a conscience effort in place to be fiscally and organizationally sound.

In the ALA 2010 plan, only objective 3 can be attributed to the ALA staff in almost its entirety in terms of implementation. Certainly, expectations can be and should be driven by the membership. But unlike the other objectives, implementation must take place in the building.

The other objectives, however, are the purview of the membership, the leaders, and the staff in collaboration. Some, like the first objective, require a culture change to some extent. Others, like the sixth one, require, well, some effort.

The problem I see with this goal is that many in the membership still do not understand the “business” of an association; not just ALA, although that is the most immediate concern, but any association, state, regional, or local. The business of an association has been high on ALCTS’ priorities for several years now. Despite the altruistic endeavors of an association, the association would not exist if not for a steady and increasing stream of revenue. Just as we have struggled with the “not” increasing stream of revenue, so has ALA. However, diversification of revenue streams is not easy. There is a cost for developing new revenue areas. In these times, many of the opportunities are electronic and Web-based. ALA lacks the infrastructure to move quickly on these, and also lacks a ready supply of venture capital (so to speak).

I view several of these objectives as highly integrated: retaining members, providing leadership opportunities, improving collaboration and communication, responding to a changing environment. These perhaps fit the culture change I mentioned above. These objectives are not business as usual objectives. They will require that ALA (and ALCTS and the other units) take a hard look at its and their own environments and how effectively and successfully the Association (yes, with the big “A”) has addressed not only the spirit of the objectives but also the letter of the objectives.

the alcts experience Over the next year and leading into the ALCTS/ LRTS 50th Anniversary celebration in 2007, you will notice a new emphasis on what I have introduced in October as “the ALCTS experience.” I believe when you take this goal’s objectives I mentioned as integrated, the ALCTS experience brings the spirit of those objectives into focus. ALA and ALCTS are and have been essentially associations of the products and services that we offer. The ALCTS experience idea turns the traditional association of offering benefits through products and services into an association whose function is to help members further their professional development. The question becomes then for the association, “What can we (the association) do to help you, a member of our association, accomplish whatever it is you wish to gain from being a member of our association?” This is the spirit of this goal.