My ALCTS Experience

I still vividly remember the phone call that led to my first ALCTS committee appointment. I was awakened from a sound sleep at 1 a.m. in my hotel room during the 1979 Midwinter Meeting. The voice on the other end of the line began a bit rudely with the words: “I am not even going to apologize for calling at this late hour. I have been trying to reach you all day.” He went on to offer me an appointment on CC:DA (or whatever it was called at the time). I believe that I may have then made ALCTS history by politely refusing: “But I am a subject cataloger. I do not know much of anything about descriptive cataloging.” He then said that he would see what he would do, and a bit later the plum appointment to the Subject Access Committee arrived.

ALCTS remained my divisional home in ALA for the next twenty years even as my primary responsibilities shifted away from the core activities of the division. I chaired the Subject Analysis Committee for two years, won election as chair of the Cataloging & Classification Section, chaired the divisional Budget and Finance Committee for three years, and eventually became ALCTS President in 1994. I lost my first bid to be President in one of the most hotly contested elections with less than .5 percent difference (around fifty votes) between the two candidates. My presidential year did not have an auspicious beginning because I missed my first Midwinter Meeting on account of emergency surgery for a dislocated shoulder. The principal issue at that time was a fundamental reorganization of the division that I supported, but was voted down by the membership.

In recent years, I have offered to serve wherever I would be most useful. Twice, I have been what I call a “chair for hire” in that I have agreed to chair a committee that needed someone with organization skills and knowledge of ALCTS/ALA procedures. I have also served on and chaired award committees. I will admit that I was sad when in 2004 for the first time since the late 1970’s I did not have a committee appointment in ALCTS.

Looking back, I would say that my most astounding accomplishment in ALCTS, and probably also in ALA, is the five-year budget plan that I wrote in the early 1990’s as chair of the Budget and Finance Committee. Not only the Committee, but also the ALCTS Board, voted to approve the document without changing a single word—a feat that I find incredulous to this day.

I wish ALCTS well on its 50th anniversary and intend to participate as fully as possible in the celebrations. I tell my students at Wayne State University that they will never forget their first publication and their first ALA committee appointment. My days as a young radical in ALA politics are certainly gone, but perhaps we “experienced old hands” can pass down a bit of our expertise to the next generation of leaders.