Letters from ALCTS

bruce johnson, alcts president

From the President

Bruce Johnson, ALCTS President


We are now well into our 50th anniversary year and I would like to spend a few moments talking with you about the future of ALCTS. I know from my training that past performance is the best predictor of future behavior. If that is the case, there are several characteristics that I mention when bragging about ALCTS members:

  • Knowledgeable
  • Hard working
  • Caring
  • Outspoken
  • Eloquent
  • Innovative
  • Dedicated

It would be easy to go on, but you get the picture. I am very proud to be associated with ALCTS and its members, both as individuals (I consider many of you my closest friends) and as a force to be reckoned with.

This past year the ALCTS Board adopted a five-year strategic plan (http://www.ala.org/ala/alcts/planning/06plan.htm) with five major goal areas:

  • ALCTS provides leadership in the management of information
  • ALCTS defines best practices and develops and promotes national and international standards
  • ALCTS provides and facilitates continuing education and fosters life-long learning;
  • ALCTS collaborates with organizations with similar or complementary interests;
  • ALCTS is a viable, vibrant membership organization.

If you have not read the plan yet, you really should. It is an ambitious roadmap for one of the most dynamic, effective associations in the library profession. In the near future you will have the opportunity to recommend strategic initiatives to help put the plan into action.

During the past twelve months ALCTS has also been faced with the challenge of meaningfully responding to major changes in the cataloging profession. This has occupied quite a lot of the Board’s attention. This response has taken on three phases:

  • Responding to past events
  • Being actively engaged in current discussions outside of ALCTS
  • Exploring how ALCTS could lead more effectively (as opposed to simply responding)

The last of these phases, leadership, is the subject of this month’s column.

In June 2006 the ALCTS Executive Committee tasked the Cataloging and Classification Section Executive Committee (CCS Exec) with

developing a series of recommendations or discussion points for next steps that ALCTS should take to enhance its leadership position with respect to the changing nature of bibliographic control (cataloging and classification). Although this charge is occasioned by the recent decision by the Library of Congress (LC) to cease series authority record creation, the recommendations should not be limited to actions that directly relate to LC.

The resulting document has been referred to as the “Next Steps” document and has spawned discussion throughout ALCTS, and particularly in the Board and the section executive committees. The summary of this discussion can be found on the ALCTS web site at I urge all ALCTS members to read the “ Overview of the Next Steps Documents (.pdf, 9 pages) Developed by the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS) Sections (Acquisitions, Cataloging and Classification, Collection Management and Development, Preservation and Reformatting, and Serials) and the ALCTS Council of Regional Groups” and carefully consider what this means for each of us.

Several themes come up throughout our association:

  • Leadership
  • Advocacy
  • Communication
  • Continuing education
  • Research

All five of these are equally important. The recommendations that the section and CRG executive committees are making should ensure that ALCTS will be well positioned to in the forefront of our profession.

Here is the tricky part though ... Who will make these recommendations become reality?

If CCS recommends that “ALCTS should propagate the knowledge of wiki use within CCS, with the intention that CCS will be represented well on the 2007 Annual Conference wiki” who will take responsibility for making it happen?

If SS recommends that “ALCTS needs to aggressively and collaboratively work with library administrators, librarians, and library schools to redefine what constitutes bibliographic access” who do we mean by “ALCTS?”

The short answer is, We are ALCTS! It is not the ALCTS Office staff. We are extraordinarily fortunate to have Charles’, Julie’s and Christine’s help, but they are not ALCTS. We are. We are the experts in acquisitions, collection development, serials, preservation, and cataloging. If this challenge is going to be addressed, we are the ones who will have to make it happen. Let me give you a few “for instances”:

We know from our members that ALCTS should be producing more publications. ALCTS leadership secures commitments from authors to write the publications, and the Budget & Finance Committee built a budget assuming that the authors will honor their commitments. If they do not come through, we let down our members, jeopardize our association’s fiscal solvency, and miss an opportunity to change our profession.

ALCTS does not exist just a couple of weeks before, during, and after conferences. It is a living, breathing association whose work goes on 24/7, 365 days a year. That said, I have heard from frustrated members who report that their committee chair has not been in touch with the committee since February 1. With that level of commitment, ALCTS will not be the nimble organization that the strategic plan envisioned.

We all have responsibilities to ALCTS, to our members, and frankly to ourselves. Here are just a few of the responsibilities that come to mind:

  • Deliver stuff that you commit to do.
  • Committee chairs need to follow up well in advance of deadlines.
  • Everyone (and particularly chairs and representatives) have a responsibility to report in a timely manner.
  • ALCTS and its many parts must be kept up-to-date. This is NOT the staff’s responsibility.
  • Appointing officers should remember that this is your opportunity to shape a dynamic organization. Focus on who you feel can get the job done. The rest will fall into place.
  • Every ALCTS organizational unit should develop a workplan for the year. This plan should be realistic and should be frequently consulted and revised as necessary so that at the end of the year we will know whether we have accomplished what we set out to.
  • Committee Chairs and Section Chairs should actively monitor the performance and effectiveness of ALCTS groups. If action does not happen within a predictable period, corrective steps should be taken to ensure that things turn around quickly.
  • Do not make promises that you can not keep.
  • Responsibility means accountability.

We must take ownership of our association and what it is doing. ALCTS is not someone else. We are ALCTS.

It is very easy to suggest that ALCTS should be doing something to solve a problem, but without your active involvement in the solution, all we will have to brag about is how great the last fifty years have been. I personally am excited about the possibilities for ALCTS’ next fifty years. My sleeves are rolled up. How about yours?