Letters from ALCTS
From the Office
Charles Wilt, ALCTS Executive Director
Last month I wrote about design. That is, designing an association such as ALCTS to maximize the benefits of becoming part of the association. If design is the content, the “what” of the association, then you have to build that design, devise the “structure” in which the design can function.
So what about the “structure” of ALCTS to which we should be paying attention?
Structure for an association is part policy, part procedure, part governance, part working groups. I want to look at each of those components briefly.
Several years ago, the ALCTS Board decided it was time to change itself and how it does business, so it was overhauled. The Board wrote itself a charge, assigned itself duties, added three new members, and configured the voting/non-voting membership. That “structure” is the Board of 2007. At the same time, the Board decided to make certain division committees, “Committees of the Board,” reporting directly to the Board. These committees supported the organizational structure of ALCTS: Planning, Program, Budget & Finance, Organization and Bylaws, etc. ALCTS at the time had many “topical” committees that did not fit this new structure, and they were given the option of going out of business or becoming what was then a new idea, an Interest Group (IG). Some opted for disbanding, some opted for IG status. As a result, a new “structure” was put in place.
Policy is also part of any discussion on structure, since policy often has an impact on the structure, just as I described above. Policy dictates that in order to “X,” you must have “Y” in place, often a group or relationship or something tangible. The Board recently passed a policy about the delegation of authority to division committees, essentially stating that division committees work on behalf and represent the Board in their particular areas, can make decisions on behalf of the Board, and do not need Board approval for everything they do. This policy affects the structure of the organization because it grants extra responsibility to the division committees but also makes them more accountable.
Procedure seems to be everywhere. Despite having stripped much of the procedure from what we do, there is still an ample amount to go around. Procedure can add a great deal to any structure, so we try hard not to build any more into what we have to do than is necessary. The Program Committee needs information to judge a program proposal but over the years, we have pared that down to the basics. Over-reaching and obtrusive procedures can kill the best of intentions and who really wants to face getting five different approvals?
Working groups, for lack of a better all inclusive term, are committees, task forces, interest and discussion groups, the Board, the Executive Committees, all the groups that make up ALCTS. ALCTS has a traditional structure for its organization: a Board and sections/CRG with a supporting committee structure. Many of the other divisions have the same structure, some more complicated, some simpler: RUSA and ACRL, for example. LITA and YALSA have no sections. PLA has “clusters.” ALA has offices, divisions, committees, round tables, etc. ALA, if you do not already know, is one of the most complex structures in all of association-dom.
Where do we go from here?
So are you wondering when I am getting to my point? Well, now. If as I mentioned in April that we are the masters of our own design, then we are also masters of our own structure. No one, in ALA or outside, has told us how to organize ourselves, so we are free to re-invent. And we have done so with some success. I however want to challenge each and every one of you, member, committee chair, section chair, Board member, everyone, to examine this structure we created way back in 1957 and shifted a bit in 1989 and in the nineties. Is it the structure that will advance us into the future? Are we what we should be or maybe it is time to do a little “rehab”?
I am not going to give you a laundry of possibilities, but would rather you seriously consider whether we could compete as we are.