Letters from ALCTS

charles wilt, alcts executive director

From the Office

Charles Wilt, ALCTS Executive Director

Looking at the Insides of ALCTS: PART II – Life Inside ALA

This is the second part of the not so much a “what makes us tick” article as it is “here are some things you might not know about ALCTS but were dying to know if someone else asked.” Well, they did and here you are.

If you attended the Monday morning session at the 2009 ALA Annual Conference on “Creating our Future,” you will see here some of the information I mentioned when I answered the questions that people were asking. Not to be too boring or repetitious, I have thrown in some even more tantalizing morsels than in the September article.

Ah, life inside ALA. What is it like and what do we (ALCTS) get? Intriguing questions for those of you on the outside looking in. Not always apparent, I am afraid. It goes with the age old questions of what do my ALA dues really pay for. Well, I am here to tell you, and it might surprise you.

First of all, ALCTS is not itself a legal entity. We are part of ALA corporate. ALA is a 501(C)3 organization and it is incorporated, which makes a huge difference in the conduct of our business and what legal protections we have. This is one very large benefit we get from being part of ALA. We, separately, do not have to be worried about legal action against us. ALA protects us. ALA also protects our elected officials and leaders with directors’ liability insurance (which can be quite costly). These are not trivial benefits. Protection against the nasty outside world ranks real high on my list of things I want by working here. BTW, ALA is incorporated in Massachusetts, if you did not know, not Illinois. There are certainly more legal protections we received from ALA, but I only wanted to highlight a few.

Being part of ALA also has many other advantages which can be quantified in dollars as value of services received versus what we actually pay through our overhead charge. For instance, in 2007, the estimated value of services received by ALCTS from ALA was $337,041 and we paid $41,907 in overhead. Now what does the dollar amount translate to in real stuff? Let us start with the mundane first, and then move to the exotic.

Let us talk space. We are provided space for our offices, along with the beigeness factor. We do not have to worry about heat, light, air conditioning, repairs or furniture (unless we want something more elaborate than what we have). We do not pay rent, do not have a mortgage, and we do not pay taxes or the city of Chicago for this inspection or that regulation. This includes all the necessary backup, such as working bathrooms, cleaning, mail service, etc. Next is equipment: ALA provides us with phones and the phone system, copiers (paper included but we do have a small charge back), computers and the accompanying software including email, and printers. We have our own fax machine but would not really have to if I did not want to walk down the hall to the communal fax machine. This also includes service for all such things and IT support. The list of software we get is quite extensive really and includes the association management system (membership database) called iMIS, Moodle for web courses, and the web site (well, it is improved).

Fortunately ALCTS does not have to process our own invoices or payroll or collect bad debts or manage the money we have in the bank or reconcile bank statements and so on. ALA’s finance department handles all this for us. I am still responsible for making sure the outgo is less than the income, but the actual work is done by accounting and payroll and many others who reside on the fifth floor. We also do not have to manage our own subscriptions. A very nice person in customer service department does that for us and sends me all the information I ever need about it.

We also do not have to audit our own books, pay our own payroll taxes, file our income tax statement or a 990 form or any of those other wonderful government things having to do with being a non-profit corporation.

Then there is the legal support we get, some of which I mentioned above. It goes further though. I often ask our attorney for contract help, conflict of interest help, agreement letters, and general legal concerns about just doing our business.

When it comes time to negotiate benefits or hire someone or make sure that we are in compliance with the myriad of employment laws and regulations, we can count on our Human Resources Department. When we need a press release or a media contact, that is why we have ALA’s Public Information Office.

Somewhat exotic maybe: One department you might not think of when you think of ALA is the Library. The Library, yes ALA has its own library, and does a really great job of screening the massive numbers of questions that come into ALA every day. They answer almost all of them, but occasionally pass one along to us here in ALCTS. Without their help, we would be inundated with phone calls and emails, even more than we get now.

I have only mentioned relatively few of the advantages of being inside ALA. There are many more like membership support, publishing and production, reprographics, purchasing, and marketing.

The cost of these would be prohibitive if ALCTS was a stand-alone organization. I know this because by just adding our current budget of about $550,000 to the estimated value of services, $337,000. And that does not cover everything.

Hope these last two articles give you a better understanding of ALA and what it means to ALCTS. Your dues pay for ALCTS. Your ALA dues helps pay for everything we receive from ALA in services. So by paying your ALA dues, you indirectly support what we do in ALCTS. And I am very appreciative of your willingness to do so.