By Jenny Emanuel
Council is the governing body of ALA that is charged to establish programs and policies association wide that are then the responsibilities of the divisions, round tables, and committees to carry out. Yes, that is very confusing, and it is made more complicated by the boundaries between ALA at large and all of the divisions and round tables within it. The simplest way to look at Council is that it is the governing body of ALA and is a representative body of the ALA membership.
The 2009 Annual Conference was my second opportunity to represent NMRT on Council. Although I am still considered a new Councilor (many Councilors have served multiple terms) and I am the youngest representative, I felt a lot more comfortable in my role. Council was a bewildering experience because I was in a room with 150+ librarians, many of them toward the end of their careers and who have worked in libraries longer than I have been alive. However, I have realized that I have an equal voice to everyone else on Council, and I am determined to make that voice heard. As the Baby Boom Generation begins to retire, new librarians will be taking over the profession, and I believe that we need to let ourselves be heard now and not create a gap in leadership within ALA. My goals as the NMRT Councilor are to have Council recognize that new librarians are changing the profession and that change is proceeding faster than they may like; and to inform NMRT members as to what Council is, how it is relevant to us, and how we can influence ALA governance at a high level.
At the Annual Conference, Council hears division and committee reports in order to provide accountability within ALA and to allow for reporting information to constituents. This aspect of Council is fascinating because I hear about reports and other bits of information that most ALA members are never informed of.
Some highlights from Annual include the following:
* Since ALA Connect (connect.ala.org) was put online in April, over 11,000 members have logged in and created over 80 communities. Various ALA groups have used Connect to vote, store documents, hold public and private discussions, and chat online with the ALA President. Future plans for Connect include the ability to see your ALA involvement over time, mentoring based on profile information, incorporating the conference event calendar into Connect, and ability to push out scholarship, grant, and continuing education opportunities based on individual profiles.
* The ALA-APA (Allied Professional Association) promotes the professional interests of librarians and library workers. APA (www.ala-apa.org) is separate from ALA for tax and legal reasons, but Council is the governing body for both. It is involved with certification for library workers beyond the MLS, such as a certification for library administrators and initiatives to improve the status and salaries of library workers.
* The approved changes to the ALA Policy Manual and bylaws reflecting changes in technology and organization will now be voted on by all ALA members in the next election. The primary change is that Council will be allowed to vote via email in addition to voting by mail.
* Council passed changes to the organizational member dues structure. Organizational members from smaller libraries pay less than a personal member. Organizational dues have been static for many years and the changes approved align the dues with the increase in personal dues that is ongoing.
* ALA’s Executive Director discussed with Council various ways to increase transparency and make Council sessions more accessible to ALA members. Members can sit in on Council sessions, which requires conference attendance, but a transparency resolution previously passed asked for more ways that members can follow Council sessions. The Executive Director gave several scenarios and their prices, including recording the sessions, streaming them live, or issuing a transcript. More information about this is below.
The other aspects that Council votes on are resolutions that can be brought to Council from divisions, committees, and individual members. Some of these resolutions are pretty mundane and procedural, such as the changes to the Policy Manual and Organizational Dues, which I described above. However, some resolutions are more interesting and impact both ALA and individual librarians, and some resolutions are controversial because they may not have a direct impact on ALA, libraries, or librarians. Some of these resolutions are listed below:
* Resolution on Civil Marriage Equality.
* Resolution to convene an ALA-wide discussion group to evaluate the Google Book Settlement.
* Resolution against the reauthorization of Section 215 of the Patriot Act.
* Resolutions to ask libraries to make their websites accessible to patrons with disabilities and to ask vendors to make their electronic resources accessible to these patrons. These resolutions have been passed.
* Resolution dealing with the budget crises libraries are facing. I’m not sure this resolution actually accomplished anything, but it did state that Council/ALA is aware that these are difficult financial times for libraries and will work toward getting more funding for libraries. This resolution has been passed.
* Resolution to give the Executive Director authority to select a mechanism to make Council sessions more transparent (as described above). Although he has the ultimate say, Keith Michael Fiels’s recommendation is that future Council sessions will be recorded and then released after the conference as a podcast. This is a huge cultural change for Council. Amy Harmon (NMRT Leadership Director and Councilor-at-Large) and I were delighted to see the support we got for this resolution, which we introduced.
* Resolutions related to asking the Federal Government to withdraw American troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. Issues were fiercely debated as to whether they were even applicable to libraries. Also, several Councilors strongly believed that these resolutions were not in support of the troops currently overseas and that the wording should be more in support of them as individuals. There were also concerns about the status of women and cultural institutions in Afghanistan if the United States were to pull out of that country. The resolutions were not passed.
All of this information is publically available and will be posted to the Council section of the ALA website ( http://www.ala.org/ala/aboutala/governance/council/councildocuments/docu_inventory_acmw2009.cfm ) or I can provide you with the information.
In conclusion, it was an exciting conference for Council, and I was thrilled to be a part of it. I am still in awe that Amy and I had a resolution passed that will change ALA in the future and brings the Association more in line with current technologies. I’ll continue to serve on Council as the NMRT representative for two more years, and I promise that I will continue to inform the Round Table of what is going on. I also intend to facilitate discussion on NMRT-L between now and Midwinter to inform every one of pressing issues as well as to find out where NMRT stand on issues of ALA governance. I look forward to communicating with everyone. As always, if you have any questions about ALA governance/Council, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org