What ALA is doing

It has seemed to me for quite some time that discussions about the American Library Association in the blogosphere and in the popular press often distort the nature of the association by focusing on one or two small activities as though they represent a major priority or budget item. I am part of the group that has pushed for ALA to take stands on certain political issues, but it bothers me when news of ALA’s positions as a result of these efforts lead some to believe that these political positions represent a major focus of the association or a significant allocation of its resources. They really aren’t: ALA has a 54 million dollar budget (roughly) and all but pennies of that budget are focused directly on American libraries.

I got permission from ALA to post a few reports on ALA’s activities that were distributed to ALA Council in New Orleans. I’m interested in sharing them because I think they give more of a bird’s eye view of the association, as compared to the pictures we more frequently get from individuals who are active in one corner of the association or another. I’m posting three docs, as follows:

  • ALA Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels’ Report to the Executive Board and Council, on what ALA has been doing, from the point of view of the ALA offices in Chicago, that is, the staff side as opposed to the membership side. It includes discussion of the activities of ALA’s offices and divisions, and focuses on the new things that are happening.
  • ALA Immediate Past President Michael Gorman’s brief report to Council covering January to March, 2006, which covers his activities as President during that time.
  • ALA President Leslie Burger’s brief report to Council covering the same time period, reporting on her activities as President-Elect.

I think if you read these documents, and I encourage you to, you’ll get a different sense of what ALA does with its budget than you might get from following certain blogs or news outlets, or even from the listservs of particular divisions, round tables and subcommittees. ALA is big like the elephant that has 10 blind people trying to describe it, each describing it according to a different part that they know by feel. I would like to see a more widely-distributed annual report from ALA or something similar for a wide audience (members and the public), to give a good overview of what the assocciation does. American Libraries does it to an extent, but is less focused on the association’s activities than the world of libraries in the United States.

Later I will do a separate posting on ALA’s strategic plan…

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