Treasurer and Executive Director talk about the FY 2009 Budget

Last week, the ALA Council raised the question of what steps the association was taking to deal with the impact of the current financial crisis. Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels’ response to Council briefly outlined the steps that are being taken in anticipation of what will certainly be a tough year for libraries and the association. As Treasurer and Executive Director, we wanted to take the opportunity to expand on those comments and to talk more specifically about the Fiscal Year 2009 budget. Treasurer Rod Hersberger will be reporting on the overall picture and plans for the association in a guest editorial in the November Edition of American Libraries, and both of us, along with President Jim Rettig will be updating Council and the membership on a regular basis. The Treasurer and BARC Chair Jim Neal will also be reporting to Council in some detail at Midwinter. The bottom line is that the association has taken steps to anticipate the impact of the economic downturn on libraries, librarians and the association. It is clear that as the economy slows, that revenue growth for state, county and municipal governments will be impacted, whether they are funded through property taxes, sales taxes, income taxes, or endowment income. All these are going to impact library budgets, as they have during every slowdown in the past. Because ALA generates five dollars in revenue from publications, conferences, advertising and sales for every dollar in dues revenue, the association definitely feels the impact of  reductions in library materials budgets, spending for technology and online services, and support for conference attendance.  At this point, we have modified our attendance and revenue projections for the Midwinter Meeting and Annual Conference to reflect the anticipated impact of higher air fares and tighter travel budgets. Because ALA can only spend what it earns, we have implemented about $600,000 in departmental budget reductions and other association-wide cost-cutting measures in anticipation of what looks like it will be a tough year for everyone in the library community. These reductions represent 2% of the General Fund budget of just over $30 million. Depending on how things unfold over the coming year, not all these reductions may ultimately be needed, but we think that a somewhat cautious approach is best in this uncertain financial environment.  

We should point out that there is a lot of good news. The association remains financially strong and our membership continues to increase. Registration for the 2009 Midwinter Meeting in Denver is off to a great start. We are looking forward to successful annual conferences over the next two years in two of the association’s record-breaking sites: Chicago and Washington DC. We continue to increase and strengthen our advocacy efforts and to develop new and improved services for libraries and members. And our growing advocacy efforts will be needed more than ever.  We believe that we have adopted a prudent approach to the Fiscal Year 2009 budget. Our goal is to weather whatever rough waters lie ahead, while at the same time maintaining our services to members, as well as maintaining forward momentum on the many new and expanded ALA programs and services that benefit all librarians and all libraries.   

We’ll keep you posted as any new developments occur.


–Rod Hersberger, ALA Treasurer, and Keith Michael Fiels, ALA Executive Director

3 Responses to “Treasurer and Executive Director talk about the FY 2009 Budget”

  1. Annie Linney Says:

    More modification are needed in addition to these.

    How about modifying downwards the number of anticipated job openings that will be created as a result of baby-boomer retirements?

    How about modifying downwards the salary expectations of new librarians?

    How about modifying downwards the number of library school programs offering the ALA accredited MLS?

    That way, the ALA will be less likely to create a population of disgruntled librarians who can’t find jobs once earning their degrees.


  2. Dave Cooper Says:

    Annie’s sentiment is a quite understandable response to stressful times; however, when she gets to her third point, I have to offer disagreement. I don’t think it would be wise for ALA to attempt to reduce the number of library schools offering an accredited MLS.

    I believe that economics might do that, but why should ALA make it more difficult for students to attend an institution that offers an accredited degree? This might lose the profession recruits who would bring considerable talent to our field.

    I, too, am frustrated; however, I feel our profession is more threatened by the fact that we allow people who don’t even have an MLS (much less an ALA-accredited on) to call themselves librarians and to be library directors.

    I’m sorry this comment will hurt feelings and most likely result in vile replies, but it is my honest opinion. Indiana has just encouraged the above by adopting a certification program which allows for the certification of persons without a degree.

    I’m not saying that non-degreed persons cannot be very valuable assets; however, if I go to a hospital expecting to see a doctor, I want one with an accredited M.D. or equivalent degree. If I am made aware that I have the option of seeing a nurse-practitioner, then making a choice to see one is also my right, but let’s not refer to that person as a doctor.

    As a parting olive branch, I’d like to end with the sentiment “let’s just hope this will be a short-lived downturn” and whatever our personal beliefs are, let’s all work toward providing the best possible service to our clients.


  3. Lisa M. Boyd Says:

    I must respectfully disagree with the suggestion made to modify downward the salary expectations of new librarians. How far down? The salaries offered our newly minted librarians in most parts of the country is abysmally low now. How can we ask our recent graduates to accept salaries that will not allow them to support themselves without a second job or will not allow them to pay back their student loans or will not allow them to move to another part of the country to accept a position or will not allow them to be able to afford their ALA dues without hardship? How can we ask people to consider librarianship if they will not make a living wage as a librarian? Yes, with the economic downturn being a librarian is preferable to being jobless. However, don’t we want colleagues who choose to be librarians because they see it as a rewarding career not just an available job?


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