Archive for the ‘ALA News’ Category

Heartbreaking Loss for the Profession

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

For those who may not yet have heard the news, our profession has lost two very special people, Kathy Krasniewicz and Kate McClelland in a hit-and-run accident in Denver after the Midwinter Meeting. More information is available at the following links. Everyone in the ALA family extends their deepest condolences to the families. Our thoughts are with you, and we will not forget these two incredible women.

2009 Midwinter Report from Keith Michael Fiels

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Just in time for Midwinter, it’s the 2009 Midwinter Executive Director’s Report (127kb, PDF), summarizing recent accomplishments and upcoming events. Some of the ‘highlighted’ stories include:

  • AL Direct, Special Tough Economy Issue
  • Libraries and the Economic Stimulus Package
  • Tough Economy Toolkit
  • Building Statewide Coalitions for All Libraries in a Tough Economy Panel Discussion
  • Add It Up: Libraries Make the Difference in Youth Education and Development
  • ALA and Univision Radio Partner on First-Ever PSA Campaign to Target Latinos
  • Registration Opens January 20 for AASL National Conference
  • William J. Brennan, Jr. Award for Judith Krug.

And here’s some good news from the report:

“ALA Membership through the first quarter 2009 stands at 67,045, a 2% increase over the same period last year. Personal membership renewals are a key indicator of the membership ‘health’ of the association. Through November, personal renewals are 8% ahead of last year. In addition, new memberships are up by 3%.”

Treasurer and Executive Director talk about the FY 2009 Budget

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008

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

A Greener Election Coming

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

The Association, division and round table nominating committees are still assembling their slates for the ALA ballot next spring, and you can still petition to be on the Council ballot, but there are changes coming. Following the September 15 Executive Board conference call, ALA President Jim Rettig announced that the Spring 2009 ALA election will be “all online.” He went on, “Over the last five years, since we first introduced online voting, the number of online voters has steadily grown, with the vast majority of members now voting online. Even more importantly, the introduction of online balloting has significantly increased member participation in the election process.”

Faced with a tight budget for the coming year, and seeking increased efforts by the Association to reduce energy consumption and be more environmentally aware, the Executive Board made the decision to conduct the election online. It is anticipated that the change will save half million pieces of paper and $90,000 in postage and printing–allowing those funds to be used to support other member services.

In the next few weeks, we’ll be asking all our members to provide us with an email address or verify that the one we have on file is accurate. Then, in March, 2009 we’ll e-mail out information on accessing the ballot in order to vote–or send a paper mailing with information on the election web site and an individual election password. The final calendar for the election will soon be posted on the Election Information page.

Participation in the election is important. “Those without internet access at home or work,” Jim points out, “can easily access the site through a visit to their local public (or in many instances academic or school) library. A printed version of a paper ballot will continue to be readily available upon request to members with disabilities and no internet access. At this point, you can help us all prepare for our first online election by logging on to the ALA web site (that’s in the upper right hand corner of the home page) and adding your email address to your member record (instructions on how to do this are provided on the site).”

You’ll be hearing more about how to participate in this election. My colleague Juanita Rodriquez, Member Services Director, or I will be happy to answer your questions.

Website Transition Update

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

In fall 2008, ALA will unveil a redesigned website, with a new look and easier navigation. The redesign is the culmination of two years of gathering information from focus groups, interviews, usability tests, surveys and other feedback loops. As we migrate our vast array of web pages this summer, please contact the ALA Library at (or 800-545-2433 x2153) if you need assistance locating specific content or updates during our migration. We invite you to preview the site’s new look at

The statement above will appear on the *current* ALA website during the month of August. You will also note two other changes on the current website:

  • * The graphic image – the cube – from the preview site is now appearing on the current ALA website.
  • * Below that – in the area where announcements have previously been posted – are three news tabs:
    1. Inside ALA includes news from across the entire Association. This news section is dynamically updated from ALA press releases – with the most recent news appearing at the top.
    2. Legislation & Advocacy includes news from the ALA Washington Office and ALA Office for Library Advocacy.
    3. U.S. & World Views includes a news feed from American Libraries.

The rest of the current ALA website will remain static during the month of August, giving ALA staff and volunteer content creators and managers an opportunity to make the transition to the new information architecture. If you visit the preview site during August, you will continue to see changes and updates as work moves forward.

Right after the Labor Day weekend, ALA will “flip the switch” – and turn on the new ALA website, along with an enhanced search feature. No, it won’t be 100% complete. There will still be a lot of work going on as we complete a significant redesign. During the next 30 days, however, staff and volunteers are focusing on getting the most-frequently accessed pages into the new architecture.

Thanks to the many volunteers who, along with staff, create and manage content on the ALA website. Thanks also to all of you who spent time responding to surveys and critiquing preliminary stages in the redesign.

Annual2008 Report (State of the State?)

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

For Midwinter and Annual each year, Keith Michael Fiels prepares an update of ALA activities for Council and the Executive Board. Here’s his latest report. Dates and locations for Council and Board meetings are available on the Annual 2008 wiki.

Hats Off to ALA’s Staff!

Friday, April 11th, 2008

This morning we held our annual Service Awards program, with President Loriene Roy and Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels presenting 33 staff members with certificates and token gifts for service of 5, 10, … up to 40 years of service. Even though the largest number of people have 5 or 10 years of service, the average for this group is just about 15 years. But that’s because there are three with 40 years. Think about it: when they started “The Graduate” was a first-run movie, The Beatles were still recording, with “Hey Jude” the top song of the year, the Detroit Tigers beat out St. Louis in the World Series, and there was much unrest in the world, from riots in Chicago to student demonstrations in Prague. When they started, balloting was on punch cards, carbon sets (or mimeograph) and typewriters were the technologies to make multiple copies, and ALA had just over 35,000 members.

If you’re at all involved with ALA, you’ve probably met or talked with the 40-year folks at least once. Neida de la Torre is in our Member and Customer Service unit, and very easily could be the person who helped you join ALA, or helped to untangle a conference registration glitch, or maybe corrected your membership record the last time you moved. Lois Ann Gregory-Wood receives boisterous applause from the ALA Council members she serves. Bob Hershman, publishing operations manager, oversees the ALA Store at both Midwinter and Annual–and is often at the checkout desk, selling you a serious professional book … or maybe just a conference souvenir for your kids.

Going back through the years, there’s Jimmie Bowens who runs the mailroom (35); Doris McKelvin in accounting (30); Cathleen Bourdon, Communications and Members Relations (but formerly ASCLA/RUSA, and even before then, ACRL) and Betty Morrissey in Reprographics (both 25); Darlena Davis, currently in HRDR, but formerly in LAMA and ACRL, Leonard Kniffel, American Libraries editor, and Pat May in the Washington Office (all 20); and Evelyn Butts-Elam in the CHOICE office in Connecticut (15).

After the service awards, two special Staff Achievement Awards for specific exemplary service were presented: to John Chrastka, Director of Membership, for his work on the Membership Pavilion at last year’s conference, and to George Eberhart, for his work on the weekly AL Direct. And finally, the Betty Obey Award, which enables a staff member with more than five years of service, but who has not attended a conference, to attend the Annual Conference; watch for Angela Smith when you’re in Anaheim!

Its my pleasure to work with these and all the other ALA staff! Their dedication, knowledge, good humor, and corporate memory contribute to our workday “quality of life.” Thanks, all.

Election Year

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

It’s everywhere. We are in the midst of an exciting and interesting election year. But, that means I must remind you to avoid any action that could give the impression that the American Library Association — rather than you as an individual private citizen — is engaging in “political speech” (“the support of or opposition to a candidate for public office”) or that ALA resources are being used for that purpose. ALA, because of its particular tax exempt status, is expressly, absolutely prohibited by the U.S. Internal Revenue Code from engaging in “political speech.”

What do I mean by that? “ALA resources” would include any use of ALA titles (like councilor, chair of…, president of...); ALA discussion lists, blogs or wikis (including those of ALA divisions, round tables and other groups that are part of ALA); stationery; publications or websites; headquarters or conference meeting rooms; or, staff time. And, what kinds of activities might be included in “political speech”? The law is broad — and the threshold for “political speech” is relatively low. “Political speech” includes activities such as soliciting or making campaign contributions, providing a forum for a candidate (in print or at a conference, for instance), expressing “support for or opposition to” a candidate or political party — even if that candidate is a librarian, even if that candidate is a member.

Finally, “political speech” happens within an election year — which starts January 1 of the year in which the election will be held. That’s why members often say to me, “but we had him/her speak just a few years ago.” True. Not this year, though.

The absolute prohibition on “political speech” by associations like ALA is serious — and the “zero tolerance” enforcement policy of the IRS has been upheld by the courts. It is important that the law be observed. It is also important, though, to understand that “political speech” is different from “lobbying,” which seeks to influence legislation or regulation. Even during an election year, ALA continues to lobby for legislation and regulation that will benefit libraries and the public. For instance, during recent months, you have received requests from the ALA Washington Office to contact legislators regarding appropriations, legislation in support of school libraries and other issues. There are regulations and limitations on lobbying by organizations like ALA, of course — and ALA works within the applicable laws.

Many ALA members may not be comfortable with these rules, may see them as infringements on their personal free speech. I understand that. ALA’s intent is not to limit what any individual may do personally in the public arena — but to be clear that the resources of an organization like ALA, an association tax exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code, may not be used for that purpose. The consequence is revocation of tax exempt status. There are no “intermediate” or “warning” consequences.

Judith Krug, the long-time director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, points out that the law imposes many restrictions on speech — and these laws are one example. We — ALA staff and members — are required to comply with these laws until such time as Congress may choose to change them. In doing so, we protect the interests of the American Library Association and its members, present and future, and ALA’s ability to advocate aggressively on behalf of libraries and the public.

Want more details? Over the past several years, a number of background documents have been developed to guide ALA leaders and staff through a complex legal environment. Four such documents are available here (PDFs): ALA Legal Framework, Election Year Rules, Election Year Rules – Additional Notes, and Lobbying and ALA: Fact Sheet.

Still more? Call or email me. I may not know the answer — but I do know where and how to find out.

New AL Discussion Forum

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

2007 was a banner year for American Libraries as it celebrated its 100th anniversary with the introduction of the CentenniAL blog, the AL Direct email newsletter, and the AL Focus online video site. Not content to rest on its laurels, however, AL has just opened a new discussion Forum where you can engage your colleagues about issues featured in the print magazine and other matters of general interest to our profession. It’s like “letters to the editor” on steroids, because you can post your opinion there without being limited to 300 words or less. You also don’t have to wait a month before your comment is published.

Participation in the Forum is free and is not limited to ALA members. Anyone can create an account and post a new topic or reply to an existing one. As any good discussion site would do, we encourage you to read the posting rules before posting to one of the seven forums currently available.

ITTS Updates

Friday, January 4th, 2008

I won’t normally repost items here that are found on other ALA blogs, but since there are two important items over on ITTS Update and most members don’t even know the blog exists, I thought it would be good to highlight it here.

If you’re interested in tracking the various projects ALA’s IT department works on, you can stay current by reading the blog. There’s an RSS feed available, or you can sign up on the blog to receive email updates of new posts. I work half-time in that department, and I can tell you things are really hopping there these days (not that they weren’t before my arrival). If nothing else, you may find the notes from the monthly update meetings we hold for staff interesting. Having said that, I don’t think there is one scheduled for January because of the Midwinter Meeting, but we’ll resume them in February.

The other caveat is that while we do post some information about the website redesign there, the project is larger than just ITTS, so there is a separate Web Planning blog (and wiki) where you can track happenings as we start down the road of actual implementation.

Back to the two specific ITTS posts I want to note: