Archive for the ‘Around HQ’ Category

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.

2010 Money

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

Managers at ALA have just received budget instructions for preparing their piece of the draft ALA budget which will go through channels to become the budget approved for the fiscal year beginning September 1, 2008. For the most part these budget requests will be “no growth”—as they have been for the past few years.But ALA has continued to grow, with the new initiatives that will help us meet the challenges in the strategic plan, Ahead to 2010, being met through reallocation of existing budgets, but also two relatively small strategic funds, the Growth Fund and the 2010 funds. The Growth Fund is a small piece of the ALA General Fund designated as “start up” support for projects that are intended to provide a return on the initial investment in a 2-3 year time-frame. The 2010 funds come from a variety of net asset balance and budget lines and provide the one-time funding to accomplish a project that will enable ALA to meet the strategic goals of the Ahead to 2010 plan. (See the Treasurer’s blog for more information.)We’re taking this space to list all of these here so you can see the scope of these initiatives. Some of them will just be part of the ALA fabric; others, such as the website redesign or the Big Game, will affect you much more directly.

Growth Fund projects:

Magazine for the public to be distributed through libraries. The goal is to have a magazine, to be distributed directly to the public, and to be supported by advertising, that will answer the question “What is in the library for me?” It will be supported by an interactive website and an e-newsletter. A portal is under development to present the concept to potential advertisers, presenting the extensive focus group and other research that indicates that the magazine is needed. The hoped for launch is in about a year (late 2008, early 2009).

Strategic Marketing Collaboration. ALA will examine ways in which the general fund units of the Association can work together better to stop duplicating effort, especially with regard to promoting conferences and membership, approaching vendors for advertising/exhibits/donations, and creating and marketing publications and services. A practical set of goals will be developed by the consultant in cooperation with the Marketing Group, and these goals will be designed to improve value of membership and ALA’s organizational excellence, in accordance with ALA2010.

Member Development. Cross-unit focus on member retention, specifically student retention with targeted outreach.

Expanding Planned Giving for ALA. Promotion of opportunities for members and friends to make legacy and other forms of planned giving arrangements to ALA. The first phase was to create a new and expanded brochure which highlights the benefits of giving a planned gift to ALA. The next phase is to work to discover individuals who might be interested in learning more about how making a planned gift at ALA, a gift that will make an impact no matter what the size. This new brochure will have a soft launch at the Midwinter meeting, with a bigger launch for planned giving opportunities at the Annual Conference in Anaheim.

2010 projects

ALA Web Site Awards Database. Support development of a database to address usability issues with finding information on ALA’s 200+ awards on our website. The database would improve ALA’s ability to meet the specialized information needs of members and others seeking information on ALA’s awards: description of the award, sponsoring unit, past winners, application/nominations process and criteria. It would be searchable by unit, type of award (recognition, media, etc.), name of award, year. Output from the database would be displayable on, unit pages as appropriate, the ALA Awards page, ALDirect.

School Libraries/Youth Services Advocacy Statistics Project. Making the reports containing relevant statistics to help make the case for school libraries easier for an advocate or member in need to access quickly. The Advocacy Statistics for Youth initiative will allow partners to hire a researcher to pull statistics from these lengthy reports and create a web-based tool for members and advocates to use. It will be categorized under headings such as early literacy, closing the learning gap, relationships between school libraries and academic success, and relevancy of 2.0 tools. This will be positioned on the Advocacy University resource, but can be multipurposed as needed. It will serve as a template for similar projects through ORS and for Advocacy University. The goal is for it to launch in time for ALA’s 2008 National Library Legislative Day.

Enhancing Grassroots Advocacy. The Capwiz XC Affiliate Program allows ALA and Chapters to work together to mobilize grassroots support. It allows a coordinated effort between ALA and Chapters and other allied organizations to reach beyond the profession to tap into thousands of library users to advocate for libraries and library funding. Capwiz XC expands the universe of contacts for everyone, and allows for us to finally transform individuals who believe in libraries and library issues into advocates through easy to use technology that allows them to contribute to local, state and national efforts. In the first year, 25 Chapters joined in. These funds will allow ALA to offer all of the Chapters to join from June 2008 to June 2009.

Federal Legislative Advocacy Brochure. Development of a promotional brochure for ALA’s legislative and advocacy efforts. The brochure’s purpose would also be to encourage new members join the advocacy network, to inform members about Federal advocacy efforts, to increase National Library Legislative Day attendance, and to show outside groups and coalitions how ALA’s efforts have helped the library community, including a tie-in to “I Love Libraries” and the activities of the Office of Advocacy and Chapter Relations.

Electronic Manuscript Management System. An Electronic Manuscript (Editorial, by another name) Management System enables member editors and reviewers to manage their workload more efficiently by having one document flow through the process from submission to publication. Authors and copy editors have one document to revise and re-submit. This document handling process greatly increases the efficiency and timeliness of the journal article review process and the production process, as just one document is handled through the entire process. Since the systems can deliver files in many formats, it also means that Production Services can utilize the file format they need.

YA Diversity Campaign. The results of ALA’s Diversity Counts study show that recruitment of persons of diverse backgrounds (including race, ethnicity, language background, sexual orientation, education, age, disability and economic status) to our profession is critical. Studies show that diverse youth want—and benefit from–interaction with mentors and adults from diverse backgrounds. The goals of the YA Diversity Campaign is to increase the number of librarians with diverse backgrounds who serve adolescents through both retention and recruitment. Although just one year is funded, there is a 3-year timeline. For FY08, the projects are to support an official Young Adult Services Spectrum Scholar; establish a new conference scholarship to a member from a diverse background (possibly with an ALA Affiliate); send member leaders and staff to REFORMA, BCALA and other conferences to recruit individuals to serve young adults; and collaborate with HRDR to create a Teen section of the web site.

Website redesign. This represents additional funding needed to complete the redesign of the ALA Website. Some of the redesign activities to be completed are graphic design, completion of the content inventory begun last year, development and validation of the information architecture, and the implementation of the redesigned site. Two clickable graphic designs will be shown to members and non-members at ALA Midwinter and over the Web with a survey to collect their feedback. The survey results will be analyzed and a final design will be chosen in February. Implementation of the new design will begin in February/March.

Conference “Big Game.” The Great ALA Anaheim (ALAneheim) Mystery (prototype) A big game is a large-scale game that takes place in the real world. In essence, the environment around you becomes your gameboard, and things in it become props in the games. At the ALA 2008 Annual Conference, the game will be more of an information quest and clues will be hidden all over the conference campus – in meeting rooms, on the exhibit floor, in CogNotes, etc. Attendees will be able to sign up for a team on the conference wiki to play the game. Prizes will be awarded to the winners. The big game is a great way for our attendees to play and to create socializing opportunities at conference.

OLA: The First 100 Days

Monday, December 10th, 2007

ALA’s newest office, the Office for Library Advocacy (OLA), became official at the start of ALA’s fiscal year, September 1, 2007. Its existence is a direct response to ALA member needs identified through a number of surveys over the last several years. Advocacy is one of six goal areas in the ALA Ahead to 2010 strategic plan.

The purpose of OLA is to support the efforts of library advocates at the local, state and national level. The office works to create resources, training and peer-to-peer networks to help local advocates fulfill their local advocacy goals for the improvement of libraries of all types. It provides tools to help local advocates make the case for increased library funding, new and expanded buildings, getting bonds and referenda passed, and fighting library budget reductions and closures. Working with the Chapter Relations Office, the new office will help support statewide advocacy efforts, and will work with the Washington Office to strengthen grass roots advocacy at the national level. The office will also work closely with the Association for Library Trustees and Advocates (ALTA), Friends of Libraries USA (FOLUSA), and with other ALA groups advocating for specific types of libraries and/or library issues. The Office has grown out of the advocacy function within the Public Information Office will continue many initiatives begun there.

Under the direction of interim director Marci Merola, the office has hit the ground running!

  •, an advocacy website launched in June 2007, continues to develop. On average, the site receives over 60,000 page views monthly–and in September, ilovelibraries drove more traffic to Booklist Online than Googleâ„¢ searches!

    As a result of efforts by the Chapter Relations Office and the Chapter Relations Committee, 25 state chapters are now using Capwiz advocacy software, which allows viewers (members and the general public) to contact state and national legislators via Special 2010 funding will allow the remaining chapters to use this software. Further discussion among Chapter Relations, Washington Office and OLA will address incorporating more library issues into the site and seamless use of Capwiz for both state and national issues. has begun promoting the Youth Media Awards, which will be presented during the Midwinter Meeting (Monday morning, January 14). (Use as your bookmark!). YALSA partnered with to promote Teen Read Week.

  • Three Advocacy Institutes took place, with a fourth planned for January 11, just prior to the Midwinter Meeting. There are still a few places left!

    A bit of history: In May of 2005, the Ford Foundation awarded ALA $80,000 to be used towards advocacy efforts. Counting the hree Advocacy Institutes presented during the fall of 2007, a total of 17 were presented under the grant. Although the Ford Foundation grant ends December 31, 2007, the Advocacy Institutes will continue using funds budgeted to the Office for Library Advocacy, both at the national and regional level.The Advocacy Institute Task Force (AITF) of the Public Awareness Committee (PAC) was created to oversee the Ford Foundation Grant and to help institutionalize the Advocacy Institutes into the work of the Library Advocacy Now! (LAN!) Subcommittee of PAC. This Task Force will continue to oversee the Advocacy Institute, looking for ways to increase collaboration and looking for new funding streams. Three Final Advocacy Institutes took place under the Ford Foundation grant in fall of 2007.

  • Work has begun on Advocacy University (Advocacy U), an online resource to help advocates at the local level. The ultimate goal of this project is two-fold: to have a variety of resources and tools available on each topic and to provide increased trainings at the local level throughout the country. Content for Advocacy U will most likely be divided into these sections: a bibliography of articles, websites, case studies; a tutorial on how to use outcome measurement; a syllabus for teaching others about advocacy; and a network of experts in this area that can be called upon for help, or to come and speak in local libraries or communities.

  • The Office for Library Advocacy worked with the Office for Research and Statistics (ORS), the Washington Office (WO), and three divisions, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), and the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) to create the Advocacy Statistics for Youth Project. The impetus for this project is that there many reports “out there” containing relevant statistics to help make the case for school libraries, but they are often difficult for an advocate or member in need to access quickly. The Advocacy Statistics for Youth initiative, funded by special 2010 funds, will allow partners to hire a researcher to pull statistics from these lengthy reports and create a web-based tool for members and advocates to use. It will be categorized under headings such as early literacy, closing the learning gap, relationships between school libraries and academic success, and relevancy of 2.0 tools. This will be positioned on the Advocacy University resource, but can be multipurposed as needed. It will serve as a template for similar projects through ORS and for Advocacy University. The goal is for it to launch in time for ALA’s 2008 National Library Legislative Day.

  • Finally, the Office coordinated ALA’s participation in the National Book Festival on September 29, 2007, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The booth was located in the Pavilion of the States, along with state libraries from around the country, D.C. and U.S. Territories. With a focus on the general public audience, the ALA booth featured, Book and Media Awards, Banned Books Week and Teen Read Week. Volunteers for the event included Pat May and Mark Bard of the ALA Washington Office, as well as YALSA members Pam Spencer Holley, Priscille Dando, Debbie Clifford and Kathy Fitch. OLA was grateful to the ALA Washington Office, PIO, OIF, YALSA, ALSC, and ALA Publishing for their assistance and donation of materials.


Happy Birthday, OIF!

Saturday, December 1st, 2007

The Office for Intellectual Freedom is 40 years old today!

The mission of the Office is to implement “ALA policies concerning the concept of intellectual freedom as embodied in the Library Bill of Rights, the Association’s basic policy on free access to libraries and library materials … [and to] … educate librarians and the general public about the nature and importance of intellectual freedom in libraries.” 

Authorization for the new Office had taken place in 1965, but funding for operations and staff was delayed. At the 1967 Midwinter Meeting Ervin J. Gaines, Chairman of the Intellectual Freedom Committee (IFC), noted that the office was needed “so we can have a central clearinghouse for information and assistance as needed around the country.” Getting the office started was the primary focus of the IFC that year, but the IFC also got a revised Library Bill of Rights approved by the ALA Council and presented a two-day pre-conference with the Young Adult Services Division (now YALSA) on “the special problems which influence the librarians in relationships to young people.”

Following that successful preconference, attended by 300 people, Gaines again pled the case: “The preconference also revealed that many more librarians than we ever hear about are under heavy pressure to abandon their standards and to conform to community pressures. We feel that it is time for librarians to stand together instead of huddling together, and for the American Library Association to take active steps to support librarians at the local level when they act in conformity with the principles of the Association.” 

Finally, though, “PEBCO” the Program Evaluation and Budget Committee—the BARC of its time–authorized funding for two staff and legal fees for the first year of operation.  At the November 4, 1967 meeting of the ALA Executive Board, ALA Executive Director David H. Clift announced the appointment of Judith F. Krug as Director of the new office, which officially opened on December 1, 1967. 

In 1969, the Freedom to Read Foundation was established to “promote and defend this right; to foster libraries and institutions wherein every individual’s First Amendment freedoms are fulfilled; and to support the right of libraries to include in their collections and make available any work which they may legally acquire.” In 1970, the LeRoy C. Merritt Humanitarian Fund was established to provide financial assistance for the support, maintenance, medical care, and welfare of librarians who, in the Trustees’ opinion, are denied employment rights or discriminated against on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, race, color, creed, age, disability, or place of national origin, or denied employment rights because of defense of intellectual freedom; that is, threatened with loss of employment or discharged because of their stand for the cause of intellectual freedom.

Besides providing challenge support to librarians across the country, the Office also works with its committees to develop policy statements, plan programs, and prepare publications to assist librarians and library users understand the breadth of issues related to intellectual freedom in today’s world. Since 1982, the Office has worked with several other organizations to focus the public attention on the importance of reading freely with the annual Banned Books Week celebrations.