Sights, Sounds and Business from ALA Midwinter Council Sessions – Dallas

Hi all:

This is the beginning post of what I hope will be informative (and knowing me, somewhat entertaining).  I wanted to find a good way to communicate with the New Members Roundtable other than static reports (and more informally and immediate as well!) so I thought a blog might serve this purpose well.  Thank you for electing me as your councilor to the ALA Council!  I hope that through this blog, you can stay more informed on ALA happenings (at least from the NMRT perspective)… I also hope that you will use this venue as a way to ask questions… there are NO dumb questions, btw… so feel free to ask.  If I can’t answer them, I know enough people to ASK!  And… if you would prefer not to post them publicly, feel  free to email me privately with any questions or concerns: Jennings[at]appstate[dot]edu (written in code to throw off those pesky spam bots!)

First… an insider’s description of the council process:  ALA Council is always held in a large space… there are approximately 186 councilors that are in the room.  The councilors have been elected to represent divisions (i.e. ACRL), Roundtables (i.e. NMRT – me), chapters (i.e. your state library association), and members-at-large (i.e. to represent everyone).  We sit at tables (and I have found that it’s like church… .1) you have to get there early to get your favorite seat and 2) you may be run out of your seat because you have gotten someone else’s seat (LOL… not true but wanted to carry on the analogy).   I sat near the back and with other newbies.  There is a dais where the President, President Elect, the Executive Director, the parliamentarian etc. sit at the front of the room.  There are 2 large screen TVs on either side of the dais that project the proceedings and resolutions being considered.  There is also closed captioning for the hearing impaired.  There are microphones strategically placed in the aisles with a number overhead (i.e. Microphone 2).  The President (who presides over the meetings) must recognize the speaker at the specific microphone for them to talk (“The Chair recognizes Microphone 3’).  Only members of council can speak during a council meeting unless granted an exception by the body.  Prior to the meeting, reprographics print out all the reports that councilors pick up and review.  (I weep for the trees! I’ll post a picture of my binder later)…. Each document is printed in different colors to represent the council session in which they will be presented.  Reports are given… questions are asked… and some reports contain resolutions that committees wish for council to approve are presented.  Some resolutions are approved seemingly without a hitch (more about that later).  Some resolutions’ discussions become rather heated and contentious.  MW Dallas was relatively mild in this respect and I was mildly disappointed! ;-p

We have 3 scheduled Council Meetings and 1 ALA-APA meeting (that’s another story)…. And 2 council forum meetings at night.  Council Meetings are more formal… is governed by Parliamentary Procedure and is geared to do the business of the Association (pass resolutions, hear reports, ask questions, etc.).  Council Forums are more informal sessions and are held at night.  This is a time for councilors to ask questions sort of off the record, help folks craft resolutions for presentation, etc.

Just wanted to let you all know about some of the major issues that we talked about in the larger ALA Council at Midwinter in Dallas.  Although we talked about more than these issues, here are the biggie highlights from Council:  (in no particular order):

The Future of the ALA-APA:  I was always confused by this but here’s my understanding as of now.  American Library Association is a nonprofit organization…. We carry the 501c3 designation.  As such, we cannot dabble in lobbying or anything political that might jeopardize this nonprofit designation.  The APA was created to be the lobbying end of ALA… their concern —  library staff salaries and lobbying for library related issues.  APA shares the same officers and councilors as ALA (as it operates in parallel). Council was presented with  a recommendation from the Presidential Task Force for Improving the Effectiveness of  ALA’s Council to abolish the APA Council (I think in place… with decisions being made by the ALA-APA Executive Board rather than council).  The resolution met with mixed reactions and will be discussed in more depth at Annual Anaheim.

Restriction of the selling of Digital Content to Libraries by publishers:  Some of the larger eBook publishers have said they will not sell to libraries over concerns of pirating and revenue (read… profits).  This is a concern for ALA.  There has been a Digital Content and Libraries Working Group convened and they gave their report at MW.  Council also adopted a resolution (which some anecdotal reports say did not go far enough) .  Recently, the ALA Leadership met with 4 large publishers re: this issue.  More information as it breaks.  Molly Raphael, ALA President, plans to send a more formalized report of the meeting next week.  Ongoing issue.  Stay tuned!

Tucson Unified School District ban on “ethnic studies”  program:  (geared specifically at the Mexican American Studies Program but could be far reaching): It seems that the government of AZ is interpreting laws in AZ which would affect ethnic studies program books (particularly Mexican-American Studies) and would pull them from the shelves and the study of such from the curriculum.  This interpretation of the law has far reaching implications (i.e. where does this ban stop?)  ALA council adopted a resolution at MW supporting the Tucson School system who if they defied the order would have been penalized in reduced financial support.  ALA Council cites this action as a restriction of open inquiry/access to information and goes further by urging the AZ legislature to pass HB 2654 that would repeal this.  Ongoing issue.  Stay tuned… for more information:

Purchase of Neal-Schuman Publishing by ALA:  Jim Neal (no relation) as treasurer reported on the acquisition of Neal-Schumann Publishing by ALA.  Neal-Schumann will join ALA Publishing cadre.  The repayment of the loan that was used to buy this publishing will not be repaid from dues but will be paid back from publishing proceeds.  For more information:

If you are fortunate to go to sunny California for Annual in June, I would urge you to attend the membership meeting.  While we have no membership meetings at MW, we will have one at Annual.  I will publish the date, time and location on this blog for you to attend.  If you want to get a glimpse of ALA the larger picture… Membership Meetings are a good place to do that.

So that was my first experience in representing you at MW.  Let me or any member of the NMRT Board know if you have a question, comment, concern, complaint!  We’ll be glad to help!


Susan J



Filed under ALA Council Reports

5 responses to “Sights, Sounds and Business from ALA Midwinter Council Sessions – Dallas

  1. Thanks very much Susan, I think a blog is a great idea. As an international member I have even less of an understanding of how ALA works than if I was in the country (I assume…) and this was really helpful & informative. I will be in Anaheim so hope to get to the council meeting. Thanks again!

  2. Thank you so much for this Susan! Your overview of what a council meeting is like is really interesting.

    I’m an NMRT member and a 2012 Emerging Leader. I’m based in the UK and involved in CILIP but I’m hoping to utilise my time as an Emerging Leader to understand more about ALA as a wider organisation (as well as the divisions and round tables I am members of). I didn’t manage to attend the council meetings at Midwinter but will definitely try to attend the membership meeting at Annual.

    Looking forward to your future blog posts 🙂

  3. Peter Hepburn

    Great to read this, thank you! I’d love for more ALA members to get some understanding of Council and not dismiss it as some sort of elite group within the Association. Yes, I’m speaking as a fellow Councilor, but still, I would love for more people to be aware of and interested in ALA governance.

  4. I’m just getting caught up since I’ve been ‘out of the loop’ for a bit. Thank you for such great information for NMRT members!!

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