Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Midwinter in Dallas: Day 1

I've arrived in Dallas and am getting ready for a crazy busy week. One of my more important roles is as a member of the Executive Board and doing liaison visits to a variety of units. Here are some highlights from the talking points that are compiled by ALA Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels.

School Libraries
  • Advocating for school libraries is a top Association priority this year. Between local budget cuts and the anticipated re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the urgency has never been greater.

    President Molly Raphael has appointed a special Task Force on School Libraries, with membership from all the divisions, to lead ALA efforts to strengthen, and preserve school libraries.

    AASL President Carl Harvey has initiated a White House petition on school libraries, which specifically petitions the Obama administration to “ensure that every child in America has access to an effective school library program.” 25,000 signatures are required in order for this petition to reach the President Obama’s desk, no later than February 4, 2012. It is a step towards creating awareness about school libraries, specifically for the need for an amendment for school libraries within the Early and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), due to be reauthorized this year.
E-Content and Libraries
  • Dealing with new digital content is one of the most pressing concerns facing libraries of all types, and is a big part of the transformation referred to in ALA’s strategic plan. A 25 member Digital Content and Libraries Working Group has been appointed by President Molly Raphael. Sari Feldman (Cuyahoga County Public Library) and Robert Wolven (Columbia University) are the co-chairs and President Elect Maureen Sullivan is the Executive Board Liaison. The Working Group began its work online and will meet in-person for the first time during the Midwinter Meeting in Dallas. Preliminary talking points on ebook lending and principles for digital lending were developed in the fall. These will be reviewed and revised by the Working Group.

    Drs. Stanley Besen and Sheila Kirby are developing a white paper for ALA on e-book economic models and licensing. This study will be released in the near future.

    American Libraries established a new blog on e-content issues to provide a mechanism for rapid response. Christopher Harris, a school librarian and member of the Working Group, serves as the editor of this blog. If you have topics you'd like him to write about or want to write about yourself, please let him know.  American Libraries has also created a dedicated section on E-content issues in AL Direct. Materials related to digital content and libraries will be on the Transforming Libraries website, managed by the ALA Library.
 Virtual Membership Meeting 
  • Mark your calendars!  ALA’s second virtual membership meeting will be held on Tuesday, June 5th, from 3-4:30 CST. Last year’s first Virtual Town Hall meeting was a great success, with 528 members participating. Real time member polling allowed participants to select the questions they thought most important for discussion. 
  • ALA membership in November 2011 stood at 59,824, slightly lower (-2.69%) than November 2010.  In the organizational member categories, increases were tallied for medium and large libraries and decreases for very small, small, and very large libraries.  On the personal member front, membership increases were seen in the support staff, retired, non-salaried, international, friend, and continuing member categories while declines were noted in the regular, student, and trustee categories.   For the first quarter of the 2012 programmatic year, seven round tables and three divisions had membership increases, while twelve round tables and eight divisions had decreases. 
Midwinter Facts and Highlights
  • Advance registration for Dallas is 4823, compared to 5180 for the 2011 Meeting in San Diego. There are 3269 exhibitor personnel registered, representing 430 exhibiting companies and organizations.

    Over 1200 separately scheduled meetings & events are planned. The number of committee meetings is lower, while the number of discussion group meetings has increased.

    Meeting includes an array of new events, including “Dine Around Dallas,” the Masters Series, the Midwinter Conversation and Think Fit @ ALA (aka, The Fun Run).

    The Midwinter Conversation, led by ALA President Molly Raphael and Dr. R. David Lankes will provide an opportunity to engage with colleagues in open conversation around “Empowering Voices: Transforming Communities”. These two conversations, on Saturday and Sunday afternoon, will use a “world cafĂ©” process.  The conversations will lead into the ALA President’s Program, with Rich Harwood.
Election Year Dos and Don’ts 
  • During an election year, which is defined as beginning January 1 of the year in which the election will be held, ALA and its members must avoid any action that could give the impression that the  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.” The consequence is revocation of tax exempt status. There are no “intermediate” or “warning” consequences, and the “zero tolerance” enforcement policy of the IRS has been upheld by the courts.
  • “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.
  • “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.
  • 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. There are regulations and limitations on lobbying by organizations like ALA, of course — and ALA works within the applicable laws.
  • A number of background documents have been developed to guide ALA leaders and staff through a complex legal environment. Four such documents are available as PDFs: ALA Legal Framework, Election Year Rules, Election Year Rules – Additional Notes, and Lobbying and ALA: Fact Sheet.
  • ALA has acquired Neal-Schuman publishers. Neal-Schuman will become part of ALA publishing, and operations will be moved to Chicago, they will continue to exist as a separate imprint. In reviewing the potential acquisition, ALA conducted extensive due diligence and developed a long term business plan, as well as an independent valuation. The purchase plan involves financing the acquisition through a bank loan, which will be repaid over a period of 5-7 years out of the proceeds from the operation. Under the terms of the agreement, information on the acquisition will be shared by Treasurer Jim Neal (not the Neal in Neal-Schuman) on Monday as part of his report to Council. This information will be available to the membership following his report. We are committed to total transparency, and will be answering any and all questions that are asked. This is a great opportunity for the association that supports our mission and goals.

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