The American Library Association (ALA) is unique among American associations in the manner in which it is structured. It is one association, with indivisible assets and a single set of uniform administrative, financial, and personnel policies and procedures. It is governed by one Council, from which its Executive Board is elected, and is managed by an Executive Director who serves at the pleasure of that Board.
It is also the home for eleven Divisions, each of which has:
Divisions and all other units of ALA are inextricably interrelated in structure, personnel, resources, overall mission, and operations. All members of Divisions are first members of ALA. Their voluntary selection of Division membership is an indication of their special interests, in addition to their general concern for libraries and librarianship, and it demands the commitment of the Divisions to serve those special interests.
By this commitment, expressed in publications, conference programming, advisory services, and other educational activities germane to their mission statements, the Divisions serve the American Library Association as a whole. By supporting Division operations through the provision of space and services, ALA gives tangible evidence of its recognition of the importance of Divisions in meeting the needs of its members.
The nature of the relationships among the various ALA units is a dynamic one. Divisions and ALA are committed to maintaining a collaborative style of interaction and to remaining flexible enough to address the ever-changing issues facing libraries and librarians.
This collaborative model implies mutuality in all relationships, the ability of any aggregation of units to work together for the common good, and the coexistence of Division autonomy and ALA unity.
This policy document implies the need for a mutual understanding of the differences between Divisions and other ALA units, differences which are balanced by a similarity of interest and activity. It underscores the Divisions’ willingness to support and contribute to ALA as a whole and their recognition of the interdependence of all ALA units.
These policies must be based on an appreciation by the total membership and by other ALA units of the Divisions’ contributions to ALA as a whole. An activity carried out by a Division is an ALA activity. Division staff members are ALA staff members and represent ALA as well as their own Divisions in work with members and the general public. Division officers and members must recognize the value to the Division of the services provided by ALA, and ALA members and units must recognize the value to ALA as a whole of the services provided by Divisions.
Divisions are integrally involved in the decision-making process of the Association. They exercise their decision-making prerogatives through the following means:
In sum, this document is designed to continue a cooperative framework in which the inevitable questions of organizational relationships can be addressed and resolved.
This statement reflects the current organizational values of the American Library Association and was developed through reference to existing ALA documents.
ALA is one association. It has a single set of administrative, financial, and personnel policies and procedures, as well as indivisible assets. All members of Divisions are members of ALA. Divisions and all other ALA units are inextricably interrelated in structure, personnel, resources, overall mission, and operations.
ALA has a stake in the work of each of its Divisions. Division activities and services are of value and importance to the Association. They provide for a rich and diverse program that gives opportunities to all segments of the profession for involvement, leadership, and participation in activities that carry out the mission, goals, and priorities of the Association.
Recognizing the significant contribution, resources, and expertise of its Divisions, ALA delegates to each Division the authority and responsibility to represent the Association in designated areas. Each Division provides unique programs and services to its members, to all members of the Association, to the profession of librarianship, to the broader educational community, and to the public at large.
ALA provides leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library service. ALA values the strength and effectiveness of its Divisions. Divisions are best able to carry out their missions when their members have the autonomy, independence, and freedom to pursue goals and objectives of particular concern to them, as well as to participate democratically in the Division’s direction, governance, and financial decisions.
ALA and its Divisions have opportunities through the Association’s unique governance and administrative structure to stimulate and build on one another’s strengths and resources to advance shared, as well as diverse, goals.
Divisions have a substantial degree of autonomy and responsibility; however, the corporate and legal entity is the American Library Association. Any responsibilities not specifically delegated to Divisions remain within the authority of the Executive Board and ALA Council. The principal intent of this document is to define the policies governing the relationship between ALA and its membership Divisions.
In addition to the ALA Constitution and Bylaws and other ALA Policies, this document provides a framework of guiding principles for that relationship. As a policy document, its adoption and approval of revisions are the responsibility of the ALA Council. ALA has other policies and procedures that govern the relationships with other organizational units.
Implementation of these policies will be carried out under the direction of the ALA Executive Director, working with the department heads and Division executive directors. Major operational decisions made in that implementation will be codified in documents referred to as ‘‘Operational Practices.’’
To make this Agreement responsive to the needs of the Association, it shall be reviewed on an annual basis by those responsible for the governance of ALA and its membership Divisions. Changes may be recommended by Division leadership, ALA staff and management, or other interested parties at any time; however, BARC shall initiate the review process annually according to the following schedule:
Roles of Key Parties to operating agreement
The following definitions are guidelines for members and staff in the development, review, and implementation of these policies:
Operational Practices are developed by the ALA Executive Director with the ALA Department Heads in consultation with the Division executive directors and appropriate personnel in the department responsible for the activity described. Department personnel will provide draft copies of those procedures for review and comment to appropriate ALA staff members whose work will be affected by those procedures. Copies of Operational Practices are supplied to appropriate membership units responsible for the governance of ALA and its membership Divisions.
Detailed information about implementation of the policies outlined throughout this document are found in the Operational Practices for the Implementation of Policies of the American Library Association in Relation to Its Membership Divisions.
All ALA Divisions must use exclusively the following services provided by ALA: Human Resources, Membership Services, telephone, insurance, purchasing, Fiscal Services Department, Legal Counsel, and Archives. ALA Divisions must be housed in properties owned or leased by the Association.
Divisions are governed by prevailing ALA fiscal policies and procedures. Divisions shall participate in formulating and revising these policies and procedures.
Discount and special promotion dues authorized by the ALA Executive Board apply only to that portion of dues applying to ALA membership. Divisions receive proportionate reimbursements for ‘‘free’’ Division choices of continuing and life members. (ALA Bylaws, Article I, Section 2 A.7)
Council resolutions that would impose specific assignments on a Division shall be reviewed by BARC with the Division Board of Directors to assess any financial implications of that assignment. BARC shall report back to Council with recommendations as to any budgetary adjustments necessary to implement such assignments prior to final Council action on that item. (ALA Policy 5.2)
The fiscal arrangements between ALA and its membership Divisions in regard to charges for services can be categorized in five ways. The five categories are defined below. Specific examples of the services in each category are given.
Purchase services or products from other ALA units and outside agencies, consistent with ALA policy.
Divisions may establish endowments or add to existing Division endowments from any source including existing fund balances once the Division has reached a minimum fund balance as determined by the Division and approved in accordance with the budget review process and approved financial plan. The establishment of Division endowments will follow the guidelines outlined in ALA policy. The use of the interest from these Division endowments will be subject to Division Board approval and applicable ALA policy.
ALA will provide basic furniture and equipment to each regular Division staff member.
Divisions will retain sole control and use of all furniture and equipment purchased with Division funds.
Divisions may acquire additional furniture and equipment in two ways:
Division Boards have responsibility for developing and approving budgets and multi-year program and financial plans, which are then reviewed by ALA management and BARC. Annual budgets are approved by the ALA Executive Board. Divisions also have the responsibility to alert the Association to any planned activities that could have a potential negative impact upon the fiscal stability of the Association.
Divisions must generate from dues and other revenue excluded from overhead at least 50% of the funding required to provide basic services. If a Division is unable to meet this 50% level for two consecutive years, its status as a Division must be referred to Council by the Executive Board, with an appropriate recommendation. Money from the General Fund will not be used to offset expenses for non-dues revenue-generating products and services. Divisions may retain the net revenue from these activities to initiate and support other similar activities in the future.
The Divisions will be kept informed about the Association’s financial health and will be involved in meaningful consultation when there is potential impact on Divisions, collectively or individually.
Management will provide effective credit and collection policies and services to the Divisions. Divisions will be charged for their bad debts in accordance with ALA policy.
To the extent that Divisions incur unrelated business income, they will assume responsibility for paying the resulting taxes.
The ALA Publishing Committee has the responsibility for control of the ALA imprint.
A Division may publish materials in three ways: through ALA Publishing Services, on its own, or through an outside publisher. Materials prepared by a Division for other than its own publication must be offered to ALA Publishing Services for first consideration. A Division has the right to accept or reject ALA’s offer and pursue other publishing opportunities.
Divisions exercise editorial and managerial control over their periodicals.
The ALA Publishing Committee shall be informed of plans for any new Division periodicals prior to publication.
A Division may purchase production and distribution services from ALA’s central production unit. A Division may also purchase marketing services from the Publishing Services Department.
ALA Publishing Services pays royalties to Divisions for Division-generated materials. Divisions may negotiate with ALA Publishing Services on royalties and other variables of publishing. An ‘‘Intra-mural Agreement of Publishing Responsibility’’ is signed by the Division Executive Director and the Director of Publishing Services for each publishing project.
ALA has the sole right to record and market tapes of programs at ALA conferences with the advance consent of the units and speakers. Divisions receive royalties from the sale of tapes of a Division’s conference programs. Divisions have the right to record and market tapes of Division preconferences, programs at ALA Annual Conferences which ALA chooses not to record, Division national conferences and regional institutes.
All ALA personnel are responsible to the ALA Executive Director, and through the Executive Director to the entire membership. Unlike other ALA personnel, Division Executive Directors are also responsible to Division Boards and through those Boards to the memberships of their respective Divisions.
All ALA employees are subject to ALA’s personnel policies. Each Division shall be responsible for generating the income required for the salaries, wages, and benefits of Division employees.
Each Division Executive Director serves as an ALA Program Director, a senior professional position, and is responsible for advising on ALA plans and preparing recommendations on priorities and alternatives, especially as they relate to the Division’s priorities, goals, and objectives. The Division Executive Director meets regularly with other ALA staff members and communicates, cooperates, and coordinates Division activities with those of other ALA units.
The assignment of the appropriate grade for Division staff is made according to ALA personnel policies. The determination of the appropriate staffing pattern (number and position descriptions) shall be made by the Division Executive Director and the Division Board in consultation with the ALA Executive Director.
The recruitment, appointment, and termination of Division Executive Directors shall be a process involving consultation by the ALA Executive Director with the Division Board of Directors or its designates.
Each Division’s Board of Directors shall annually review the performance of the Division’s Executive Director based upon a single set of goals and objectives as agreed upon by the Division Board, Associate Executive Director, Member Programs and Services, and Division Executive Director. The Division Board shall convey its recommendation to the Associate Executive Director, Member Programs and Services, to whom the ALA Executive Director has delegated the responsibility for evaluating the performance of Division Executive Directors. The Associate Executive Director, Member Programs and Services, shall discuss the confidential report of the performance review with the Division’s President upon request.
Division Executive Directors shall have the authority to select, evaluate, and recommend termination of all Division employees, consistent with ALA personnel policies and procedures. Assignments of Division staff to ALA internal committees are arrived at in the context of Division priorities and are kept at a reasonable level.
Divisions may conduct preconferences, workshops, institutes, seminars, and Division national conferences, in accordance with ALA Policy, at intervals determined by Division program priorities and supported by sound financial management. A Division is responsible for all costs incurred in planning and carrying out such activities. (ALA Policy 7.2.2)
Division National Conferences shall be defined as ‘‘non-business conferences removed in time and place from the American Library Association’s Annual Conference’’ and Midwinter Meeting in order‘ ‘to view and explore areas of divisional concerns in depth.’’ Proposals for Division National Conferences should be made to the ALA Executive Board at least two years in advance of the anticipated meeting date following a prescribed proposal outline. ALA state and regional chapters in the geographical area of a proposed conference shall be notified in writing of a desired conference prior to submitting the request to the Executive Board. Such notice shall seek the cooperation of the chapters with respect to scheduling and programming to the extent feasible. The Division shall contact the host Chapter prior to determining date availability with the host city. The Division shall contact the chapters in the geographical area immediately after determining date availability with the host city. In the event of a conflict with the ALA state or regional chapters and the proposed divisional conference, the ALA Executive Board shall make the decision in consultation with the chapters.
ALA provides the support necessary for Divisions to conduct business and plan and present Conference programs. Some Conference program costs may be borne by the Division except financial support for staffing and equipment as described in Section V.C.1.b. Recognizing that conference programming benefits all attendees, financial support in the form of General and Special Allocations from ALA to Divisions and other units for Annual Conference programming shall be provided; this support will be arrived at as the result of an explicit and equitable process in which the Divisions participate. Meal functions and special events must be self-supporting.
Divisions may seek external (non-ALA) funding to pursue projects to enhance Division program priorities. Division Boards of Directors have the responsibility for assessing programmatic impact and must approve all requests for funding external projects. Additionally, all proposals and contracts for such funds are signed by the Executive Director of ALA in the name of the Association. All special projects are reviewed, approved, and conducted in accordance with established ALA policies and procedures and the conditions of the grant or contract. All costs for projects funded through grants or contracts from outside agencies or organizations should be covered by project funding.
Each Division has autonomy in its own planning processes within its area of responsibility as designated by ALA Council, subject to present and future ALA policies. They have the responsibility to develop and implement a planning process to guide their program and allocate their resources within the areas of responsibility assigned to them by the ALA Council. Since Divisions contribute to the formulation of ALA goals, it may be expected that many of the priorities and activities reflected in the plans will also be a part of Division priorities and activities. Further, each Division has responsibility for providing ALA with a multi-year financial plan consistent with ALA’s existing financial policies and resting on multi-year program plans reflecting the priorities of the Division’s members. Divisions have a responsibility to assist and inform the ALA Executive Board of their strategic plans on a regular basis, and to inform the ALA Executive Board of their work through timely and comprehensive reporting.
The ALA Executive Board is appointing a workgroup to evaluate, assess, and make recommendations to the ALA Operating Agreement that defines the relationship between ALA and Divisions. Specifically, the WG will examine how the existing Operating Agreement is fulfilling the mission and values of the association as well as the financial structure that supports the joint and individual goals of the Association and Divisions. In addition, the WG will examine the relationship between ALA and the Roundtables and will provide recommendations that guide that relationship as well. The Operating Agreement values unity, diversity, authority, autonomy, and collaboration. These values will guide the WG in its assessment and communication.
May 2020 WG approved by Executive Board
May 2020 Volunteers solicited for the WG
June 2020 WG appointed by the Executive Board
July 2020 WG initial meeting
Fall 2020 Draft recommendations and issues presented to Executive Board
Midwinter 2021 Draft recommendations and discussion presented to ALA Council and Executive Board
Spring 2021 Final recommendations and Bylaws considered and voted on by the Executive Board
June 2021 Final recommendations and Bylaw changes considered and voted on by ALA Council
Member representative appointments will be made by the ALA President.
Staff representative appointments will be made by the ALA Executive Director.
The WG will facilitate member engagement in the process and seek to broaden its perspectives through solicitation of a variety of opinions and ideas. In addition, the WG will keep ALA Council, Division and Roundtable Leaders apprised of its work.