The YALSA Board in Action: A Case Study in Hard Work, Strategic Thinking, Big Picture Planning, and Risk-Taking

Article excerpt

You might not know, but being a member of the YALSA Board of Directors means a lot more than showing up at meetings at the Midwinter Meeting and Annual Conference. The work of YALSA Board members requires twelve months of dedication and includes quite a bit of strategic thinking, big picture planning, and risk-taking, The board's recent work on a proposal to change policies and procedures for some YALSA-selected lists and awards is a case in point.

Travel back in time with me to August 2009. YALSA Board members had returned from the Annual Conference to their homes and workplaces. A few weeks earlier, the YALSA Board, as a part of their Annual Conference meeting, discussed a selected lists proposal. It was a controversial discussion with many members in attendance worried about the proposed disbanding of the Best Books for Young Adults (BBYA) Committee and list. The result of that discussion was a motion to direct the YALSA Executive Committee to determine next steps and develop a plan to be brought to the full board for discussion before Midwinter Meeting 2010 in Boston.

During a summer conference call, the Executive Committee (made up of the President, President-Elect, Immediate Past President, Fiscal Officer, Secretary, and Executive Director, an ex-officio member) talked a great deal about YALSA's selected lists. In the sixty-minute conversation, the group went over some previous work related to the topic and developed a plan for what to do next.

The next step was to put together an outline of what the Executive Committee needed to consider during their regular fall meetings in Chicago. This document focused on possible actions to take, steps already underway, and included a complete transcript of feedback received at the Annual Conference 2009 meeting during the visitor comment session when the Board discussed YALSA's selected lists.

After reviewing the outline during their fall meetings, the Executive Committee decided it was time to develop a new selected lists proposal, which would take into account all of the feedback received up to that point. Once the revision was ready, YALSA board members would discuss and provide feedback, insight, and recommendations.

That is exactly what happened. In late November, a revised proposal was posted on the YALSA Board ALA Connect space. Board members spent a couple of weeks discussing various pieces of the proposal. Discussions ranged from consideration of what to include and not include in the re-envisioned BBYA list, to what to call the re-envisioned BBYA list, to how the Excellence in Nonfiction Award nomination publication process would work, to whether or not the revised proposal met the needs of members--both those who spoke up at the Annual Conference and those in the field who might not have been able to attend the Annual Conference.

This board discussion was incredibly active with board members chiming in on a regular basis, playing devil's advocate at times, and asking good questions about service to members and the purposes of the changes proposed. Not all board members agreed about everything that was proposed and they made their concerns known. That is what made for such a good discussion; it was a give and take of agreement and disagreement. …