Magazine article Information Today

ALA: Crismond/WLB/futures

Magazine article Information Today

ALA: Crismond/WLB/futures

Article excerpt

San Francisco. Who doesn't want to go there? Cable cars, Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown restaurant, cruising on the Bay (not me, of course, I was a hard working company representative). SF's a popular venue for any occasion and an absolute guaranteed draw for annual convenings of the American Library Association.

This year was no different. In spite--or perhaps because of--an organizational brouhaha and some scandalous gossip over editorial antics in the Bronx, ALA's 1992 conference guttered a record crowd of registrants, exhibitors, and speaker/guests (including Patricia Schroeder, Gloria Steinem, Jim Lehrer, and Cesar Chavez to standing room only sessions). And you won't be surprised that interest in the brouhaha and the scandal far over-shadowed simultaneous earthquakes in Los Angeles. The case even for an earthquake fraidy like me.

The Brouhaha at Headquarters

Jaded conference goers--and in particular writers and editors--are always wondering what might be special to report about after 110 years of conferences (the one in San Francisco was auspiciously numbered 111). And interest piqued sharply once word spread about the abrupt firing (not really the resignation) of ALA's Executive Director of only three years, Linda Crismond in early May. It took over a week for the real facts--such as we may ever discover--to come to light.

The accounting and interpretation here is based on:

* Phone calls from headquarters' friends, of long-standing days, reporting on and about the manner in which Crismond's "resignation" was made known on May 11;

* Copies of a letter from Crismond to staff dated May 29;

* Printed and oral reports of a staff meeting at headquarters called by President Patricia Schuman and President-Elect Marilyn Miller on May 14;

* Editorial commentary in American Libraries (the association's official publication);

* An open letter to the ALA Executive Board and council of June 24 from Patricia Scarry, a nine-year member of the professional staff;

* A draft resolution by ALA Councilors Susan Goldberg and Patrick O'Brien which included a vote of no confidence in the Executive Board, and;

* Lots and lots of gossip (credit acknowledged to Truman Capote in Murder by Death).

To Begin at the Beginning

Crismond, first female executive of the association, was hired with enormous fanfare. Formerly chief executive of the Los Angeles County Library System, Crismond sought and won a compensation package in the bottom six figures which included "perks" (e.g., an apartment in Huron Towers, ALA's own office tower).

As an association and profession we were proud--as we have been of all Executive Directors--of Linda's face to the world. She served us in good stead on both national and international fronts.

Now at this point the story gets murky. There are charges and counter-charges. If you read Crismond's letter--and the facts can support the figures--during her tenure:

* Membership grew almost 15 percent;

* Organizational endowment doubled;

* Financial positioning tripled;

* Total debt eliminated;

* Summer and Midwinter conferences grew in size (in terms of registrants and exhibitors);

* Dues fees remained constant;

* Overhead costs were reduced. "But there's so much more" (John Candy, Volunteers).

Apparently either you go with Crismond or with the Executive Board. The way I see it, there's no question that Schuman/Miller (hereinafter referred to as The Board) obfuscated (I mean to say in a polite way that they told some murky falsehoods). But then I have only the reports published in American Libraries written by reporters and the personal statements of long-time staff friends as backup.

Whereas Crismond says she was told on May 8, to submit her resignation effective May 12, to take a leave of absence beginning at noon on May 8 until Monday, May 11, and to "collect my personal effects over that weekend," The Board tells another story. …

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