ALA Council: Actions Pave the Way to Advocacy for Librarians as Well as Libraries. (Biannual Report)

By Kniffel, Leonard | American Libraries, March 2002 | Go to article overview

ALA Council: Actions Pave the Way to Advocacy for Librarians as Well as Libraries. (Biannual Report)


Kniffel, Leonard, American Libraries


At the Midwinter Meeting in New Orleans, ALA's governing Council approved bylaws for a separate allied professional association to offer postgraduate specialty certification, to advocate for pay equity, and to address other issues related to the professional status of librarians. The move is the first step in splitting the Association into dual organizations.

To be governed by Council and the Executive Board under tax status 501(c) (6), the new association has been in the planning stages since 1996 and will allow ALA to conduct activities that are prohibited under its current 501(c)(3) status. ALA management is expected to move quickly toward the establishment of the companion organization this year and to determine which revenue streams and which existing program units will be transferred to it.

A hotly debated resolution (CD#24) brought forward by Blanche Woolls for the Committee on Education and Tom Wilding for the Special Presidential Task Force on the Status of Librarians asked for and received approval for new bylaws that propose a much-expanded role for the organization, far beyond the simple postgraduate credentialing body approved by Council last year (AL, Aug., p. 87). Council also called for the appointment, by the ALA president, of a transition team to develop and finalize an operating plan by this summer's Annual Conference in Atlanta.

The bylaws suggest that the new arm of ALA be called the ALA Allied Professional Association and that it "shall exist to promote the mutual professional interests of librarians and other library workers." The ALA/APA Council "shall be those individuals who are concurrently sewing as members of the ALA Council, and the Board of Directors shall be those individuals who are concurrently serving as members of the ALA Executive Board." The bylaws envision the ALA Council adjourning at least once annually and reconvening as the APA Council.

Although the bylaws passed by a wide margin, they were not without detractors, former endowment trustee Bernard Margolis among the most vocal. He and longtime councilor and former ALA president Beverly Lynch argued that the APA should be formed with a focus on credentialing; if that is successful, then additional responsibilities could be added. Margolis said ALA has a history of creating second organizations that fail, citing the Fund for America's Libraries, which in 1999 was dissolved and turned back into a development office. He also posited that the formation of an APA is financially risky. Most importantly, he said, the APA does not pass "my smell test of ethical standards--to have an organization that on one band deals with credentialing and on the other lobbies for more pay."

ALA counsel Paula Goedert was asked to explain the difference between a 501(c)(6) organization and a 501(c)(3). She explained that a (c)(3) is not supposed to promote the professional interest of its members; a (c)(6), as a trade association, may do so. Wilding explained that "ALA cannot pursue its educational agenda as a 501(c)(3)."

Lynch and Margolis both said the expanded APA was being pushed through to accommodate the forthcoming initiatives of President-elect Maurice Freedman, who chaired the discussion in place of President John W. Berry, who was in New York City appearing on the Today Show with the winners of the Newbery and Caldecott Medals (see p. 64-65). Several councilors, though supportive of the bylaws, wanted to know where the money was coming from to support the APA. Longtime Councilor Herbert Biblo urged Council to move the APA ahead, saying, "We have been waiting 20 years for this."

Treasurer Liz Bishoff said the Executive Board was "exploring the different options" for how the APA would be financed and pointed out that a (c)(6) organization can return money to a (c) (3), but a (c)(3) cannot give money to a (c)(6). "This is probably one of the more complex pieces of this problem that still needs to be completely explored. …

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