ACRL Board of Directors Update on ALA Bylaws Revision

The ACRL Board of Directors urges all ACRL members to review the proposed revisions to ALA governance, including the ALA Constitution and ALA Bylaws, and attend the ALA Bylaws Feedback Listening Session on November 14, 2022. Proposed changes to these guiding documents have major implications for ACRL’s programs and services. The revision process is already underway and moving quickly, so the Board would like to encourage ACRL members and stakeholders to attend to these critical developments.

For several years, ACRL has engaged with ALA leaders on proposed organizational structure and budget updates. We understand and appreciate the work that ALA is doing to address its serious financial challenges in the long term through strategic thinking and spending, the willingness to make difficult decisions, and the review of its governance and membership models. We also value the spirit of open dialogue and the invitations for robust conversation with the divisions. We do believe, however, that divisions must continue to have resources to provide members with meaningful engagement opportunities, both for their own professional development and as part of ALA’s long-term financial sustainability strategy.

ALA Constitution Rescission

In June and August 2022, ALA Council completed the required two votes as part of the process to rescind the ALA Constitution. The next and final step will be for ALA membership to vote on rescinding the ALA Constitution on the Spring 2023 ballot. The rescission is being proposed because there is significant overlap between the current ALA Constitution and the ALA Bylaws. If the ALA membership votes to approve the rescission, the result would be a new document (i.e., a revised version of the current ALA Bylaws) that more clearly separates policy and practice.

ALA Bylaws Revision

The ALA Bylaws are the guiding policy document for the association and lay out how the organization functions. They include the specific activities, responsibilities, budgeting process, and structure of the divisions. ALA membership must vote on any changes to the ALA Bylaws.

In June 2022, ALA Council voted to approve a process to review and amend the ALA Bylaws, to be completed by the ALA Constitution and Bylaws Committee, ALA Governance Office staff, and the ALA Parliamentarian. In September, the ALA Constitution and Bylaws Committee released the first draft of the revised ALA Bylaws and held a virtual Feedback Hearing for ALA members, which ACRL Board members attended to voice concerns about the implications of the changes.

Draft ALA Bylaws: Implications for ACRL

In the first draft, the following items that affect divisions were removed from the ALA Bylaws:

  1. Planning of programs of study and service for the type-of-library as a total institution.
  2. Evaluation and establishment of standards in its field.
  3. Representation and interpretation of its type-of-library in contacts outside the profession.
  4. Conduct of activities and projects for improvement and extension of service in its type-of-library when such projects are beyond the scope of type-of-activity divisions, after specific approval by the Council.
  5. Each division shall be organized under a board of directors with overlapping terms and with authority to make decisions between conferences or meetings of the division.
  6. A division may: Issue publications; hold meetings; organize sections; retain or adopt a distinctive name; appoint committees to function within the field of its activities; in general, carry on activities along the lines of its interests. Divisions shall exercise editorial and managerial control over their periodicals. The ALA Publishing Committee will be informed of plans for any new division periodical prior to publication. Materials prepared for publication by a division not intended for inclusion in a division periodical must be offered to ALA Publishing Services for first consideration.

Removal of these provisions will have implications for how ACRL functions as a division and its ability to advance initiatives of importance to the academic and research library community.

Additional implications and critical issues regarding process, policy, and timeline:

  • The Constitution and Bylaws Committee is suggesting that many items be removed from the ALA Bylaws and shifted to the ALA Policy Manual. It is important to note that any items removed from the ALA Bylaws effectively removes responsibility and oversight for those items from ALA members and transfers it to a yet-to-be-determined group. This proposed change would reduce the influence of individual members on association activities.
  • ACRL currently has a net asset balance (NAB) of $3,367,723. The NAB is the surplus revenue from ACRL’s membership dues, programs, and products after ACRL’s expenses, payroll and overhead fees to ALA for the association-wide services it provides such as human resources, accounting, and information technology. The NAB is the result of years of careful stewardship and enables ACRL to invest in and sustain exemplary programs and services for its members and to shape policies and practices of vital interest to higher education.  Under the proposed ALA Bylaws revision, ALA would no longer recognize divisions’ net asset balances which will reduce ACRL’s impact and influence in future fiscal years.
  • While it may be amended, the current timeline for the proposed changes is ambitious. Additional drafts are scheduled for release in early November, and January 1, 2023, with consideration by ALA Council scheduled for LibLearnX (LLX) in January 2023. If approved at LLX, the revised ALA Bylaws will be included on the Spring 2023 ballot for vote by ALA membership. If ALA membership approves the revised Bylaws, they will take effect on April 6, 2023.

ALA Bylaws: Next Steps

The next draft of the revised ALA Bylaws is scheduled for release in early November and will be shared widely on ACRL communication channels.

The ALA Bylaws Feedback Listening Session will be held from 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM Central on November 14, 2022.We encourage all ACRL members to attend the session, provide feedback, and ask questions. Interested members will need to complete the Zoom registration form.

– Erin L. Ellis, 2022-23 ACRL President