SPOS Not Spas

Editor’s Note: This is part of an occasional series of posts from the ACRL Board of Directors. In this post, Vice-President/ President-Elect Steven J. Bell talks about the Board Strategic Planning and Orientation Session.

My term as ACRL vice-president/president-elect began at the end of the 2011 ALA Annual conference. But even before that, incoming officers are invited to attend the meetings of the ACRL Board of Directors held at ALA as a form of introduction. Just as with any new group, there’s a new vocabulary to learn. When I first hear “when we meets at spas in the fall…” I was admittedly puzzled — until a board member said that’s “SPOS” not “Spas”. Okay. So no luxurious massage and pampering to look forward to as my first formal meeting with the Board.

What is SPOS? SPOS stands for “Strategic Planning and Orientation Session”.  The ACRL Board meets officially in its entirety at ALA Midwinter and Annual.  SPOS is an additional meeting at which the Board can focus on planning and orienting new board members to their responsibilities. While much of the Board’s work — as is the case with more and more ACRL committees — is done virtually, SPOS is an important opportunity for the Board to conduct critical strategic work that guides the future of ACRL, and that exchange works best face-to-face.

The meeting began for me on a Wednesday morning at ALA Headquarters in Chicago (my first time there) with an overview of ACRL (history, structure, relationship to ALA, budget process, etc.).  There was much to take in, but it greatly increased my understanding of ACRL. Over the next two-and-a-half days I experienced a whirlwind of knowledge about the next phase in implementing the Plan for Excellence. With its focus on the value of academic libraries, student learning and scholarly research and communication, the plan is straightforward and clear in terms of the work that needs to be done. ACRL has already organized new committees that are tasked with identifying strategies for achieving the objectives associated with each of the three goals.

I’ve served on a number of boards in the past, and worked as a member or chair of multiple ACRL committees. All of that experience only marginally prepared me for the high level of performance required of an ACRL Board member. It’s clear from the start that the Board takes its work seriously, and is fully committed to working hard on behalf of the membership. SPOS was jam packed with agenda items, but there was always attention paid to reflecting on how effectively the Board performs its duties. One comes away with the strong impression that the ACRL Board is focused on strategy rather than operational details. Board self-assessment is highly valued.

No, SPOS was not the same as Spas, but it was vastly rewarding and a renewal in entirely different ways. I appreciated this first meeting with my fellow Board members — and they were welcoming and made us new members feel included as team members. Did I come away with lots of work to do on behalf of the board? You bet. You’ll be hearing more about it in future posts.