1 – What problems are we trying to solve?
Forming Core will help us resolve 2 specific issues that are contributing to continued membership declines for all 3 divisions.
First, our 3 divisions don’t have enough staff to do all of the work members want us to do. LITA has 2 staff members, LLAMA has 2 staff members, and ALCTS has 3-½. Because each of us wears many hats, none of us can add more work to implement new initiatives, expand services, increase member engagement, or do more around advocacy.
In ALCTS, members have said you want more online education offerings, but we don’t have the staff capacity to add more courses. We also don’t have the resources to host our own in-person event, and we can’t elevate Preservation Week to the level it deserves.
In LITA, members have told us you want more resources for managing technology, more online learning opportunities, a mentoring program, and advocacy around issues like privacy, security, and accessibility.
In LLAMA, members have shared how much they value our new educational competencies, but we don’t have the resources to expand the program. We were able to offer our first small, in-person event this past year, but we don’t have the resources to continue it on a regular basis. We also don’t have the capacity to publish books or offer more tours.
One of the reasons none of us can expand our services is because we’re all doing the same repetitive tasks. The executive director for each division handles board meetings, budget, elections, appointments, and other governance duties, while a staff member in each division handles logistics for webinars/courses like setting up practice sessions, working with presenters, and running the session. The same is true for awards, communication, managing conference programs, and most other internal tasks.
By banding together, we can free up staff capacity by having only 1 person handling governance instead of 3. By dedicating staff to specific areas like member engagement, marketing, advocacy, and professional development, we’ll end the duplication of effort and create staff time to devote to the types of initiatives members have asked for.
Second, because each of our divisions experiences a 1-5% decline in membership every year, we start each fiscal year at a deficit, not at zero. For example, LITA loses around $7,000 a year due to declining membership dues, so for the upcoming year we will have to make up $21,000 more than we did in 2018.
This is true at some level for each division and is unsustainable long-term (ALCTS lost 4.3% – $10,275 – and LLAMA lost 2.5% – $3,750 – in FY2019). The best path forward is to join together to focus more on member engagement and dedicate staff to end the membership decline.
2 – How will the home I’ve found not be diluted? What if I don’t want to receive information about all of the topics covered by Core.
Core will be starting out with six distinct sections: Access and Equity, Assessment, Leadership, Metadata & Collections, Operations & Buildings, and Technology. The current ALCTS sections and LLAMA communities of practice will continue as interest groups within sections. Work on standards and guidelines will continue. Core interest groups will also have the option to submit programs for both Forum and ALA Annual.
While we see significant overlap between our areas of focus, each is unique and will remain so. We’ll be starting out with six distinct sections: Access and Equity, Assessment, Leadership, Metadata & Collections, Operations & Buildings, and Technology.
Looking at the graphic that shows where we see overlap also highlights these distinct areas that will remain. If you’re interested in only technical services, you can be part of the Metadata & Collections section. If your job is starting to involve more budgeting or analytics, you can also join the Leadership section and Technology sections. Either way, your primary home and community will still be there for you.
Groups like AvramCamp, CC:DA, the LLAMA Leadership Forum, SAC, and Top Technology Trends can continue to meet at the in-person Core Forum and ALA Annual Conference. Core interest groups will also have the option to submit programs for both Forum and ALA Annual.
3 – How will my member experience be better in a larger group? What are the benefits of having a group this broad?
As a member of Core, you will have more options for creating an experience that is unique for you. Your engagement can be as narrow or as broad as you want it to be and can be adjusted by topic.
This is partially up to you, in the sense that you can remain part of a single section like Assessment and get information specific only to that topic, or you can join multiple sections at no additional cost and participate in multiple topics of interest. Because we’ll have staff dedicated to member engagement, we’ll be able to better classify our content and surface it to the members who are most interested in it. Your engagement can be as narrow or as broad as you want it to be and can be adjusted by topic.
4 – What will happen on day one of the new division?
On September 1, 2020, the groups you currently participate in will still be fully intact, as will the services you depend on today. We’ll spend April – August 2020 forming working groups of members like you to decide which services will continue as is, merge together, or be discontinued.
Division staff will work with ALA to automatically move members into Core and specific sections.
- All ALCTS members will be added to the Metadata & Collections section.
- All LITA members will be added to the Technology section.
- All LLAMA members will be added to the Leadership section.
- We’ll contact all Core members to provide ways for you to join any of the other five sections you want to participate in.
Some things we know we’ll do in the first year:
- Combine duplicative committees, such as appointments, bylaws, nominating, and program planning. Unique committees will continue as is unless a working group of members decides otherwise.
- Combine interest groups where there is overlap (electronic resources, technology management), but unique IGs will continue as is unless a working group of members decides otherwise.
- Work on moving all 3 division journals to the same platform; they will continue to be published on the current schedule unless a working group of members decides otherwise.
- Add publications about leadership and management to a combined publishing program that will continue to include technical services/collections and technology topics.
- Start planning the next Virtual Exchange and in-person Forum together.
Who will be on these member working groups? You. The best way to help shape the future of Core and your area of interest within it is to get involved and volunteer to help during the transition that will start in May 2020 and be an ongoing process to continually improve member services.
5 – How will this be sustainable if the 3 divisions are not financially viable now? What difference can this make?
The existing division staff will be combined to serve you better. Our original plan was to dedicate our 7 current staff members to specific positions based on their expertise and hire an 8th person using our combined reserve fund. The goal was to have this 8th position generate enough revenue after 2 years to make the position permanent.
However, in light of ALA’s recent financial announcements, we’ve decided not to hire the 8th person. While this does change our implementation, we believe we can still expand services and better meet member needs by deploying our current 7 positions more strategically. We just won’t be able to scale new initiatives as quickly as we had hoped.
6 – How much will dues cost?
As part of our goal to be self-sufficient and not rely on reserve balances, dues will be set at $70 per year beginning September 1, 2020. This figure was determined to be the best option for both affordability and sustainability by the 2018 Financial Working Group.