This page is part FAQ, part sincere reply. As you provide your questions and comments, we’ll be providing you with the best answers and responses we have. Discussing Core as a decision to commit to a new division is a vital part of the process of creating a shared division home that embraces our shared strengths and acknowledges our shared challenges. Please note that Core is not a done deal — in the months ahead we need more conversation and debate, not less. Give us your feedback, and consider participating in an online town hall or #TheCoreQuestion Twitter chat.
I. Benefits to Members
Benefits to all ALA Members
- Collaboration: The new division will promote opportunities for collaboration outside the traditional niche or domain expertise of individual members.
- Strong Continuing Education: Members will see new opportunities for strong online collaboration and participation in professional development and continuing education.
- Career Development: The new division will provide opportunities for increased support over the course of a member’s career, from student to front-line practitioner to leader.
- More Value: For members who already belong to more than one of the three divisions, this will potentially reduce their membership dues. For those who have thought about adding another division but haven’t due to cost, they will have access to all three divisions for a minimal added cost.
- Less Complexity: Taking a page from recent division reorganization efforts, the new division will break away from structural complexity that can make it difficult for new members to find an entry point.
- Flexibility: A more nimble, flexible structure with more diverse opportunities for participation will foster a broader and richer variety of voices, skills sets, and expertise, and will allow for continuing innovation and evolution.
- Efficiency: Creating a new division will decrease executive overhead, and allow division staff to use their time more strategically, specializing in their areas of passion and expertise, and focusing on direct member value and engagement, rather than bureaucracy.
- Clout: As a larger division, it will be easier for us to get the attention of other ALA units whose work might be appealing to our members, such as the Center for the Future of Libraries or ALA’s Information Technology and Telecommunications Services Office.
- Influence: The new division will be able to take a leadership role within ALA for improving overall organizational effectiveness — to show our colleagues what can be done.
Benefits to ALCTS Members
- Many ALCTS members are also members of LITA and LLAMA, and bringing these three groups together will bring potential savings with a combined membership dues — more value from your membership.
- Expanded professional development and continuing education opportunities, including offerings virtually (ALCTS Virtual Symposium) and in person (LITA Forum).
- Additional opportunities for publishing articles, books, guides, etc.
- LLAMA provides robust support for leadership and management career development within and across roles, and that support would be instantly available to ALCTS members.
- Additional opportunities for committee or interest or discussion group involvement, potentially reducing redundancy and siloing.
- Collaboration for members with similar interests.
Benefits to LITA Members
- Many LITA members are also members of ALCTS and LLAMA, and bringing these three groups together will save people money since they’d only have to join one group instead of two or three.
- There is a lot of overlap between ALCTS and LITA, particularly when it comes to integrated library systems (ILSs), and a new division will create new opportunities for collaboration at conferences, via interest groups, and so on.
- LLAMA provides robust support for leadership and management career development within and across roles, and that support will be instantly available to LITA members.
- Expanded professional development and continuing education opportunities.
- Expanded mentoring opportunities.
Benefits to LLAMA Members
- Many people are members of LITA and/or ALCTS as well as LLAMA, and joining the groups will lower costs and allow people to be active in all aspects of the combined groups.
- Mentoring opportunities will expand, both for potential mentors and mentees.
- Professional development and programming will increase and will allow for cross training and elimination of redundant topics.
- Librarians will be able to share knowledge with each other. Access to the technical expertise of ALCTS and LITA members will help LLAMA members be better supervisors, managers, and leaders of staff in these areas.
- A synergy will form between members who have similar interests, and there is a possibility of forming new groups or cohorts.
- There will be opportunities to take what works very well for one group and apply it to the whole. For example, the LLAMA Mentoring Program and the LLAMA New Professionals Community are models of best practices that can be explored and expanded to the other groups.
II. The Drivers
While we want to focus on the potential and efficiency of a merged division, particularly in terms of supporting the talented staff who support our divisions, sustainability is the central reason a merger is being pursued. Membership numbers are drastically declining in each division — LITA has lost 33.9% of members since 2009, ALCTS has lost 25.5%, and LLAMA has lost 21.9%. Standing alone, each division faces a slow demise. Working together, we can adapt, thrive, and chart a more sustainable course.
ALA’s efforts to streamline operations through SCOE are a strong signal that the organization is not going to continue to have 11 divisions going forward. Additional data and numbers on membership, revenue, activities, and more are available in our reports.
III. The Process
Since the Fall of 2017, a Steering Committee comprised of the ALCTS, LITA, and LLAMA Presidents, Presidents-elect, and executive directors has been meeting regularly to discuss challenges and opportunities for the ALA mid-sized, functional divisions.
The Steering Committee reviewed similarities in mission and services to members, as well as differences in structure and culture.
After reviewing a range of models, from increased but informal collaboration, to aligning member services without merging, to shared staffing, the committee concluded that the concept most in need of further exploration was also the most radical: winding down operations of the three divisions while developing plans for a new division that provides comprehensive career support in the key areas of Standards and Assessment, Operations and Buildings, Collections, Technology, and Leadership.
“But why isn’t XYZ division involved?”
While other divisions have been invited to the conversation, they have not elected to participate. ALCTS-LITA-LLAMA leadership have all made a commitment to exploring a potential shared future.
Core is not a done deal.
In the next few months, we’re holding online town halls and Twitter chats to hear more from you. Your vote will decide whether ALCTS, LITA, and LLAMA merge to become Core.
IV. Estimated Member Dues
The Projected Fiscal Year 2021 Budget (PDF) shows that a minimum standard dues level of $65 (with a $25 membership level for students and a $40 membership level for non-salaried library workers, retirees, and others*) would be required to avoid a deficit.
Membership dues go back to the division, not ALA. The goal is that other revenues like registration, book royalties, and sponsorships will continue at their current levels or [ideally] be higher since we’ll be able to increase focus on member engagement, marketing, and fundraising. ALA would see more overhead from an increase in those activities.
While each division has declining membership on its own, we anticipate that this proposed merger will allow for staff time to be dedicated to member retention through new opportunities we cannot offer members with the current financial environment. Furthermore we hope that new members will be enticed to join Core to be able to receive member discounts in revenue generating sears like Continuing Education and Programming.
ALA leadership is regularly updated on the progress and has access to the budget reports and other documents created to support and scaffold this process. The process is in keeping with wider ALA initiatives to look at cost, efficiency, and organization, most notably the Steering Committee on Organizational Effectiveness (SCOE).
*The Steering Committee is discussing how to make membership levels inclusive and address profession-wide issues of precarious and short-term positions, student loan debt, and other financial factors we know impact member decision making. If you have specific ideas, questions, or feedback, please let us know.
V. The Future of Division-Specific Activities, Programs, and Awards
VI. The Proposed Merger and Professional Development
We know that the proposed merger may have an impact on requests for professional development plans and funding with administrators. Per the Activities Working Group Report, we anticipate that the majority of professional development opportunities will remain in place. In many areas, notably Continuing Education (CE) it is expected that opportunities may expand.
All invoices and course descriptions will note the area of focus (for instance technical services) which we hope will help those communicating with their administrations about the proposed merger. Should the merger proceed, the permanent Core website will have a designated page that members can point their administrators to which will provide an overview aimed at that audience.
VII. The Name
Core is proposed on the premise that the work of collections, technology, and management, often intersecting in skills and functions that include leadership, infrastructure, and futures, are the structural center of library work.
The name was developed with member input over a year in a process that included two joint open board meetings, dialogue via listserv and Connect, polling on potential name ideas over last fall, and countless conversations with individual members. One of the very first findings was that unanimous support of a name couldn’t be the goal: for everyone who wanted one sort of name, there was someone else opposed to that kind of name. With that in mind, we wanted to find a name that would (a) communicate something new about a new approach to our work, (b) emphasize commonalities as opposed to difference, (c) not lock us into narrow topical areas forever, recognizing that our scope will change as our field changes.
A significant barrier to the last cycle of planning was that, without a name, it was impossible to gain much traction with ideas: when you’re constantly saying “the new division that we’ll come up for a name for eventually”, it’s hard to even see it as a real thing. With the future in mind, at the 2019 Annual Conference, new Steering Committee members presented a number of ideas to each Board and to members. Ultimately, “Core: Leadership, Infrastructure, Futures” was selected as the name for the new division, and we are working with ALA legal counsel to trademark the name.
As members of ALCTS, LITA, and LLAMA, we see you as the Core of the profession and libraries. We think your work is vital and foundational — a prerequisite to other library work. Honoring the central nature of that work by naming it Core is a matter of description, not a dismissal of other areas of library work.
With that said- your work is what makes libraries unique from other space or service providers. We hope you’ll consider Core as a future home for your engagement and service with ALA.
VIII. ALA’s Financial Challenges
At the recent 2020 ALA Midwinter Meeting, members and leadership of ALCTS, LITA, and LLAMA learned of financial challenges facing ALA, through meetings and the ALA Executive Board Document 12.39, “Budget Update – Financial Planning 2020 and beyond (PDF).”
On February 14th, the ALA Board released a statement in response to questions from members and leaders.
As divisions of ALA, we understand our success rests on a healthy ALA, and we know that ALA leadership is highly supportive of the proposal to form Core: Leadership, Infrastructure, Futures. We are confident that Core represents a strategic, positive step forward to better support the work of our members, especially in light of these financial challenges.
The Boards of ALCTS, LITA, and LLAMA pledge to work with ALA leadership and staff, and our colleagues in other divisions, to understand and share with members a full and transparent explanation of ALA’s financial position, as well as its potential impact on our current divisions and development of Core.
We expect additional financial reports at the spring ALA Executive Board meeting and will provide an update in April.