I had three sustained comments regarding the survey and analysis conducted this spring on the future of ALA’s Planning and Budget Assembly. The first comment, from an ALA thought leader I deeply respect, was to consider providing recommendations — hence, this post. The second was a thoughtful reflection on the Connect post.
The third comment, from a BARC representative, had me take a deep breath for a month:
“Honestly, I am incredulous that so much effort has been exerted on this issue. Do these people have nothing more useful to do?”
As I politely explained to Mr. Big Britches, that is precisely the point. As one of “these people,” I do have better things to do than shuffle into a meeting room, spend nearly an hour in “introductions,” and then hear the same high-level budget information I just heard at Council.
In its current incarnation, PBA is intended to be seen and not heard. This is an assembly that provides the gloss of transparency with none of the pesky mechanisms for meaningful input. As currently structured, PBA is a meeting designed (unintentionally or otherwise) to preclude meaningful analysis, discussion, and input. Requests for even the simplest communication mechanisms are rebuffed: though 97 percent of current PBA members believe a discussion list would be useful, again and again we are given quibbly reasons why it hasn’t been created. The only other communication mechanism provided to PBA is a Connect group. My goodness, if I established the Tote Bag Roundtable, ALA would give it a list.
PBA meetings are time in my life I’ll never get back again. I am not expendable, and neither are the 85 other people who agree to serve on this assembly. We don’t need to be condescended to with a sinecure; I look around at PBA meetings, and these are people who are making ALA happen. Equally meaningfully, I do not believe ALA’s budget and planning process would be harmed by more input from informed stakeholders.
Finally, ALA is not in any financial position to hang on to things that aren’t serving the needs of the membership. As I have said in countless keynotes, times of financial hardship offer opportunities for “controlled burns,” where we can kill off anything that isn’t relevant and can’t be coaxed into relevance. The survey makes clear that PBA needs to improve or die — it’s that simple.
Here are my personal thoughts about the future of PBA. But what do others think? I’d like to hear from current and past PBA members, former treasurers, BARC, and Board members, what they think. Is it time to ask the big question: kill it or improve it?
- Establish a discussion list (97% of current PBA members agree ALA should do this
- Provide new-member orientation
- Restructure the assembly to create a leadership role
- Hold PBA “town halls” prior to ALA; save meetings at ALA for real discussion
- Provide more, and better, budget input
- Restructure PBA so it has a leader