A Tough Environment

Review and reinvention planned

January 2, 2018

From the Treasurer Susan H. Hildreth

Preliminary American Library Association (ALA) financial results for fiscal year 2017 (FY2017)—which was a single division conference (or “spend down”) year when the Association budgets a deficit—reflect what continues to be a tough environment for ALA. Operating revenues for the entire Association were $48.7 million and operating expenses were $51.1 million.

Similar to last year, our actual results differed from our budget: Overall net expense was 1% larger than projected. Although our budget results were not favorable, they were much closer to projections than in previous years. Among revenue sources, publishing revenue of $11 million and membership dues revenue of $5.3 million were lower than projected by 11% and 4%, respectively.

While the ALA Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits revenue of $2.7 million was also lower than projected, close attention to all expenses and a successful ALA Annual Conference and Exhibition in Chicago resulted in overall ALA conference results that met their target. A historically successful Association of College and Research Libraries conference in Baltimore, and solid growth in endowment-related revenues and overall careful expense management across the Association helped to offset the lower-than-projected revenues.

The numbers themselves, however, don’t tell the entire story of ALA. Your Association is beginning a period of internal review and reinvention, with changes in both key leadership positions and the way in which we view publishing, membership, and conferences—all critical areas that fund the professional development, advocacy, and mission-focused work that is the purpose of the Association.

The numbers themselves, however, don’t tell the entire story.

The FY2018 budget reflects this perspective. To ensure our financial health, budgeted expenses have been adjusted to show a more cautious, conservative forecast for revenues, particularly from our publishing and membership lines of business.

We were fortunate to see success in revenues from grants, with grants awarded in late FY2017 to fund activities in FY2018 and FY2019. We also are beginning to see substantial growth in our fundraising efforts, with individual and institutional giving almost doubling from the prior year, especially as current events have prompted an even more vigorous call for advocacy from ALA for matters that are core to our Association and our member values. This helped us preserve planned investments in technology, which will ultimately help the Association to perform more efficiently and effectively, generate additional funding, and better serve our members.

As your treasurer, I am working closely with the president, the Executive Board, and ALA’s management team to refine our vision, both operationally and financially, to ensure the Association’s continued success not just next year but in FY2019 and beyond. As we finalize the search for an executive director, we are also laying the groundwork that we hope will give that person the opportunity to develop and articulate our collective mission-focused and financially sustainable vision for our Association.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you and addressing your questions and concerns about the financial results and plans of the Association. I would like to thank Mark Leon, chief financial officer, and his team for their continuing support of the treasurer and ALA. Remember to visit the treasurer’s page for more information on a regular basis.