Achieving Our Vision

To build a financially stable Association, we must work together

January 2, 2020

From the Treasurer: Maggie Farrell

It is my honor to serve as your treasurer and to receive the baton from Susan Hildreth. Susan provided strong leadership for our financial operations with expertise and diligence, and her collegiality is a model for me as we—ALA offices, divisions, round tables, and other units—work together toward a financially stable Association.

I start my tenure by reporting mixed results for our finances, but I am optimistic about the work being done to advance libraries.

In 2018, the ALA Executive Board approved a plan to strategically invest in three critical areas: information technology, advocacy, and development. Over a three-year period already underway, $8.8 million has been dedicated to upgrading software and capabilities to better manage Association operations that improve member services. Funding for advocacy will strengthen relationships with key D.C. stakeholders for proactive and targeted interactions that support library issues. And expanding development activities will increase private and corporate donations for our Association, furthering vital initiatives and building endowments to contribute to our future work.

This has been a bold move. The Budget Analysis and Review Committee (BARC), chaired by Peter Hepburn, is working closely with ALA offices and the Executive Board to develop metrics to assess these investments. Their work will be presented at the ALA Midwinter Meeting, and it is my commitment to keep members aware of our progress.

Strategic investments are necessary and overdue, but they alone cannot make up for increased operational costs, new ways of working, and a different economic environment that impacts Membership, Publishing, and conferences.

ALA is examining operations to determine possible streamlining and efficiencies. With the Executive Board, ALA is asking difficult questions about how we fund activities, staff operations, and conduct our work. During the next three years, we will need to make difficult choices based on our priorities. This work has already started, as Executive Director Mary Ghikas has noted in past columns about the streams of change.

Members are considering our Association structure through intense conversations related to the Steering Committee on Organizational Effectiveness (SCOE). We have examined the costs of the ALA headquarters building in Chicago, noting the significant maintenance and modernization costs compared with favorable leasing rates and the ability to significantly add to our ALA endowment.

Together, we are creating a strong foundation for the future through better technology, increased member engagement, and increased private revenues.

As members, you have been engaged in such efforts in your own libraries—determining priorities, staffing activities that advance your mission, examining operations, and dealing with aging facilities. That is why your input on SCOE, service for ALA, and involvement are so critical in these efforts. Your insights into operational effectiveness and experience in making difficult decisions contribute to our broad conversations about how we engage members to further our libraries.

Financial information is available on the ALA website on the Executive Board, Finance and Audit Committee, and BARC pages. Peter and I are working to make our financial information readily available and easier to understand, but please do not hesitate to contact me directly at any time if you need more information.

I am excited about the future of ALA because of members like you who are talented, creative, dedicated, and smart. Your involvement in streams of change will enable us to collectively build the Association that our profession so richly deserves.


From the Treasurer Susan H. Hildreth

A Tough Environment

Review and reinvention planned