Toward the end of week nine of the fall semester, I was looking at cumulative gate count numbers at my library, and I noticed something: Student visits to the library that week (12,727) had surpassed the population (12,017 at the time) of my hometown of Terrace in northern British Columbia. A cool stat for me personally, for sure, but it made me feel optimistic about the number of visits to the library.
As the new calendar year begins, I am carrying that optimism forward. We are approximately one-third of the way through the American Library Association’s (ALA) fiscal year, which runs from September 1, 2022, to August 31. The most uncertain days of the pandemic seem to be behind us. Like many of our libraries and, indeed, many of us, the Association has been through a lot. A lot. With some sense of relief, and even excitement about times ahead, I bring you an overview of the current state of ALA finance.
The previous fiscal year had its bumps, most notably through the shift to holding the inaugural LibLearnX 2022 virtually. The year drew to a happier conclusion, however. Thousands of us came together for our annual conference in Washington, D.C. The decline in membership slowed, then reversed course somewhat. By the end of the year, ALA had made significant progress on paying down its loans. Throughout it all, the new chief financial officer, Dina Tsourdinis, and her team worked across the Association to close the fiscal year on a positive note; FY2022 was a terrific improvement compared with the two preceding years.
The most uncertain days of the pandemic seem to be behind us. Like many of our libraries and, indeed, many of us, the Association has been through a lot. A lot.
To what can we attribute FY2022’s fiscal strength? Credit the divisions for controlling expenses so well. And while round tables contribute far less net revenue to the Association, they collectively did great work in securing revenues while keeping expenses below budget. Contributed revenue, meanwhile, has grown markedly under the leadership of ALA Executive Director Tracie D. Hall.
The success we experienced in the last fiscal year sets up the current one auspiciously. When the Executive Board met in October 2022, it approved a final budget that is expected to result in a modest surplus. That alone is good news, but additionally, a welcome aspect of the final budget has been a 3% salary increase for ALA staff in the new year. This was greater than the 2% proposed in earlier iterations of the budget. Moreover, it reflects an appreciation for the hard work staff members continue to do and helps to compensate them for the furlough days the pandemic necessitated.
As encouraging as the previous and current fiscal years may be, the Association’s finances are not yet fully stabilized.
The five-year financial plan indicates that we will get there, but it will require the following achievements:
- LibLearnX gaining traction and becoming a viable event year after year
- growing revenue derived from streams that have been highlighted in the Pivot Plan, including continuing education
- continued work by the Development Office to secure contributions
Meanwhile, contributions from divisions, grants, Membership, and Publishing will need to stay strong and grow.
Let me conclude by recognizing the work of the ALA Finance and Accounting Office. Tsourdinis and her team have done exemplary work this past year in stabilizing ALA finances and working with member leaders to communicate the Association’s fiscal position. I’m grateful for the collaboration we enjoy.