State of the Association Report
State of the Association Report
by Sue Nissen, President
April 28, 1995
The Long Range Plan approved by the Board of Directors in 1994 requires the President to prepare a "State of the Association" report to be presented orally at a general session of the annual conference and published in Montana Library Focus. The purpose of the report is to identify membership issues and concerns that were addressed during the year and goals and/or objectives that were accomplished.
I would assert that the "state" in which we find our association on April 28, 1995, is a state of transition. As a result of the actions we have taken during the past year to implement the recommendations of the Long Range Plan, almost every function and activity of the association is undergoing some sort of change.
In relation to the Long Range Plan, the following objectives have been achieved in the last twelve months:
At the November board meeting, attorney Mike Lahr gave a presentation on the legal responsibilities of the board of directors. At the Billings conference, the board and other association leaders participated in a session entitled "How to Become an Effective Association Leader." Participants learned about the history of MLA, its mission and goals, the importance of professional involvement, and the organization and structure of MLA. They also discussed strategies and activities that can be employed to help MLA meets its goals in the future.
- The smaller and newly restructured Board of Directors worked hard this year, meeting in August, November, January, and two times at the Billings conference. A new position of Secretary-Treasurer was added to the board. An Executive Committee of the board, consisting of the president, vice-president, and secretary-sreasurer conferred often – in person and by teleconference – to conduct necessary business between board meetings.
- A Budget Committee was established this year. The Executive Committee serves as the Budget Committee, with the secretary-treasurer as chair. The Budget Committee prepared the 1994-95 budget last summer based on funds available, requests from constituent groups, and the goals of the association. During the year, the methods of financial reporting have been revised with an emphasis on clarity and brevity. The Budget Committee has monitored expenses and revenues throughout the year and a financial report has been presented at each board meeting. Periodic financial summaries were published in Montana Library Focus. The Budget Committee has also worked on responding to its own recommendations to the board on long term financial planning, accounting and expense claim procedures, and clarification of the association's tax exempt status.
- The nominations process has been revised. The practice of restricting nominees for Vice-President/President-Elect to particular divisions on a rotating basis has been abandoned. The Nominating Committee is charged with seeking the best possible candidates – without restrictions – when drawing up a slate for election while keeping in mind the goal of seeking to have officers elected from all constituent groups within the Association.
- We have begun to develop a formal process by which members can put their own name or the name of a member in nomination for elected office. As you did last year, when you receive your election ballot in the mail this year, you will also find a form to be used to submit suggestions for potential candidates.
- The schedule of elections has been changed so that, as happened at this conference, candidates are introduced at the conference, allowing members to visit with the candidates and discuss issues of concern with them. This year, and in following years, members will receive election ballots in the mail immediately following the conference.
- A Council of the Montana Library Association has been created. The council is made up of all board members plus the chairs or representatives of the constituent parts of MLA. This year, council members have received copies of board meeting agendas and minutes. The council had the opportunity to meet twice during the Billings conference to provide input on issues of concern to the Association. They were invited to attend a leadership session on Wednesday evening and to assist in identifying issues to be discussed at the Thursday afternoon "Library Issues Forum."
- The Long Range Plan recommended that leadership training should be provided to board members and other leaders of the Association. Last August, the board of directors met in a retreat atmosphere at the Upcountry Inn outside of Helena. At this meeting, the members of the board focused on working together as a team, discussed leadership skills, board responsibilities, and issues of concern to the association. They also brain stormed about goals and objectives for the coming year.
Because I personally believe that leadership development is critical to the effective operation of MLA, this year I appointed a President's Task Force on Leadership Development whose charge was to develop suggestions for a leadership development program for MLA. Unfortunately, this task force got short circuited along the way, but it did make several recommendations which will be considered for implementation.
- The former position of Financial Secretary was expanded to the position of Administrative Assistant, a paid employee of MLA. A job description was written and John Thomas was hired to fill this position last summer. John is responsible for providing administrative, financial, membership, and conference services to the Association. The Administrative Assistant has a written employment contract with MLA. His performance will be evaluated annually by the Executive Committee. From my perspective as President, John is providing excellent service to the Association. During the past year, his assistance has been vital to the work of the Executive Committee and the board of directors. The value of this position and the role it can play in providing continuity to Association operations will continue to grow with each passing year.
- The Long Range Plan established that the division structure of MLA should be maintained, based on type of library. To this end, the Trustees and Friends Division merged into the Public Library Division to form a single and, it is hoped, a stronger division devoted to the interests and concerns of public libraries. The Public Library Division has worked this year on amending its bylaws to reflect the addition of trustees and friends to the Division. In addition, the Academic and Special Libraries Division sponsored a successful retreat and the School Library Media Division sponsored workshops and a lunch for school librarians at the Montana Education Association conference.
- I believe that the committee structure is vital to the effective operation of the Association and, therefore, I agree with the Long Range Plan recommendation that the president should be responsible for the work of the association's committees. This year, I endeavored to appoint committee members who represented many different constituent groups and geographical areas of the state. I presented each committee with a charge that included recommended activities with time lines for their accomplishment. The board of directors approved both the committee appointments and the committee charges. I also urged each committee chair to involve all committee members as much as possible in the work of the committee. Reports from the committees indicate that they accomplished many worthwhile objectives this year.
- A Conference Planning Committee was established, which replaced -- in part -- the former Continuing Education Committee. The Conference Planning Committee is responsible for planning workshops, programs and activities for the annual conference. The president, vice-president, and Local Arrangements chair(s) are ex officio members of this committee for communication purposes. The Administrative Assistant also plays a key support role in conference planning and has taken on the responsibility for coordinating the exhibits.
- The Long Range Plan asserted that the purpose and importance of the Intellectual Freedom Committee should be reaffirmed. In my charge to this committee, I asked that they consider whether MLA should officially adopt the intellectual freedom statements/documents of the American Library Association and/or whether MLA should adopt its own statement of intellectual freedom principles. In response, the Intellectual Freedom Committee has prepared, and the Board of Directors has adopted, an articulate one page document entitled "An Affirmation of the Right to Information."
In addition, the Intellectual Freedom Committee published an intellectual freedom newsletter, developed two presentations for the annual conference, is working on a prototype for an Intellectual Freedom Handbook, is developing a traveling exhibit for Banned Books Week, and selected three legislators to receive the 1995 Association's Intellectual Freedom Award.
- A Professional Development Committee was established to replace in part the former Continuing Education Committee. The committee has the overall responsibility to enhance the scope, quality, and availability of the Association's continuing education offerings and other professional development activities. This year, the committee reviewed and revised the grants awarded by MLA. The association will award 15 grants of $100 each to members attending the annual conference this year; 5 of these grants were designated for new members of MLA. The association also budgeted $1500 for professional development grants available to members who want to attend national or regional professional development events.
The committee decided to begin work on developing a program to assist members in developing an individual professional development plan. The committee will identify and develop opportunities for professional development and will explore the possibility of a mentoring program and the sharing of professional library resources. The committee also began to review methods and procedures for assuring high quality workshops at annual conference and other association continuing education events.
- This year, the former Legislative Committee was re-named the Government Affairs Committee and was given expanded responsibilities, particularly for training and advising members on lobbying and political action in the broadest sense, that is, not only in the state legislature but in whatever governance and funding arenas many different types of libraries operate. This year, the Government Affairs Committee prepared, and provided supplemental information to support, MLA's 1997 legislative agenda, planned and implemented a very successful Montana Library Association Legislative Day, began to develop a statewide network of library advocates, submitted a proposal for a library advocacy workshop at the annual conference, and assisted in implementing and coordinating MLA's 1997 legislative program.
- For a variety of reasons, and partially as a result of the recommendations of a 1993-94 Task Force on Lobbying, the board of directors decided in the spring of 1994 that MLA should engage its own lobbyist rather than continue to lobby in coalition with other groups who make up the Montana Cultural Advocacy. On August 1, 1994, the Association retained the services of Mike Lahr of the firm of Crowley, Haughey, Hanson, Toole & Dietrich to provide legal and lobbying services.
This has resulted in a major change in the way MLA conducts its lobbying. As you know, there was, as well, a major change in the make up of the state legislature in 1995, with the Republicans taking control for the first time in many years. These changes, along with the introduction of some unexpected legislation relating to public library federations, required a great deal of time and attention on the part of the president, the board of directors, the Government Affairs Committee, the State Librarian, our lobbyist, and the many members who testified at hearings, contacted their legislators, and otherwise supported MLA's legislative effort. This was not an easy session; however, the association's major legislative goal was achieved – increased funding for interlibrary loan reimbursement was included in the State Library's budget. More details on library legislation are set forth in the Government Affairs Committee report.
- One of the goals adopted by the association as a result of the long range planning process is to "enhance the stature of Montana libraries and librarians." The goal statement suggests that a strong public relations program is one way to work toward this goal. Since it is also my personal opinion that more and better promotion of the importance of library service is needed in our state, this year I appointed a President's Task Force on Public Relations and Marketing. The task force has recommended that MLA establish a permanent committee on public relations and marketing and has included in its report a list of suggested activities that should be assumed by this committee.
In addition to the tasks required to implement the recommendations of the Long Range Plan, there were a number of other activities going on this year.
- The Awards and Honors Committee selected recipients of eleven MLA awards for 1995 and coordinated the awards luncheon at the annual conference. The committee has also worked on updating and clarifying the procedures and criteria for the awards given by the association. This year the board approved a new award to be given to media productions. The first recipients were Billings Parmly Library for its comprehensive media campaign and Missoula Public Library for a single production on the freedom to read.
- The Bylaws Committee reviewed the bylaws and made recommendations for amendments to bring them into line with actual practice. The committee also prepared a guide to amending bylaws to be included in the Manual of Procedure.
- The Membership/Publicity Committee planned another successful membership dinner for this year's annual conference. The committee also reviewed the organization, structure, and responsibilities of the committee and made recommendations to the board of directors to enhance the association's membership activities and to improve the effectiveness of MLA's interest groups. The committee concurred with the recommendation of the Task Force on Public Relations and Marketing that responsibility for public relations should reside with a separate committee.
- The Cates Scholarship Committee, to which members were appointed for the first time this year, planned the Bingo Bonanza held at this year's conference to raise money for the scholarship fund. They developed a selection procedure for the scholarship, including the application form, time lines, criteria, and an evaluation scheme for rating applicants.
The current balance in the Cates Scholarship fund is almost $6,500. I am pleased to report that the first recipient of a Sheila Cates Scholarship is Gail Wilkerson, librarian at the Veteran's Administration Medical Center in Miles City, who was presented with a $500 scholarship at this year's conference.
- The Board approved policies and procedures for the Association's newsletter, Montana Library Focus. The Board also decided to establish a Publications Committee to advise the Board and the newsletter editor(s) on editorial policy and to assist in communicating this policy to the membership.
- Developing and maintaining relationships with regional and national library associations remains an important objective for MLA. The association continued to send representatives to the Pacific Northwest Library Association and the Mountain Plains Library Association. Shortly after the beginning of the fiscal year, the ALA Chapter Councilor resigned. The Executive Committee appointed Dave Pauli to fill the remainder of the term.
With all this activity taking place during the past year, it is no wonder that, at times, I have felt more like a ringmaster than a president! The theme I chose for the year was "Library Advocacy: Community, Commitment, Connection." Many of MLA's accomplishments during the past year reflect this theme. I believe that advocating for libraries is at the core of our association's existence. MLA accomplishes as much as it does because of the commitment of many volunteers who come from all over the state and from all types of libraries. These individuals form a community that is the Montana Library Association. We make the commitment simply because we believe that what we are doing will enhance Montana's libraries and, therefore, the ability of her citizens to access information and ideas. Keep up the good work!
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Web version of Montana Library Focus prepared by Greg Notess. Last updated, 6/19/95. Copyright © 1995, Montana Library Association.