At the 2020 ALA Midwinter Meeting, members received an update from ALA Executive Board on the financial standing of the association. You can read more about this update in the ALA Executive Board Document 12.39, “Budget Update – Financial Planning 2020 and beyond.” In brief, while ALA has substantial total assets, unplanned overspending has reduced its liquid assets to the point that it appears that Divisions’ net asset balances are being used to meet ALA’s operating needs.
The ACRL Board of Directors and Budget and Finance Committee discussed this situation with our liaison to the ALA Executive Board, ALA Treasurer Maggie Farrell, who signaled ALA’s financial challenges in her January 2 column in American Libraries. The ACRL Executive Director and Chair of the ACRL Budget and Finance Committee attended the ALA Treasurer/Division Fiscal Officers meeting to learn more. ACRL Board members also joined Midwinter Council budget discussions and updates from the Steering Committee on Organizational Committee and Effectiveness (SCOE), as well as a meeting of the ALA Planning and Budget Assembly, ALA Budget Analysis and Review Committee, and Division leadership.
As the PLA and ACRL Boards noted in our joint letter to the ALA Executive Board regarding Forward Together, ALA’s serious financial challenges demand strategic thinking, a willingness to make difficult decisions, and an ongoing commitment to transparency as modeled by SCOE. We understand and appreciate the work that ALA is doing to “right the ship” in the long term, by reviewing its governance and membership models, and spending strategically in areas that are expected to generate positive return. However, we also believe that Divisions need resources in order to provide members with meaningful engagement opportunities, both for their own professional development and as part of ALA’s long-term financial sustainability strategy.
We are working diligently on behalf of ACRL members to build our understanding of this situation as it develops. As a first step, we are writing to the ALA Executive Board to express our concerns and to request more information. We are committed to providing members with the high-quality programs and services for which ACRL is known, and to being good stewards of ACRL’s resources. We will update ACRL members regularly and hope to be able to answer more concerned members’ questions soon.