By Diana Reese, ASCLA president and coordinator, institutional library development, Colorado State Library

The world is still round, but the shape of the association world is changing. After extensive feedback from the ASCLA membership in various venues over the last 18 months, our association may be taking on a new shape, too.

Members who participated in ASCLA leadership sessions at both the 2009 and 2010 ALA Midwinter Meetings spoke of a desire for less association bureaucracy and less focus on process, emphasizing instead products and results as the important role of the division. The concerns and needs expressed at these venues are very much in line with association trends nationally, whether the associations’ members are architects, teachers, doctors, food service workers or librarians. Specifically, these trends show that members prioritize an association’s “value proposition”– what they receive as a result of their association’s activities. They prefer project-based involvement over position-based involvement, and they want their work to be more with other members than with the structure of the association. Members are also increasingly comfortable with interacting and participating in a virtual environment, such as ALA Connect.

With this feedback and the additional needs particular to ASCLA in mind, the ASCLA Board directed the Planning & Budget Committee to develop a proposal outlining the new shape of ASCLA consistent with these expressed needs. Following lively virtual and in-person discussions about the proposed changes prior to and at the 2010 Annual Conference, the Board approved the proposal, with a few minor changes. A chart summarizing the proposed changes, as well as the full proposal with rationale, are available for viewing in ALA Connect. An ad hoc committee has been appointed to revise ASCLA bylaws in accordance with this plan; they will subsequently be put to a vote of the membership during the 2011 elections process. The committee is charged to communicate frequently with the membership and seek feedback at key points in the revision process. The committee will also provide additional rationale for specific changes and develop a plan for implementation and transition should the bylaws be approved by the membership.

A survey of the association world suggests that successful associations update their governance systems to maximize their members’ and staff’s talents and time. They operate with a nimble infrastructure, not an unwieldy bureaucracy. Acknowledging it is no longer enough to simply be relevant, these associations demonstrate the capacity to remain relevant and constantly evolve in step with their members’ changing world. ASCLA has been of exceptional value to me over the past 20 years. I am excited by the new possibilities the restructuring will afford ASCLA members and it is my fervent hope that the new shape of ASCLA will ensure its relevance and value for both today’s and tomorrow’s members.

I look forward to your comments as the bylaws revision committee work proceeds, and hope that you will stay in touch! You can contact me at