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Council, ALA | The American Library Association Archives

Name: Council, ALA

Historical Note:

"The Council is the governing body of ALA. It delegates to the divisions of the Association authority to plan and carry out programs and activities in accord with the policy established by Council . . . [It] determines all policies of the Association and its decisions are binding unless set aside by a three-fourths vote at any meeting of the Association membership or a majority vote by mail . . ." (1)

Council was created in 1892 to be, according to Melvil Dewey, "a small body that can more easily and economically get together from time to time to discuss important questions, which can thus be more satisfactorily dealt with than in our large conferences . . ." (2) The twenty members of the Council had "very broad powers" in that "there could be no recommendation in regard to library policy of ALA with out the approval of the council, and no new section within ALA could be established unless the council approved." (3)

The contstitution adopted by ALA in 1900 gave Council power to adopt bylaws for ALA, act as a nominating committee, establish sections, "promulgate recommendations relating to library matters, and no resolutions except votes of thanks and on local arrangements shall be otherwise promulgated. Council could also establish relations with other societies on behalf of ALA. (4)  Nine years later, ALA revised its constitution to delete Council's power as a nominating committee. Its other responsibilities continued, and it could now also "nominate honorary members." (5)

By the end of 1957, restructuring "clearly designating the council as the policy-making body" of ALA was in place. The Executive Committee of ALA was to be elected by Council members from among their own number. (6) Council grew to include 212 members in 1972, when its number was reduced - partly because it had become too unwieldy to act with any effective speed. (7) In 1986-87, Council had 177 members: the president, president-elect, and executive secretary of ALA, the Executive Board, 100 at large members, 1 from each of the 11 divisions and one from each of the 51 chapters. (8) At this time, too, "Committees which are created by the Executive Board, Council, and the president are designated as ALA committees and committees of the Council." (9)




10-Membership Organization and Information


1. ALA Handbook of Organization, 1986-1987. (Chicago and London: American Library Association, 1986), p.6.

2. Melvil Dewey, "Remarks . . . Forwarded to the editor of the Proceedings too late for insertion," Library Journal 17 (September 1892): 386.

3. Dennis Thomison, A History of the ALA 1876-1972 (Chicago: ALA, 1978), p.37.

4. ALA Bulletin 2(July 1908): 56.

5. ALA Bulletin 3(July 1909): 55.

6. History of the ALA (1896-1972), p. 201.

7. Ibid., p. 245.

8. ALA Handbook, pp.6.8-9

9. Ibid., p.11.

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