I told some people I would write another blog post about what’s going on at SLA after the Open Board meeting (which should have been better attended). I write this as somebody who has been involved with the association and hopes to continue to be involved in SLA. It’s from a place of care and I don’t want to cause trouble for trouble sake, but if Harold Hill was here he’d say “Ya got trouble.” I also want to change, because let’s face it – we’re broken.
So let’s just be honest – SLA is in major trouble. The Recommendations Report was a response to the major financial pressure the association is facing. There is a projected $200k shortfall from this annual conference, and the association will probably need a bridge loan to get through the rest of the year. In short, we are broke and we are out of time. The proposal for SLA HQ to take money from the units isn’t really to bolster the SLA brand, it’s because SLA needs money to survive. It’s really grim.
That said, I still don’t like the idea of financially responsible units being forced to give money to the association to get out of this mess. I do agree that units need to get out of the mindset that sitting on reserves to be financially safe without offering a lot of programming isn’t great. I also think that the units together make SLA strong and that while some might talk about breaking off and going it alone, that isn’t really a feasible solution for a lot of the units.
What I could see happening is units helping to get SLA through this extremely painful transition, either by supporting HQ directly (which has been done before) or by decreasing/forgoing allotments for a year or two (it must be a fixed amount of time). Yes, for some of the units this will be very painful and catastrophic but the financial situation is a catastrophe. However, if units do step up in this way, I think they are certainly within their rights to demand transparency and accountability. How did we get to the precipice and how can we make sure to never be in this position again? Members have always had a stake in the association’s finances, but I think now many are realizing that we need to speak up and do something about it. We don’t have the luxury of time to make new committees and investigate – that’s been going on for the last few years – it’s the time for action. Big action and small action.
So members, I think you need to do it. Talk about it in your board meetings and come up with things you can do now. How we can help the association get through this very dark period. If we work together, I think SLA has a shot but the solutions can’t be retracing the past. In some ways I think us trying to go back to the 1990s, were we had more vendors giving us money and more members paying dues is very much like people in the 1930s trying to go back and live like it was the 20s before the stock market crash. We’re not in the gilded age anybody. I think everybody’s scared. Fuck, I’m scared but I also know that instead closing up shop and jumping ship I’d rather actually do something to move towards a new future. Hey newer members, especially those in the beginning of your careers, speak up! If you don’t like what’s offered, let change that. Let’s do something to make your place here. We’re going to have to change and I think it’s time for the next generations to push for it.
To quote two bands from the 90s, we need to “Create Action” to get through these “Troubled Times”. I’ll probably have more to write after the cabinet meetings tonight and in the coming weeks. If you want to get involved and make shit happen but don’t know where to start, email me. I want to work with anybody who wants to fix this mess.