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Oregon Library Association vote to leave Pacific NW Library Assn

The Pacific Northwest Library Association, covering two provinces and four states in the Northwest, is one of the few cross-border library associations. We just celebrated our centennial in August 2009 in Missoula, Montana, with 200 attendees from our membership and affiliated associations in British Columbia, Alberta, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and Alaska.

In October 2009 we learned that the Oregon Library Association voted to dissolve its ties with our group. This was quite a shock to us as we are a strong organization, with a well regarded leadership institute, children's book award, and annual conference. Our financials are in excellent shape and we are on track to last at least another hundred years.

We had spent the spring and summer of 2009 engaged in strategic planning to best chart the course for our future and apparently information got miscommunicated to OLA, as their departure letter to us said they were worried about our financial status and continued existence, and in any case they could no longer continue to afford to affiliate with us. They stated their costs to affiliate as approximately $5000 annually, which came as a surprise to us.

I have asked the other member states and provinces to estimate their annual costs to affiliate over the past five to ten years, and the amounts are in the vicinity of $2500 at the very most. This includes support for at least one professional from their state or province to attend our leadership institute, and support for a representative from their state or province to attend our biannual board meetings and yearly conference. We pick up the costs for representatives at one board meeting and subsidize the leadership institute for attendees and also mentors selected from each state and province. Costs for the children's book award are also covered by us.

We are happy to work with states or provinces who have difficulties with this financial commitment. Recently British Columbia decided they could no longer afford to send their representative to our board meetings, so we have successfully used Skype to connect her with us. We have, over the past two years, also given back to our provincial and state associations' conferences with a $500 sponsorship for a session or event for each conference.

Recently we learned that OLA will have to hold a membership vote in March to officially cut their ties with us. It is our concern that their membership is not well informed about OLA's decision to leave PNLA--both in the sense that the reasons given were not accurate and that the membership in general was not fully informed about OLA's departure. We in PNLA have decided to reach out to the library media to share the information we have regarding OLA's decision to cut ties, and to assure the Oregon library community that we want to continue our relationship, dating back to the inception of PNLA 100 years ago. We would like to urge the library workers of Oregon and the members of OLA to vote no on the decision to end ties with PNLA but instead explore ways of working through OLA's tough financial times.

For more information please see: OLA's letter to PNLA PNLA's response

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