“Don’t We Have a Policy on That?” The Short History of the CALL Corporate Memory Committee

By Susan P. Siebers, Retired; Director of Library & Information Services, Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, 1979-2011 susan.siebers@gmail.com

For years, many CALL members were aware our Board didn’t have a method for easily accessing its policies once the Board membership changed. Those of us who were long-time members also realized some topics were discussed year after year without reference to what had been discussed or decided previously.

During a discussion of a proposed Bylaws amendment, I made a comment about how nice it would be to have all the Board’s current policies together and available to aid discussions. After further conversations with Frank Drake and Board members about how this could be accomplished, the Board in February, 2002, created the Corporate Memory Committee as a Special Committee to “create a dynamic list of policies and guidelines, culled from the Board minutes, and arrange them in an easily accessible format for the Board and members to refer to.”

I was asked to chair the initial committee. Frank Drake was also on the committee from the start. (Be careful what you suggest!) From the beginning, we saw the product of the committee to be a working document for the CALL Board and Committee Chairs, the Policy Log. This document would allow everyone to easily know what the policies are; not to freeze them in perpetuity, but to have them available for use and, where relevant, for discussion of possible changes.

The Committee’s original work was the most challenging. We obtained copies of Board minutes for the prior seven years, and read them thoroughly, looking for policies that had been established. The Committee in many cases had to ask the Board to clarify whether what was recorded was actually a policy. In some cases, we recommended that a policy ought to be clarified. We also established the format for recording entries, under topic headings, with each entry’s heading being the subject and date in the year/month format (for example: Corporate Memory 2005-03, which would identify a policy about Corporate Memory from March of 2005).

Members of the Committee were originally past presidents of CALL. This was later expanded to include former Board members. This has been most helpful to the committee’s work since we together represent many years’ span of Board experience.

The CALL Secretary has always been a working member of the Committee. The secretaries soon realized the importance of having the Board be clear about whether a discussion resulted in the establishment of a new policy. Secretaries have greatly sharpened the wording of Board actions in the minutes too; and in recent years, also list new policy decisions at the beginning of each meeting’s minutes. Having attended the current meetings, they often also helped the Committee understand the actions taken by the Boards.

As the Committee discussed and continues to discuss these minutes, we also suggest recommendations for updates to the CALL Handbook for Officers and Committee Chairs. That document has become a much more useful document over the years, and our need to indicate ongoing updates has declined as presidents are making notes in their current handbooks where changes will be needed.

After a couple years of operating as a Special Committee, the CALL Board asked the Committee to recommend whether it should become a standing committee. Since we saw the need for ongoing updates to the Policy Log, in May, 2005, the Board agreed with the Committee’s recommendation that it be made a standing committee.

Our work beyond the original establishment of the Policy Log has included frequent updates to add new policies to the Log. We also established a working table of contents, had the Policy Log added to the documents on the CALL website, and most recently, have been reviewing and streamlining the entire document. This has been most rewarding, as the document had become somewhat unwieldy. This continues to be our charge for the 2014-2015 year.