Friday, February 15, 2019

Background & Motions For Integration of Branches and Elections

With the whole of the Seed Library of Los Angeles and its future depending on us, let us all hold ourselves not to “who's right” but to “what's right.” Especially “what's right for the seeds.” This sentiment is expressed in our Mission Statement, which is read at the beginning of every Venice meeting (and we encourage reading at all meetings of SLOLA branches). It is hoped that all consider the preservation of these seeds as our first directive. It is the reason SLOLA was created in the first place.

This wide assortment of proposals could pass on a single vote, but I think we'll find that we have to consider it in parts. Initially I provide everyone with SLOLA's history, especially as it concerns elections and how we have worked in the past. I also explore other ideas that I would like us to put into place in order to better achieve the goals of our Mission Statement.

This paper is to provide details on the integration of our new branches and the delineation of the paths of communication and the responsibilities between branches. There are changes to SLOLA's bylaws and this paper presupposes the bylaws will be changed eventually to support these new circumstances. Such changes to the bylaws will be presented in a separate proposal later this year. It costs money to change our bylaws and so I suggest that when we have decided a number of different changes, we then move to amend our bylaws and handle them all at once.

SLOLA Venice
Venice is the home of the organization, housing the Board for SLOLA as a whole, yet we rely on, and honor, input from other groups of SLOLA members, which we are calling “branches.” The officers at Venice, comprising “The Board” of the Seed Library of Los Angeles are, as follows:

Vice chair
The bylaws also provides for the Immediate Past Chair to be a voting Board Member to provide continuity to the organization.

The elected officers and the Immediate Past Chair are the only board members that count toward quorum, except as we would amend below. Every motion can be debated by everyone. More input is more desirable than less .

Appointed – or, more usually, Volunteers
Seed Librarian
Best Practices Chair
Outreach Chair
Membership Chair
Branch Chair(s)
While these “appointed positions” are on the board, their lack of presence does not affect the quorum. They may vote on all propositions that are not fiduciary in essence (i.e. disbursing funds). Although, both chairs that SLOLA has had so far, have been open to hearing from these other board members and have allowed them to vote on all measures, including money matters, although strictly speaking, the bylaws require only the votes of those elected for money matters. It is assumed that these appointed positions are also for a two year span, but lack of qualified volunteers has kept people at these positions for years.

Proposed new officer: Library coordinator The concept of this position is keeping communication open between all the branches. For example, people in WSFV should know about special events at the other branches. Our current situation has made it painfully clear that counting on the chair to exclusively deal with the branch collectively can lead to burnout engulfing the chair in assorted distractions. As I write this, I am considering the appointee as Venice person, but any branch could supply the person.

The Library Coordinator would be an appointed position. They will attend meetings at all branches, help with inventory needs, and see that seeds are being saved according to SLOLA's Best Practices and that meetings act within and to the heart of the SLOLA Mission Statement. The concept is that this position provides guidance and suggestions as regards seeds, best practices and other details that can be helpful. This person would be in addition to the Branch Representatives, discussed next.

Each branch may determine what offices they need and may have more than the following list, but in no case less than:

Seed Librarian(s)
Representative to the SLOLA Board or the Branch Chair

The Representative from each branches will attend meetings on the 3rd Saturday of each month at the Venice branch. They will be voting members of the Board voting for the benefit of their membership, a point which will require a change in our bylaws. This person will need to be elected as they should be able to vote on fiduciary matters. Furthermore, this person must appoint a second for themselves (or the branch could make it another elected position), in order that illness or other dispensations that prevent the Representative from attending the regular meeting, there is a designated person to represent that constituency. Because this would then be the only person to carry the branch's needs to the whole board, this back up person will be given the right to vote when the elected person is unavailable and only at those times. This would be another change to our bylaws.

These other branches may also have their own board of directors but how individual branches structure their own operation is not germane to this document. It is clear that a document is needed that should lay out some parameters to make this as transparent as possible.
Branches shall meet once per month, excepting December when Branches have the opportunity to be “dark” for the month. Note: the bylaws call for elections to be held in December, but since the Venice SLOLA does not meet in December, we will have to change something about that in the very near future. I suggest we make January or February in the odd years our election event. This will need to also be a part of our bylaw changes.

SLOLA Venice will elect their officers as soon as we can fix a date and the vote will be decided by whoever shows up – it was felt then, and I think there is merit to it, that those who show up are the ones interested in the affairs of SLOLA and therefore are the ones entitled to vote. I will move that we make this our voting method.

Because there have been a number of people who have joined and were not given a chance to sign the Safe Seed Pledge at that time, a dilemma has been created because the very definition in our bylaws of a “member” includes such a requirement, we can be solve this by every person who is allowed to vote is afforded the opportunity to sign the safe seed pledge. Because this document contains the very essence of our jobs as seed savers, please ask folks to actually read the document rather than just glance at it.

Branches will have seeds on hand to be checked out, at the minimum, on the days of the meetings – and are encouraged to find ways of having additional checkouts on a regular basis.

In addition, a special Seed Librarian School is envisioned to fulfill the need of qualified librarians so they
A. Know the system we use and make inventory inquiries and can check in seeds
B. Understand the life cycles of our various plant families and be able to advise on selections for beginners
C. Keep accurate and precise information
D. Order seeds as needed and appropriately

Librarians are urged to consult with other librarians and experienced gardeners and seed savers in choosing the seeds they put in their libraries.

It is anticipated that different branches will assist other libraries and we will all work together as best as we can.

Seed Inventories and Librarians
(I will lay out a curriculum for seed librarians in another document to follow.) Each branch will have their own seed inventory. This needs to be implemented as soon as possible. Without separate seeds, we are not fulfilling our mission. Each branch should be developing their own inventory of seeds for their area. SLOLA funds should go toward purchasing seeds for each branch. Seeds to be in our inventories should be prioritized along these lines:
A. Locally grown seed
B. Seeds with a personal or familial story or connection
C. Seeds experienced growers in the area suggest as good OP varieties
D. Seeds from the Ark of Taste listing by Slow Food USA
E. Free seeds

Those seeds we are saving from the top three categories above, should never be allowed to run completely out because they might be in limited supply, they even might be the very last of that variety. If seeds in short supply are given out, they must be given only to people who understand the importance of these seeds who have a track record and will bring back more than they are given. Even then, back ups should be kept.

Seed librarians are encouraged to meet with other librarians and discuss sources for seeds and solve inventory etc problems with input from experienced members. We would like some uniformity in terms of labeling and classifying seeds in a comprehensive manner (and there are problems that will need to be solved) , but each library should have an amount of money to spend on an initial order. I am suggesting $100 to 150, but this amount is arbitrary. Do note, that in the execution of your duties as an officer of SLOLA, you are entitled to be reimbursed up to $50 on SLOLA related expenditures. This would be a good way to keep your library stocked. It is important that you have seeds to give away, although we know that's not the real reason we are here! Librarians are encouraged to find free seeds from retailers or wholesalers. Free seeds must not make up a large percent of your inventory though. Those seeds were made available to you because they didn't sell and are not the best kind of seeds to try to create a sustainable seed library with. By our third year into the library, the prospect of thousands of rejected seeds filled me with dread and I am proud to say that a large percentage of our seeds are from returns or are seeds we have purchased. When we purchase seeds vs. free seeds, we get to stock what we think will do best here and that is much more in alignment with our mission statement.

Please note, at this time it is probably best if we give out some difficult to save seeds without an expectation that we will get viable seed back. At this time, Best Practices at Venice has decided to not expect seed returns from any Brassica or corn as both are extremely difficult to save even for experienced seed savers. Libraries are encouraged to communicate growing successes and problems with other branches.

Finally, in all of this, I see so much more cooperation needs to happen between branches especially between chairs and librarians.

I am not going to make the suggestion now that we have one or two meetings per year that take place at one branch at a time, where we can gather as a whole to “show off” our branch and make new SLOLA friends. But that time will have to come after our feet are on the ground.

Submitted 16 February, 2019,
David King, Founding Chair
Motions that are included in this paper include:

  1. I ask it to be moved and voted: Elections will be held at once and established to be held in January of odd numbered years – each satellite branch will have an elected Representative to the SLOLA Board in Venice and a chair. (This person can also be the chair of the chapter or it may be two different people. Elected officials in any SLOLA branch will serve for two years and can be elected for two terms of two years. The seed librarian is appointed by this person.)
  2. I ask it to be moved and voted: That no one is allowed to vote in our general elections without signing the Safe Seed Pledge document as written on our official membership application.
  3. I ask it to be moved and voted: Each branch to elect their own “chair” person though we do not care what it is called as long as it is printable. Each SLOLA branch other than Venice, will designate one person to be their representative of that group, allowing that authority can be transferred to another individual if necessary, to insure that branch will be represented. While more than one person may be designated to be the representative, only one can vote for each branch.
  4. I ask it to be moved and voted: The current SLOLA elections going forward are held in our tradition, as follows – SLOLA Venice will elect the Chair for Venice and all other officers as Venice has had in the past.
  5. I ask it to be moved and voted: Each individual SLOLA group will elect their office holders, in conjunction with Venice's election schedule - the format and composition is up to that branch, we suggest at minimum a Chair who also serves as the representative to the Venice Board.
  6. I ask it to be moved and voted: SLOLA Venice creates an ambassador position that will coordinate between all the branches to be appointed by the Venice Chair.
  7. I ask it to be moved and voted: Each branch will have it's own inventory – though branches may trade seeds between branches and and they use the SLOLA inventory system.
  8. I ask it to be moved and voted: Branches without an inventory should draw a request up and submit it as an expense which SLOLA will pay for (the initial inventory should cost somewhere in the $100 and $150 range – this vote should include the figure agreed upon at the meeting this comes up for approval).
  9. I ask it to be moved and voted: Librarians stocking inventory do diligent work in finding local seed companies and companies that are wholly organic. It is preferred to use companies that do not sell F1 hybrids which should never be in our inventories. It is further suggested that librarians look for OSSI certified seeds (Open Sourced Seed Initiative). I will offer a list of such companies in short order.
  10. I ask it to be moved and voted: That each officer of every branch has the phone numbers and email addresses of every other office in every SLOLA branch to facilitate more cooperation and communication.

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