Will We Stand Together?

Abby (the) Librarian has a thoughtful post up about the change YALSA (ALA's Young Adult Library Services Section) has made in making more of their web content available to members and asking non-members to fill out an information form before accessing.  Is it a bother? Well, yeah.  Is it necessary? I'm thinking yes.

As Abby explains, "Maybe some people who use these lists have never stopped to think 'Hmm... It costs money to facilitate the creation of these lists. I would like to help support them.' Maybe some people who use these lists have never even stopped to think about what YALSA really is and what it does. Getting an email address from people who use the lists could feasibly be a way to target non-members who might be interested in joining YALSA".

I always lean more towards making as much info available as possible to show non-members that THIS is the place to make magic in youth services. But professional library associations are just as much a victim of the economic downturn for shared tax-payer supported services as our libraries are. Travel and training budgets have been slashed; staff reduced and we are fighting for hours and money to run our libraries amidst angst about how vital libraries are in our inter-connected, ebook-tipping culture.

We can keep the information access open to booklist/award/info webpages at ALA and at our state association level by one very simple solution. Join. Join now. Keep renewing. Keep working for all libraries by staying active and committing time (even non-work time) to ensuring the success and continuation of national and state associations.

I know money is tight.  I live in Wisconsin, after all, where almost all public sector workers - union and non-union - took a 10-12% pay cut this year (unless you were a political appointee, in which case the wage for the position was increased). But because I live in Wisconsin it has come heart-stoppingly home to me that if we do not stand together, we will march into reduced services and oblivion alone.

Our professional associations work to stand up for libraries politically by lobbying for affordable bandwidth, intellectual freedom, access to information and so much more. They pull us together to create lists, awards and work that highlight the best of library service and work to get out ahead of trends and then share that knowledge with library staff in all types and sizes of libraries.  Alone, individually in our libraries, we simply would not have as strong a voice.

I know it's expensive to join and then volunteer your time to work hard.  But the rewards are many - a great network of colleagues; a never-ending fountain of support and ideas and a chance to make a difference - a real difference - in how library service is delivered around the state and country.  There are also more subtle things that happen - leadership chops; learning to work in a truly collaborative way and the excitement of conference attendance.

I spent a huge chunk of my career saving to pay my own way because I felt it was important that folks like me from smaller libraries should have a strong voice in their associations. I created a savings account and skipped extras so I could make it to national conferences where we jammed in 4-5 to a hotel room; ate instant noodle soup for days on end and endlessly shuttled from hotel meeting to hotel meeting. And yes, I had debt and made the same crappy librarian salary that the rest of us do.  Now that I am in a new position where I negotiated support for conference attendance, I still have that savings account and make sure I attend Legislative days and other conferences where I can stand up for libraries and youth.

It's a matter of priorities and whether we think we are stronger on our own than together. Really.


  1. Marge, I completely agree with you! And you pointed out something I hadn't even thought about: if YALSA goes under because they don't have enough membership to support the organization, access to book lists and resources immediately goes to ZERO because there won't be any! YALSA may not be in grave danger this very moment, but if membership keeps going down, that could be a reality at some point.

  2. I am hearing more people decline to join professional organizations when their institution won't support it and I have real worry sometimes. I'm on the board of our state association now and we are seeing the same thing. People have to think outside themselves towards the greater good - a '60s-'70s concept I'm beginning to fear - and I am hoping we can.

  3. So in fairness, membership in these organizations is insanely expensive. In order to join ALA and the various sections I'm interested in, I'd have to pay $310 a year. Luckily I am both a full-time librarian and a full-time student, so I get the discounted rate. Once I'm no longer eligible for the student rate, I just won't be able to afford it. (This is especially frustrating when I get much more out of the sections than I do from ALA - I don't see much point in being an ALA member without also having access to - for example - YALSA.)

    At least my state association offers tiered rates depending on your salary. It seems unfair that I pay the same rate as a director who makes six figures when I make like $14 an hour - especially because that director is way more likely to have support to attend conferences, etc., and therefore get more out of their membership. ALA should offer tiered membership rates, or at least increase the salary limit for "non-salaried" membership.

    1. Yep, it IS expensive and I don't argue that. It's easy to think we don't get anything out of ALA except from the interest divisions that we belong to. The divisions and sections are smaller, nimbler and able to respond to exactly what members need. However, big ALA (as we like to refer to it) plans and supports the conferences, supports the Washington office and all association-wide committees like Intellectual Freedom and Legislation (of which the division versions are but pale imitations ;->) that push our library agendas forward and speak forcefully for us.

      ALA is looking at a tiered system but who knows? I still know that we are stronger with our professional associations than without and I am willing to join to make sure we have a strong voice for libraries.

  4. It's expensive to join and keep up memebership, especially when there are many divisions I'm involved in (YALSA, ALSC, PLA) but I find it to be so worth it! I get so much out of ALA-and not just by attending the conferences. I use the website all the time and use the ALSC blog and YALSA listserv and blogs as well as the division journals. The networking and ideas and support I get from ALA is worth the cost of membership.