Sunday, July 6, 2014
The Problem with the American Library Association
The first day of the ALA 2014 annual conference in lovely (sarcasm) Las Vegas showed to us a serious flaw in the ALA system. Fine, it showed us one particular flaw in the ALA system. This problem is cost. If you are a librarian working in the field, it cost $100 to join ALA. It then costs an additional $50 per umbrella organization you may want to join.
If you are a member of ALA, it then cost you $235 for a full registration to the annual conference assuming you get in during the Early Bird Special. It will then cost additional money if you want to go to the pre-conference or any special events being held. For a non-member who isn't a student it will cost $325 for a full registration (with the early bird special). Is it any wonder that some of us buy a $35 Exhibits Only pass?
ALA use to offer a $75 Exhibits Supreme pass that got you into the exhibit hall, the President's Program speakers, and the Auditorium Speaker Series. That is no longer an option. You can either get a full registration or an Exhibits Only, and this year, the Exhibits Only pass did not get you in Friday night, just Saturday-Monday.
Now, if you work for a large public library, or an academic institution, this all possibly doesn't matter to you because your library is going to pay your way. They pay for your ALA membership, your conference registration, maybe even your flight, your hotel, food costs and everything! That is pretty sweet if your library does that. But if you work for a small public library without a lot of funding or a school library it is highly unlikely anyone is paying your way. That means all those costs to be part of your overseeing organization are coming out of your pocket.
ALA is always saying how much they want young people to get more involved. Maybe we would. If we could afford it. You know who had the Exhibit Only badges at the conference this year? Young people. People in their 20s and 30s. The ones in their first or second jobs, with thousands of dollars of student loan debt, working their way up the library ladder. Sorry ALA, but it's really hard to participate in your organization when you don't give us options. You know what a lot of young people don't have? Hundreds of dollars to spend on conferences. You know what we'd like to do? Get professional development like everyone else in our field.
I met some other youngish librarians who both worked in academic institutions who were lucky enough to be sent by their libraries. They were horrified that my fellow school librarians and I were paying our own way.
This is what I want - options. I want ALA to provide options for joining their organization. I want there not just to be a student discount option, but also discounts depending on what kind of institution you are working for and what your budget is. I want there to be options when registering for a conference. I understand that people who pay more should get more at the conference, but if that's the case, give me an option between $35 and $235. Help us out. We want to go. We really do. And we don't just want to go to the exhibit hall and get free books (as awesome as that is). We want to go to speakers and panels and discussions and learn things and share ideas. Help us out!
And wake up. This all makes you seem terribly out of touch.
And hire a professional to redo the website. It's embarrassing.