I’ve written some posts critical of ALA in the past and have had a number of people encourage me to get involved so that I can try to make a constructive difference (instead of just complaining). So, when I was asked to be on two committees whose missions I felt strongly allied with, I said yes to both of them. I’m definitely not afraid of work (Five Weeks to a Social Library swallowed my life for far more than just five weeks), so I figured I could definitely handle any work I was asked to do.
What I didn’t know much about was the price of participation. I knew that I would need to go to Midwinter to make all this work, and I was fully willing to do so. This year, Midwinter is in Philadelphia, which is only a 1-hour plane ride from Vermont (a direct flight even!). I was willing to spend the money to make this happen… within reason of course.
My library director asked me to spend less time away from work this year at conferences and whatnot (and participation in ALA isn’t exactly encouraged at my place of work), so there was no way I could spend an entire week away from work. I figured I would only go for the couple of days that I would need to be there for my committee meetings (and I crossed my fingers that the meetings would be on consecutive days — or even on the same day).
When the hotels opened up for registration, I thought, ok, soon I’m going to hear about the dates and times of the meetings, since they must announce these things before the hotels book up. When I looked at the hotels in October, they were completely booked, but I did see several non-conference hotels that were a tolerable cab ride away and weren’t booked up. While I could book the hotel in advance, since hotel reservations can be canceled without losing any money, I couldn’t book my plane tickets until I heard about when the meetings were scheduled. So I waited. And waited.
On Friday, I heard about the date and time of the meeting for one of the committees I volunteered to serve on. The other, I have no idea about. Fortunately, the one I did know the date for was on the same day as the Top Tech Trends panel (and not at the same time. Score!). I still hadn’t heard about the date and time the other committee would be meeting, but since it was nearly mid-November already and I fly out of a pretty small airport, I figured I should just book my tickets and hope that things would work out. So, this weekend, I went on the web and looked for a flight that would get me in early on Saturday morning and get me home on Monday. That way I would have Saturday, Sunday and early in the day on Monday at Midwinter.
When I looked on Kayak, Orbitz and Expedia, I was horrified. The flight to Philadelphia, which is usually under $200, is $475 for those dates. I checked the other closest airport, more than 2 hours away, and found that it was even more expensive to get to Philadelphia from there. Well, I guess I could choose the $260 flight that flew from Burlington to LaGuardia, from LaGuardia to Pittsburgh and from Pittsburgh to Philly, but I’m not a masochist and dealing with connecting flights in January is a gamble to be avoided at all costs. I suppose I could also have taken the train from Vermont, which leaves once a day from Montpelier, but that is a 12 hour ride each way (from 9am to 9pm) so I would end up losing two full days traveling (which means more time away from work). Plus, I hate trains and the thought of spending 24 hours alone on one really doesn’t sound like a lot of fun.
So basically, my options are, spend $475 on the plane, $400 on a hotel, $160 for registration and more on cabs and meals to go to a few meetings; save $300 but spend two days on a train; or not go (yes, I’m sure there are other options that involve hostel stays and hitchhiking, but honestly, I’m just not willing to be that miserable to get to Midwinter). Adam is supportive of my career, but I would feel like a jerk spending that much money.
Yeah, honey, I know we said we can’t afford to buy you a new car (though you’ve had yours for 12 years), but how about I spend over $1,000 to go to ALA Midwinter for a day and a half?
It makes me wonder how other people swing this. Do their places of work fund most of it? (My place of work does offer funding, but it gets eaten up by one national conference per year and one local one and I already did Annual.) What does that mean for those whose jobs don’t fund it? You have the choice of either spending your hard-earned money on ALA conferences or you can’t participate. This means that the people more likely to participate are the people from libraries that support participation (both in time off and money), which consequently means that there is little place in ALA’s hierarchy from people from “have not” libraries who aren’t willing to shell out the money themselves. And do we as librarians really make enough money to spend several thousand dollars per year to participate in ALA? I could conceivably spend 10% of my salary on ALA membership and participation in a year. It’s like the Catholic Church.
Perhaps this means I’ll be kicked out of everything because I can’t fulfill my duties as a committee member (honestly, I have no idea what the rules are since, when I looked for the ACRL committee I’m on on the ACRL website, I couldn’t find it). The irony is that I really do want to help and would put in any amount of sweat to do a great job for the people heading these committees. What I don’t understand is why virtual participation isn’t encouraged. There are so many enthusiastic people out there who would love to make ALA better, but just can’t afford to attend the meetings. On most committees, it’s still an ALL or NOTHING deal (virtual participation seems to be rarely allowed, even in a committee charged to develop a virtual conference). Sure, each of these committees has a listserv attached to it, but there isn’t much activity on it (save a few voices), so it’s clear to me that most stuff gets done at Midwinter and Annual, with the listserv being a space to share notes and plan face-to-face meetings.
It makes me think back to the planning of Five Weeks to a Social Library. There were six of us, from all over the U.S and Canada, planning this big online extravaganza with absolutely no experience. We didn’t have the luxury to meet in person before the course; in fact, we barely had time for the three IM meetings we conducted between August and February. Almost all of our planning took place via e-mail, on a wiki and in Google Docs and Spreadsheets. I think if you have people who are accustomed to collaborating and communicating online, it’s very easy to get them to plan things online. Some people are just so used to having to have a meeting to discuss things that they can’t imagine doing it any other way. And I think that’s the problem. If you have people who are totally cool with online participation and others who are totally against it, you end up with a split committee where one half is GTD-ing online and the other gets everything done when they meet in person. Both end up missing a lot of what’s going on.
We live in an age now where it is very easy to collaborate online. Between blogs, wikis, instant messaging, VoIP, and web conferencing software, we can plan almost anything in the online medium. At the same time, air travel has become very unpleasant, inconvenient and expensive. Furthermore, most librarians do not get funding to attend conferences. Imagine if most committees had all of their meetings online. It would open up participation to all these people whose only barrier to participation is money; people who may never have attended an ALA conference in their career. When we put out a request for proposals for people to create content for Five Weeks to a Social Library, I was blown away by the over 30 people who quickly volunteered their time and effort to educate others. Lots of people want to do good for the profession; they just don’t want to go broke doing it.
Were virtual participation in committees the norm, why would we need Midwinter? If all the “business of ALA” were virtual, Midwinter would largely lose its reason to exist. And that’s a big revenue stream for ALA. I wonder if this is a big part of ALA’s reluctance to allow virtual participation. My friend Jason Griffey wrote a terrific post the other day suggesting some alternatives to the current revenue streams and discussing what a great success the LITA BIGWIG Social Software Showcase was as a new model for participation/engagement itself. It’s a not-to-be-missed post from someone who is working from within to shake up ALA.
Maybe it’s my generation. Most of us don’t buy into the “ask not what ALA can do for you, ask what you can do for ALA” line. We want to understand what’s in it for us, especially in an age where we don’t need conferences and committees to network with other librarians nationally. 20 years ago, there weren’t many alternative ways to serve the profession and network. This has changed. For me, I want to be a part of ALA because I want to do good for the profession, not because I think it will help my career much. If I don’t feel like the work I’m doing is directly going to help people, and is just feeding the machine, I don’t want to do it. I can just throw myself into another project like Five Weeks to a Social Library (any of us can). Also, I don’t want to sacrifice my happiness for ALA. If I have to choose between going on a vacation and going to Midwinter this year, I choose vacation.
So my generation is alternatively skeptical of what the ALA can offer us and passionate about working to improve the profession. If participation continues to mean making the kind of sacrifices it does now, the ALA is going to lose my generation, save those whose libraries fund their participation in ALA or who have to participate in ALA to get tenure. Not that they won’t still do great things for the profession; they’ll just do it outside of ALA. There need to be more ways that people can come together and create something like the BIGWIG Social Software Showcase or Five Weeks to a Social Library within the confines of the ALA. While we can talk about revenue streams until the cows come home, if we don’t attract new members with benefits that speak to their needs/wants, you will lose untold money in the long run. We can’t pretend that things haven’t changed.
Fly to New York and take the bus from there. The bus NYC-PHL takes 2 hours and costs $20 round-trip.
Or better yet, take the bus the whole way, but split it into two days. There’s a nice Holiday Inn right next to the bus station in Hartford… might be a good place to stay.
Meredith, I’d offer a ride from NYC if I knew that our dates coincided (AASL hasn’t announced dates for meetings yet). Where I work now has been paying, but for eight years prior I footed the bill on my own. Why? Not for ALA, but to encourage other Independent School librarians to participate and to make sure our voice is heard by AASL/ALA. And yes, my credit cards are still hurting.
Meredith, one of the recent ALA conference wikis had a section on cost-saving “tips” such as wearing the “good” leg of pantyhose with runs in it so you could save up money to attend ALA conferences. It is at that point that I think people are wayyyyy out of touch with how modern professionals can reasonably expect to do business.
I am on a task force on electronic meeting participation, and I can tell you what the rules are. You must attend a certain number of meetings and only face-to-face participation counts for things like committee votes. I can also tell you that many committees flout the rules, since the rules turn ALA into an organization that can only function twice a year, which is plain silly in this day and age.
But I can also tell you that the rules won’t change without some stiff battles ahead, because conferences are serious revenue streams for ALA–perhaps the ONLY real revenue stream, since publishing isn’t doing well and membership dues are a wash. Push a rules change partly through Council and it will get hung up in a referral to BARC (the finance committee).
ALA is convinced that it can continue to force people into 20th-century modalities. For a short while, this is somewhat true. Once the big wave of Boomers retire, it’s all over. A couple of years ago one ALA presidential candidate even explored the question of canceling midwinter, and I’m sorry she backed away from this idea. It’s a political hot potato but it’s one we better deal with before the potato blight hits.
I have a long post on this myself (I’ve been busy posting at my other blog, AL… ;> ) but thanks for lending your perspective.
The big deal is finding a way for ALA to survive in a world that doesn’t need two f2f meetings a year. There are ways to do this but if ALA doesn’t see these paths it will continue to insist on plowing the same crop-worn fields until the land is barren.
If I didn’t totally agree with your reasons for not going – I’d offer you my guest room so you could save on the hotel – I’m a 40 minute ($7) train ride from the city (Philly). But I totally agree with you! How can we be expected to work in a field where most of us are underpaid and then be asked to spend a small fortune on attending a conference. I agree we need other ways of being allowed to participate. This is why I agreed to be chair of the blogging section of the SLA IT Division – my participation includes blogging, writing articles and recruiting more bloggers – I can do all of that in my PJs at home 🙂
If you change your mind – and like small pups – you can have my guest room.
Nothing will change until ALA starts hurting. We haven’t hurt them yet, though we’re getting closer.
Don’t volunteer. Don’t go. And tell them why.
Anonymous person, it’s not just the money; it’s the time. With the 1-hour Burlington to Philly flight, I literally wouldn’t have to miss work (I work Monday afternoon & evening, so it would be perfect), which is a major issue at my library. And I would have been able to take that flight, no problem, had the times of meetings been announced earlier (how can people make plans under these conditions? Many meeting times haven’t even been announced!!!). The fact that I have to spend more money or take more time off work just because these meetings are announced so close to Midwinter is crazy.
Karen, I totally agree with everything you said here. I know how hard you have tried to make things in ALA change for the better, and that is almost more discouraging, because it really tells me that the only way ALA is really going to change with the times is if it becomes clear that they can no longer make money under the current model. And that will require quite a lot of librarians to stop paying to be members of ALA.
Gosh, I must be able to afford to go to ALA since I haven’t even worn pantyhose since I was 12. 🙂
Thanks so much for the offer, Nicole! If I do change my mind, that is a very tempting offer (mostly because I’d get to see you!). And I’m all about participation that involves me in PJs! 🙂
Meredith, there is another way to change ALA (and I give Jason Griffey credit for this point, which he shared with me while we walked through the markets at Monterey a couple of weeks ago). That is to convince ALA that change is in its best interests. That is why I stay involved, because I’m hopeful that there will be a path in that direction.
Indeed, change IS in ALA’s best interests. But as George Needham says, “Change is good. You go first.” So it’s a huge rock to push up a hill. I don’t fault anyone from checking out; in fact, it may take a few refuseniks as part of the equation. But as frustrated as I am (and you have no idea ;> ) I haven’t quite given up.
I totally agree that librarians spending large sums of money to attend to the business of the association is something that needs to be changed. Virtual participation is the way to go, but we can’t move towards that without being on the committees and being involved. It is a double-edged sword.
I doubt I would be participating in ALA if I did not work at a library that funds the majority of my travel expenses. We even get a reimbursement of $75 for our ALA dues (doesn’t quite cover it, but it helps). In good conscience I could not spend $1000 or more on a conference when I need to be saving for some long overdue home repairs and my son’s future. I know of no other professions that expect their members to pay their own way entirely for conferences. I guess it is a tax write off, but that does not make up for it.
Another one here who has yet to book her flight. I at least knew my meeting times back in August. For me, it was a money issue as I had a wedding to attend a little over a week ago making prior claim to any personal funding. This time last year, I was planning for Seattle to be my one and only MW meeting for the forseeable future. Then, I was asked to serve on an awards committee. I swear, they know just the right hook to pull me back in. At least, with the awards committee, I do get something tangible back out of it in terms of free books from publishers.
My office does give me an allowance for my conference travel. It’s a pretty generous allowance. But, it’s still not enough to cover all of Midwinter and Annual. I’ve applied for a travel grant that I’m pretty hopeful for winning, but until I know for sure, Midwinter expenses are coming out of my pocket so I can save the majority of it for the sure-to-be-more-expensive Annual. My credit cards are going to be hurting for a bit, but once I’m done with the awards committee, I’m going to be very firm and say no. There are other projects in my life I want to spend the time and money on besides ALA. I’ve done what I’ve done to this point because the individual commitments I’ve made to the New Members Round Table and the Reading List Council have meant more to me than ALA as a whole.
I agree with Meredith when she says, “we don’t need conferences and committees to network with other librarians nationally…If I don’t feel like the work I’m doing is directly going to help people, and is just feeding the machine, I don’t want to do it.” I am the Co-Coordinator of the HHPTF for this reason- I can’t attend all the conferences so I share responsibility, which helps. We need to have virtual meetings so that we can be more effective and I think it’s sad that ALA makes it so difficult. Perhaps we can change this? I would be interested in working together to make this happen.
At some point, don’t we think that all this effort in trying to turn around the ocean liner that is ALA could be better spent outside of the various committees and meetings and such and just create a “parallel organization” that embodies all of the characteristics that people want it to? Instead of trying to subvert the system, just create a new system that is not burdened with the baggage and bureaucracy of the existing organization? Yes, I realize that it would end up in the same place eventually, but it would ease the pain currently.
So, how about setting up the “National Library Association” – it would do all the things you mention and host regional conferences to cut down on travel and other costs that are similar to the code4lib conferences – or maybe that mix in-between of “here’s how you get stuff done” that I think you mentioned a couple entries ago that you wanted.
Set the membership fee at a reasonable level ($75???) and the majority of the fees go to cover hosting and other technology costs since so much will be virtual. If you get enough people to join, well, then it becomes reasonable to maybe have a muckety-muck / dark overlord to oversee the whole thing, but otherwise it could function through group collaboration.
You could partner with existing organizations focusing on a similar manner and leverage existing platforms and new tools to provide low-cost or free educational seminars for the library field in addition to providing networking and electronic publishing.
CJ, I’ve raised this issue before, but I’m not popular enough to make a dent in anyone’s consciousness (or else I failed to make a convincing case).
I know a lot of librarians who go to ALA primarily on their own dime out of a need to get promoted and/or because they feel they have to for other reasons, not because they love it or feel invested. I quit ALA because I didn’t feel it was worth the expense and I’m sure there are others who feel similarly (very few people at my last workplace went because of funding issues).
I’ve said before and I’ll say it again: if you tried to build another national association, ultimately it would look a lot like ALA. An organization that size is going to be a bureaucracy and have some characteristics that make it hard to change. But ALA has been changed in the past, and it could be changed in the future. As long as we need a national association, we might as well work with what’s there.
While I definitely feel your hotel-booking-pain (still don’t have a room for midwinter, but I do have a train ticket and registration), I wouldn’t say that the conference model is outdated for “our generation.” I am certainly lucky in that my organization provides a very respectable level of funding, keeping me out of the poor house. Regardless, I do think there is real value in face to face interaction, besides, it’s fun. And, I actually enjoy the travel! I think it’s awesome that you’re working on a virtual conference for those unable to attend (I have many friends from library school who can’t because of funding, bummer.) And, while I again agree that ALA is not “all that” – I still feel that these conferences are a benefit to me. It’s refreshing to get out of the office, since I can, visit a new city, attend meetings, network, give presentations. It’s an important part of my professional development that I truly enjoy.
Looking forward to hearing more about the virtual conference! (I prob won’t make it to every ALA…)
Hey Jen, I don’t think conferences are outdated; face-to-face networking and learning is a great thing and there are few things I enjoy more than speaking at a conference and meeting new people. I think the model where we need a conference to do the work of committees IS outdated. Just imagine if we did all of the committee work online during the year; ALA conferences could be more about networking and learning than they are about “business” and “meetings.” If people can only participate in ALA if they have the money to go to Midwinter and Annual, we are basically disenfranchising a huge part of the membership who may really want to make the profession better.
I have of course been proposing this for a very long time… glad to see this idea gaining traction. There are ways to make this happen; multiple paths, even. It will take elbow grease.
I like your idea, but would like to propose the following two change:
1. Change the word, “National” to, “International” and include Canadian librarians in the region.
2. Change the word, “Library,” to, “Librarian.” We already have a library association, we need a librarian association.
So CJ, how about we form the International Librarian Association?
Fritz & CJ: how about changing “International” to “the World,” and make it more of a “society” instead of an “association.” You might end up with something like…the Library Society of the World! Ha!
I’ve been a dues paying ALA/ACRL member for about ten consecutive years, but this will likely be my last. While I respect Karen’s point of view that this is the association we have, so we should work to reform it, I simply don’t have the energy or desire to resuscitate a dinosaur.
I get more stimulation, networking, knowledge, new ideas, you name it, from so many other non-ALA conferences and activities. From ALA I get huge bills and nothing but a lot of frustration running between large hotels for meetings with a lot of overly tired and stressed colleagues.
Most telling, I think, are the number and type of colleagues who have long since let their ALA memberships lapse. This is not a generational issue at all. I know many librarians who are nearing retirement who left ALA behind years ago. I even know library administrators at significant institutions with hefty salaries who do not maintain an ALA membership. If they’re not on board, sounds like a sinking ship to me. My dues money will be going elsewhere next year.
A few years ago I worked on the ALA Annual program committee for one of the ACRL sections. The rules imposed on us by ACRL for disbursement of sponsorship funds were so maddening, a fact made only worse by the fact that they skimmed overhead off the top of the sponsorships for their “work,” which, as far as I could tell, was designed to make our planning more difficult and cumbersome. It was such an irritating experience, and I was actually embarrassed by how we had to treat our invited speakers thanks to the silly ACRL rules.
Too bad, kid, you see, you can not bring 30,000 people to the same city and get everyone a cheap flight and a cheap hotel central to all the happenings. Someone’s gotta pay the premium, and it ain’t gonna be me, see, because we’ve got a ton of kids that don’t know the system yet, see, and everybody has to pay their dues, har har haw.
Ask not what ALA can do for you, etcetera, and so on, and so forth, you get the idea, you know what I’m saying? I thought you did.
ALA works on Great Things. Great Things. Legislation, policy, advocacy. DOPA, Net Neutrality, scholarly publishing. We are an organization worthy of any librarian’s attention and commitment.
You think you’re above all that? We’re supposed to help your career before you can write a letter to your congresswoman? Better luck next year, Farkas. If you quit ALA, we won’t miss you. If you decide to stick around, maybe you could help do something about all this mess.
And this in a nutshell is why I haven’t gotten involved at the national level, and most likely won’t ever do so. We have a good state library association and ACRL chapter, and I serve on committees for both. I can be involved in things that will actually make a difference for the people I serve on a daily basis, and not have to blow either my or my institution’s travel budget. At the end of the day, it’s ALA’s loss. *shrug*
Too bad, kid, you see, you can not bring 30,000 people to the same city and get everyone a cheap flight and a cheap hotel central to all the happenings.
Not true. The Midwest has plenty of cities with very affordable hotels that could accommodate all these people for the Annual Meeting (I can understand why no one would want to go the Midwest in January!), but many librarians want to be somewhere cool. Iowa City, Kansas City, Columbus (OH), etc. don’t have the same cache as Philly, DC, etc. That’s too bad.
I have been a librarian for quite some time now and I am finally in a position where not only my institution actually allows me to go to ALA, ACRL, etc., but also fully funds me. So, I am far from a NextGen librarian, but have joined ALA’s NMRT because I actually meet the requirements. I find that funny.
Now that I am on the other side, I still find this reprehensible. Sure, I will voice my opinions about the issue if I am ever on a committee, but the difference I would make is pretty dubious. This all ties into the digital divide issue as well. We are emerging as a bunch of have and have not libraries.
Getting ALA to change its model for conferences will be like getting Notre Dame to (finally) join a conference for football. It takes a lot more than a season starting out 1-9 (following two seasons that ended by losing badly in BCS bowl games) to bring about a change of ways.
Yesterday, I submitted my request for funding from my employer for Midwinter. Even though the conference is only 140 miles away, and I got a steal on a hotel room (just for myself) not far from the conference hotels, the total amount is still more than all the funding I requested for everything else this year… combined. I’m not even in a reasonable position to ask for funding for anything because I’m not a librarian here (and not even someone in a significant decision-making role).
Another side to this whole debate is something I’m not comfortable completely discussing outright in this medium. Looking at demographic data about those working within the profession (and considering other data that do not show up, but are more or less visible), many (if not most) people working as credentialed information professionals would be expected to pay for conference attendance without it being any kind of a strain on personal finances whatsoever.
The only other thing I am willing to mention publicly is that realistically, not only are conferences difficult for many within the profession to afford, but for some of us, working in this profession is not as affordable as it is for others because of certain sets of circumstances that may be in place. I’d like to believe that this perception of our profession is changing. But who knows… maybe Notre Dame will lose to Duke and Stanford, too (to finish the season at 1-11).
I fund it by eating cup o’noodles for breakfast lunch and dinner – 25 cents a pop. As an academic librarian, it’s part of my job to attend these things. I have to participate in ALA by working on committees. The committees recommended highly by my supervisor (which makes me kinda have to belong) all require in person attendance at both annual and midwinter. Plus there are others like LITA, ACRL, and Internet Librarian that are more what I’m interested in. So basically I’m in the hole $6000 a year which I make up for by dining badly.
I have to participate in ALA by working on committees. The committees recommended highly by my supervisor (which makes me kinda have to belong) all require in person attendance at both annual and midwinter.
Then, you need to be fully funded. Your supervisor is being very unfair if he/she expects you to pay out of pocket for such things. Being 6k in the hole each year is no joke. What if you incur unplanned medical expenses? If you think it can’t happen, guess again.
Eating cup o’noodles is simply poor nutrition which leads to poor health. Where are the macronutrients in such a meal?
I really think that the day of required self-flagellation with barbed wire to advance in this profession is close at hand!
Angela, if it’s part of your job, then your employer should pay for it. Sheesh.
However, I have been blogging the (ridiculous) ALA rules this week. I scrubbed the policy manual and the constitution/bylaws for all the rules that keep ALA as it is. If you have any interest in changing ALA, it’s worth pondering ALA as it is currently structured.
Angela, technically, ALL committees require that you be present at least every other conference.
As for locations, I’m not having a problem with Philly, because I’d rather pay a little extra and go to an interesting city, but I have to say I am loathing the idea of going to Anaheim next summer. Our annual conferences are so huge that we’re limited to a few sites, and with conference dues so low (yes… they are low) we’re stuck with some strange locations.
As for locations, I’m not having a problem with Philly, because I’d rather pay a little extra and go to an interesting city…
Even though I am fully funded for these ventures, I’d rather go where it is cheap because I am very sympathetic to those who hail from underfunded institutions. I’m the type of person who can have fun anywhere.
On the upside, you’d get to hang out with me in my hometown. You really can’t put a price on a thing like that!
Meredith, I have to confess that when I first skimmed through your entry, my initial reaction was “Too bad. Suck it up.” But the more time I gave to thinking your ideas through, the more I tended to agree with them…particularly your emphasis on how f2f conferences aren’t the problem, but required f2f committee meetings are.
I attended my one and only ALA MW this past year in Seattle. I paid for the whole trip out of my own pocket, but I did manage to arrange to stay with family in the area and to make the larger trip into a vacation. This seemed like a nice compromise to me.
Those committee meetings that I sat in on weren’t terribly sophisticated, and I did wonder what the big deal was about MW. In my own work, I am starting a new section within the New Hampshire Library Association focusing on information technologies used by librarians, and we have already begun collaborating using a GoogleDocs document. I don’t see why ALA committees couldn’t do the same thing.
Finally, I do think that while we are right to constructively criticize ALA’s committee meeting policies, we should guard against declaring ALA a useless and outdated organization. That seems like shortsighted and overly simplistic thinking to me.
p.s. Please visit the NHLA’s blog (wwww.nhlibrarians.org) and leave us a comment on our most recent entry! We would love to hear from you.
“I know of no other professions that expect their members to pay their own way entirely for conferences.”
This is a reflection on our employers, not on the ALA organization. ALA has extremely reasonable dues and registration compared to, say, dentists.
I have a friend who is a dentist. Yes, he makes more a year than I, but less than double. He has mandatory membership in the ADA about about $500 a year + $590 a year for membership for the association in his area of specialization (not mandatory). Conference dues? $750 for the ADA annual conference. This does not count costs associated with continuing education courses, which are of course required for licensure.
This is apart from all of the other issues raised on this thread. I just read and hear the “high dues” claim a lot and need to differ.
Hey Kathleen, I don’t think ALA’s dues are particularly high either, though I don’t enjoy paying for them because I don’t feel like I get much for my money. My husband is a doctor, so I understand how expensive some professional organizations are (and don’t get me started on what it takes to keep up one’s license!). The problem I have is more with the necessity to spend all this money on a conference which has the primary purpose of conducting business that mostly could be conducted online at this point. If I’m getting something for my money — if I’m learning, getting a certificate or license, etc. — I’m much more ok with shelling out money. I go to enough meetings on a typical work day; I don’t have to pay for the privilege.
Hi guys – I am skipping Philly b/c I just got married – and even though we went to Las Vegas and spent a smaller amount on our wedding – with no extra honeymoon – my work only pays $300 towards conferences which is not even the plane ticket. So, I will stay here in Southern California and work on committee stuff for Anaheim which is very close to where I live. I think many people will bring their entire families and vacation at Disneyland (also hideously overpriced) during Annual.
I’ve been a librarian for 24 years. The one constant during these years of vast paradigm changes is that these big national conferences are just too damn expensive. I couldn’t afford them back in 1983 and I can’t afford them now.
I believe there are three principal reasons for this: (1) Conferences are revenue streams for national organizations. They have nothing to gain and much to lose from staging “cheap” conferences. (2) The people organizing and staging the conferences mostly get their travel expenses paid, so they don’t care. (3) A *lot* of people LOVE going to these things. For them, it’s fun fun fun and they treat it as a sort of working vacation. Personally that is not my idea of a vacation.
My advice: Don’t go to ALA. Spend your limited travel funds attending regional and state conferences instead, or attend the conferences of smaller and less pretentious national groups.
“ALA works on Great Things. Great Things. Legislation, policy, advocacy. DOPA, Net Neutrality, scholarly publishing.” … Which creepy depressing books to recommend to children via Newberry Awards. Yeah. Big decisions. The whole world is holding its breath.
Get a grip, ALA Brass. Your hostility is not productive, and you are not the cool corporate mogul you’d like to be. It’s your kind of rude, exclusive tone and attitude that make energetic librarians leave the field for someplace where they don’t have to work with turds like you. (And hey, if someone can call himself balls mahoney, I can say turd.)
ALA should take the lead on conducting virtual conferences. So many librarians have earned degrees online, why not pay the rest of their dues online, as well? I thought librarians were supposed to be on the cutting edge of technology and its use in delivering information.
Save fuel, save money, save time, and avoid crowds during the flu season: Offer at least one of the two friggin’ conferences per year in alternative formats. More people would probably participate.
But I think we all know ALA is just not really capable of pulling such a thing off. I mean, just look at the Web site. Among the worst I’ve ever used.
The things I am taking from this discussion (and its siblings on other blogs) are:
1. ALA/ACRL/PLA/AASL need to continue to work to demonstrate what members get for their money and to develop programs (not meetings) that make it worth the price of attendance (something, for example, that I think the Medical Library Association does a better job of)
2. ALA and its children need to get serious about virtual participation and put to rest bureaucratic rules that stifle that participation.
3. People like me (who get to Chair committees every now and again) need to take the lead from people like Meredith about how we can make the best use of technology to facilitate that participation (and Meredith is on one of my committees and I’m looking forward to it – she’s already been great on the discussion list)
4. For many, the locus of F2F meetings within the ALA family is local and regional, rather than national. I’ve said this before, and I see it again here. “Big” ALA/ACRL/Etc. needs to connect more effectively, support, and learn from the work that goes on in the chapters because, for all the reasons noted above, the chapters are where a lot of people (young, old, and in-between) are participating.
All that said, we’ve seen great progress in the last few years with programs like the ACRL Virtual Conference and the upcoming ACRL/LAMA Joint Spring Virtual Institute. Progress is slow, painfully so sometimes, but it’s there. Let’s acknowledge that and keep trying to make things better.
Great comments, Scott! I completely agree and I think with people like you chairing committees and pushing the envelope on what’s possible, we really will see change in the future. I’m excited to be a part of the virtual conference and to see what we can do.
It has always seemed to me that the local chapters are rather separate from the national organizations and I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who feels that way. I think ALA could learn a lot about how people are doing communication and providing member benefits at the local level and the ALA could also perhaps push (and support) some of their major campaigns at the local level, where change seems a bit more possible. I know it happens to some extent, but not nearly enough. The local organizations are also a great space for ALA to recruit people into national participation — especially if that participation can be virtual. 🙂
I’ve not attended Annual or MW for several years for precisely this reason. Several people have expressed the belief that virtual committees can be as productive as those that require f2f participation; I’d see that statement and raise it: virtual committees are often more effective. During my active years in ALA I served on three f2f committees and one virtual committee. The committees that met at MW and Annual each year accomplished nothing, while the virtual committee produces a publication every year. I think that f2f committees often don’t accomplish much precisely because they rely on the twice yearly f2d meetings and don’t take advantage of email, wikis, lists, etc., in the intervening months.
Finding the money to attend is an issue, time away from work is an issue, and for many of us, childcare is a major issue, too. I resent having to cobble together care for my son so that I can have an unproductive 45-minute meeting in a noisy ballroom.
And I really, really hope that the poster who said she affords conference participation by eating cup-of-soup for every meal was joking.
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