Should I continue my ALA membership?

The question is simple: Should I continue my ALA membership when I graduate? I finish school about 20 days before my “valid through” date expires on my ALA Member ID Card. That means that I will have to pay $65 instead of $30 for a membership (plus $$ for whatever “extras” (divisions, round tables, etc.) I choose).

To be completely honest, I do not have $65 laying around and while my birthday actually falls between my pending graduation and ALA expiration, I don’t really want to ask/suggest a membership renewal to people who would purchase me something. I would rather ask for them to use their money on gas to come visit me…

So here’s a restatement of the question: Why should I continue my ALA membership when I graduate? Or why shouldn’t I?
Here’s how I use ALA right now:

  1. For the weekly AL Direct email. Can I get that without being an ALA member?
  2. For my resume. Some people would say it shows I’m dedicated to professional development. Personally, I think my attention and participation in conversation via blogs and articles illustrates this more.
  3. For the student chapter of ALA at the University of Washington. I use the resources, news and contact information. I could do this without a membership, but I feel like since I’m an officer of the organization, I should be a member of ALA.
  4. Maybe there are other ways I use it, but I can’t think of any right now.

I think if I were to stay a member of ALA when I graduate (and hopefully have a job), I would need to become a little more involved. However, I’m hesitant (maybe that’s not the right word) to become more involved for the following reasons:

  1. Being involved usually means you have to go to the ALA conferences (midwinter and annual) for meetings and discussions and that costs more money… (which I don’t have) – sorry I keep using that crutch, but it is true!
  2. ALA still seems reactive instead of proactive to issues (especially emerging technologies and user services) that are important to me. I think I would be frustrated with the (slow, maybe?) process of discussion. I guess I don’t really have a right to say it because I don’t know, but I think there’s too much discussion and not enough (or quick enough) action to stay current. And I guess that’s the real reason why I should get my butt in gear and change things…
  3. But then again, is there another way I (we) could start changing things outside of ALA? Would it be a faster, more efficient, yet worthwhile process? I think Hack Library School has the potential to be a fantastic example of this sort of resource for current and future LIS students. I’m excited to be a part of how it grows and where it goes, but I don’t know how I’ll feel when I’m an (employed) graduate.

As I was writing this, Andy Woodworth at Agnostic, Maybe posted something so closely related to my questions that I have to connect them. I don’t think I answer his questions about young librarians and “ALA Reformation,” but I do think this is all something to consider. Then I was also invited to the ALA Think Tank group on Facebook. (Search it)  And I’d like to hear your thoughts.

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11 Responses to Should I continue my ALA membership?

  1. Megan Hodge says:

    Not really a substantive answer to your post, but just to address a couple of your points:

    Being involved in ALA doesn’t necessarily mean you have to attend conferences–I’ve probably been on a dozen committees at this point, and none of them have required conference attendance. (Also–there are conference scholarships out there. I was awarded one last year and a different one this year. I’ve also served on a conference scholarship award committee and you’d be surprised at just how few people actually apply for them, even with the economy in its current state!)

    Just to play devil’s advocate regarding your resume-building point: “engages with other librarians on blogs and Twitter” isn’t really a resume point. It might very well come up if a hiring committee Googles you, but it’s not something I at least would think is official enough to put on a resume, unless something really cool–like Andromeda Yelton’s Build India a Library Project–happens as a result.

    • Thanks, Megan. You’re right. There are scholarships! (especially for students… which I won’t be soon) I received one a couple of years ago!

      I think my interactions with professionals and students on blogs and Twitter is more substantial than me saying, “I’m a member of ALA and I read the weekly emails” I guess I feel like if people are going to tell me to put it on my resume, I need to actually be doing something.

  2. Ben says:

    I was just dealing with this issue. My membership for ALA and NYLA (New York Library Association) ends on March 1st. I did renew only because I will be a student until June and decided that I might as well take advantage of combined ALA/NYLA student rate. However, I did not renew my membership to any of the NYLA sections or roundtables to which I belonged.

    When it comes time to renew without a student rate, I probably will not do so. Like you mentioned, I think that the younger generation (students/recent professionals) can and should start having more impact in the future as libraries and librarianship grows and changes. That’s why I have been enjoying Hack Library School.

    Maybe it’s just my subversive nature to want slow-moving institutions to fall, but I would love to see some sort of “library revolution.” There is a lot of potential for young LIS professionals to branch out and connect beyond the traditional model.

    • Ben, I’m glad you’ve been enjoying HackLibSchool! Perhaps you’d be interested in writing a guest post about this… (hint, hint).

      I think you’re right in that we (young LIS prof) have potential for branching out and connecting. Are you on Facebook? Have you seen the ALA Think Tank group? Check it out.

  3. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by bclainhart, Heidi Kittleson. Heidi Kittleson said: Should I continue my ALA membership after I graduate from #libraryschool? http://wp.me/p1n3Cb-4 Why or why not? #hacklibschool [...]

  4. Jeff Scott says:

    ALA committee work is nice to have on a resume, but the work you do as a librarian is more important. If it comes down to costs, it is something you could drop. It’s good to be involved and you can still get involved a great deal without having membership. You still get AL Direct and all the benefits of ALA. I personally think it is more important to get involved in state library associations as you will see a more direct result in your actions and it is easier and cheaper to get involved.

    • Megan Hodge says:

      Depends on the state association… I’ve found it MUCH easier to get involved in ALA than my state association (our state chapter of ACRL notwithstanding); the online committee volunteer forms are years old and I’ve never (in 3 years) seen a call for committee volunteers. It seems very bureaucratic and slow-changing. But YMMV.

    • Thanks for your insight, Jeff. I appreciate it. I’m glad to know I can still get the AL Direct. When I get a job, I will definitely look into the State Association. And, Megan, I will do a little research to make sure I know what I’m getting into as far as the state association goes. Hopefully I can find something active!

  5. Heidi, I think a LOT of students struggle with this question – I’m already thinking about which of my association memberships provides the most value and if/how to keep that going after I graduate NEXT spring. I have to think that if you’re not sure what value ALA is providing to you, then it’s probably NOT providing value.

    Also, in my experience, Twitter/blogging are one thing, but the ability to improve services and participate in dialogue on a local level and in person have their own rewards as well. I look forward to hearing more about your decisions – and your local state association involvement!

  6. visiblycollected says:

    In case no one has already answered this question, indeed, you can still receive AL Direct if you aren’t an ALA member. I actually found out about it, and subscribed, before my ALA membership (paid for by the iSchool at Syracuse) was ever processed.

    Hope that helps!

    I just renewed my association memberships (I’m a member of ARLIS, VRA, and ALA, but may get rid of ALA next year). Perhaps looking at smaller associations that may provide better targeted networking opportunities might be helpful?

  7. Naomi says:

    I think it’s a good idea to be a member. If you want to be an advocate for libraries you gotta participate and support the organizations that support our libraries and librarians. I think it’s worth the money to promote all the efforts of ALA. If you would rather support a round table or affiliate group than just ask them if you can pay just to join their group. I think it’s important for future and new librarians to be active in the organizations that have supported us and librarians across the US for decades. We can be the leaders and advocates of the future, plus they are good networking opportunities by joining an organization!

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