From the archives, Professional organizations

From the archives: What about ALA?

Increasingly, people are saying “ALA is broken”. There are many reasons, but when I have friends tweeting things like this:

Two years on, it’s not much better. There was an interesting post Let’s Fix ALA in 2020 that still resonates. Sad, no? Here are some of my observations and suggestions:

  • More virtual opportunities to serve, more term limits. It’s gotten better over the past ten years, but when I was a sweet “young” thing of 50 I was often one of the youngest in the room at one division’s meetings. At 50. Let that sink in. Partly it’s because there are so many “elders” who have a lot of energy and time to donate, and many of those see themselves as a librarian long past retiring from day-to-day work in a library. And partly it’s because ALA grew up in an era when women’s work wasn’t as important as men’s work, so women had plenty of opportunity to volunteer and do the association’s work in addition to librarianing during the day. The reality of low salaries, high student debt, raising children, fewer staff to do more work, etc. hasn’t fully been accepted by the organization.
  • Completely rethink the divisions. We don’t need as many! One for books (most of RUSA, parts of PLA, YALSA and ALSC, and a whole lot of others who love the idea of reader’s advisory and book award committee service). One for instruction (AASL and ACRL, parts of PLA, YALSA and ALSC) both of patrons and pre-service librarians. One for public service (PLA, YALSA, ALSC and parts of RUSA) One for leadership/forward thinking (CORE, United for Libraries and parts of the others). Bring the roundtables into these larger divisions, allowing people to find a home they can grow in.
  • Why have ALA Annual and LibLearnX and divisional conferences? Yes, I get the financial imperative. But with professional development dollars down, COVID still bubbling along, state library organization conferences, and “life” issues (like timing of the conference or cost), something has to give.

Is there a solution? I don’t know. But for ALA to survive, something has to change, and fast.

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