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Jessamyn’s tongue-in-cheek post about the website for ALA’s accessibility workshop not actually being accessible. Anyone want to organize a massive membership “un-registration” ? I think if it was well-organized we could send a pretty clear message. There are so many things ALA is doing wrong right now…

“Questioning my ALA membership once more…”

  1. Walt Crawford Says:

    What message would that be? “There are so many things you’re doing wrong?” A little hard to respond to.

    “Your URLs are too difficult and weren’t well-tested” or “Your accessibility page isn’t very accessible”? Those are specific. ALA’s doing a fair job of fixing the first–with lots of help from members–and could probably do a fair job of fixing the second.

    Or is the message “I’ve/we’ve run for/been on council, I’ve/we’ve submitted clear statements about what we have trouble with, I’ve/we’ve actively tried to improve the situation, and nothing helps”? Well, then, if all those who unregister are people who have
    (a) articulated their specific complaints, and suggested ways to improve the situation,
    (b) been willing to put their time and effort on the line to help improve the situation,
    (c) either run for ALA Council themselves or have made it clear to their Councillors just what the specific problems are, then, sure, maybe quitting in despair makes sense. I’m guessing that wouldn’t be a mass movement, because I’m guessing that 95% (or more) of ALA members haven’t done all or any of those things.

    Otherwise, I don’t see that you’d get any message across at all.

    ALA isn’t perfect. ALA is never going to be perfect. It’s made up of 64,000+ fallible members, most of whom can’t even be bothered to vote, and a few hundred fallible staff.

    Of course, if you have a perfect library-related organization to suggest as an alternative, one that does everything right, I’d be delighted to hear about it.

    Sorry for the length of this comment, and I’m surely not saying that I agree with everything ALA does. I know of no organization for which I could make that statement. I am saying that specific actions to protest non-specific grievances usually don’t work very well, particularly when the net result is to weaken the group being protested against, thus making it automatically less able to cope with the grievances.

  2. Librarian in Black Says:

    Thank you Walt for your considered response.

    I guess I’m just tired of large organizations, in general, being ineffectual. Not just ALA.

    I have similar complaints about the California Library Association. I’ve only been in the state two years, but both annual conferences I attended were disappointing, and I didn’t feel that my section (Information Tech) was doing anything I considered useful. So, what did I do? I ran for the IT-section vice-presidency, which I won, simply because no one else ran, which is sad in and of itself. I also joined the conference planning committee. So, while I unfortunately can’t say that I’ve done anything to improve ALA, I am taking some steps with CLA. Heck, I’m only 27…I have to start somewhere, and I figured it was better to start at the state level than jump right to national fame and fortune.

    But, you have a very valid point: what message would be sent by a massive drop in membership? Nothing helpful or productive, as you noted.

    I feel like I personally am as involved in ALA (& LITA) as I can be right now, given my CLA responsibilities, and my two jobs. You’ll be happy to hear that I always vote, write letters, etc. But, instead of suggesting a mass exodus, I should have suggested further involvement in the organization by people who have issues with how ALA is being run and what it is doing.

    Point well-taken. The LiB will now sulk in the corner and think about how she can do better next time ;)

  3. Walt Crawford Says:

    Well, there you go. Fact is, you’re doing something to improve CLA. Good for you! (And good for you, also, for not trying to take on everything at once: 27 is way too early to burn out.)

    Good luck with CLA (honestly, not ironically). I chickened out where it came to CLA: I never joined the organization. Partly because, for a very long time, it would have cost me more in dues than ALA; partly because I was underwhelmed by the conferences; partly because of the one time in my life that a group stiffed me on a speaking fee ($50!)–although that was a subgroup, not CLA itself.

    Maybe the fact that ISAD, LITA’s predecessor, instantly felt like “home” within ALA had something to do with it; at the time, CLA had no similar home that I’m aware of. Maybe you’re helping to change that. Who knows? Maybe eventually I will join…

    And, to be sure, I have never run for ALA Council and do not plan ever to do so–which is one reason that I try to keep my criticisms of ALA, which are legion, fairly pointed rather than sweeping. I’m not willing to devote half of my conference time to the intricate operations of trying to improve ALA’s overall operation, so I try not to hassle those who are, at least not too much.

    You’re doing more at 27 than I did. (I didn’t even join ALA until I was 30, but then I also lack the MLS/MLIS.) You shouldn’t sulk in the corner: Specific problems are always worth pointing out, with or without solutions, because pointing them out is one step toward solving them.

    [And if it felt like I was coming down hard, I specifically apologize. It wasn't intentional.]

  4. Anna Says:

    My finances this year have made renewing my membership to ALA impossible, so I have chosen not to do so. I intend to reinstate my membership when my finances get in better shape because I do believe that there are some good things that come from ALA. I am not happy about a number of concerns that have been stated frequently by more vocal objectors, but my response is that rather than taking our toys and leaving, we need to be infiltrating ALA and causing change from within. I’m a young librarian – I have plenty of time to wait for my chance to make a small improvement here and there.

  5. Librarian in Black Says:

    No worries Walt… Your point was completely valid. And, there wasn’t much sulking done, really :)

  6. Meg Says:

    My big problem with ALA is the price of dues. For a profession where you’re expected to hold a Masters available from a limited number of institutions to qualify for a job which pays peanuts, they sure charge a damn lot to join the professional organization.

    I joined for a year when I was a student. Now that I’m no longer a student and I’m attempting to feed, shelter, and clothe a family on my salary, I can’t afford to join ALA. Well, I could, but only if I didn’t eat for a month. Selfish me.

  7. Eli Says:

    You sound fairly disgruntled about ALA. Besides the (myriad of) website issues, what else (generally) do you think ALA is doing wrong?

    I just joined CLA myself (after spending the past 2 years enveloped in the embrace of SLA), but I haven’t the foggiest clue as to how to be more than just a paying lump. How did you get involved?

  8. Librarian in Black Says:

    Well Eli (love the blog btw),

    The website nastiness has really put a bee in my bonnet. But that’s been discussed to death, and there’s really nothing I can add to the discussion at this point. So, yes, the website re-design fiasco is definitely the big thing.

    Also, their refusal to take a stand on the Cuban Librarian issue (see: Karen Schneider’s most recent post on the issue: This is a big political one for now.

    I also think their whole “pay equity” movement has been more talk than walk, but, as Walt pointed out, I can’t complain too much unless I’m willing to do something about it.

    Does that completely answer your question? :)

  9. Eli Says:

    Thank you for the compliment and the explanation. :>

    I once heard someone describe ALA as a big ship … lots of power, but hard to steer — forget about being able to turn quickly (or on a dime).

    They said it more elegantly, but you know what I mean.

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