I have not met Josh Hanagarne personally. Our contact has all been on the web, and probably pretty one sided, viz., I read his blog pretty regularly. He blogs as The World's Strongest Librarian. He is doing a "guest post marathon" and I invited him to post here.
He raises some interesting questions in his post, to which I will respond in a separate post (later in the week). Here's Josh!
Paying your dues and collecting acronyms
“Hi sir, how are you today?”
“Fine.” I was an hour into my 12-9 shift at work. I made the mistake of answering my phone on a break.
“I am calling to inform you that your ALA membership has expired and would like to offer you the exciting—”
I thanked him, said I wasn’t interested in renewing, said good-bye, waited for him to reciprocate, and hung up. I wondered if I had told him the truth? Was I really not interested? ALA certainly wasn’t on my mind, and I didn’t renew, so I guess that tells you where my priorities were. Out on the desk, where I then commenced a hectic, lengthy, shift.
None of the patrons seemed to know that they were dealing with a newly-minted apostate.
I appreciate ALA. I think. But exciting is really not the word I’m going to apply to what has mainly amounted to the expired membership card that is still in my wallet for some reason.
Can you really need something that you never use or had never heard of?
My early career as an Acronym Gatherer
When I became a circulation assistant about 5 years ago I quickly signed up for every professional organization in existence (I’m rounding up). ALA, ULA, and MPLA.
I did this because mentors told me it was a good idea to have acronyms on a resume. Not because it was valuable, or an opportunity to network, or because of the brotherly/sisterly kinship that I could feel with my libraryland siblings.
I got on the mailing lists. I was soon unsubscribing from everything because my inbox was full enough as it was and I never saw anything very interesting to me in those emails.
It certainly didn’t hurt to join. About 18 months after starting I was offered the job to manage a branch. It took a year as a manager to realize that I’m not a manager and I happily bolted back down the ladder to librarian when the chance arose.
What professional library organizations do
They advocate for library employees, principles, and funding. They offer professional conferences; they promote freedom of access, curiosity, and knowledge. Banned Books Week is a lot of fun at our library and for that alone I hope ALA keeps on truckin’.
These are all wonderful things, although I will admit to being bored out of, although I will admit to being bored out of my skull at the two ALA conferences I have attended (as part of the Emerging Leaders program). But I know plenty of librarians who live for those conferences and “exciting professional development opportunities.”
Local or regional organizations have managed to feel even less relevant to me. I’m mildly glad to know they’re out there, but don’t really know what else to say about it.
I just don’t feel like I have needed any of them to help me do my job better, find new opportunities, or as an advocate for me as a librarian.
I have committed my life to libraries and I work here because I am part of something that matters to me. I don’t feel like my commitment is diluted in any way because I don’t care to pay for a new membership card.
So a couple if questions to start a discussion:
Do libraries suffer when I/you/we don’t pay my/your/our ALA dues?
How much bargaining power do they have?
Are you a member? If so, will you renew?
In your opinion, what is the greatest benefit of joining a professional library organization?
About the author:
Josh Hanagarne is the founder of World’s Strongest Librarian and runs a dandy online book club. This is, to his knowledge, the first time he has ever typed the word dandy.