To refresh, here are his questions:
- 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?
1. ALA is the oldest and largest library organization in the world. It is a mix of librarians, other library workers, trustees and other supporters, and organizations. Interestingly, while it is the American Library Association, it is only individuals (not the library organizations) who can vote and who provide the governance.
In a way, when members do not renew (organizational and personal) the association does lose something. However, ALA is a very large organization, and the size of the membership varies. I'll note as a former chair of the Membership Committee, that the number of members has pretty steadily climbed which tells me that ALA is doing some things right.
Once upon a time, there was a National Librarians Association. However, I have searched through a number of volumes and indexes in my place of work, and have not found any concrete information on it. I believe that I was a member in the mid-to-late 1970s, and part of its goal was to advocate for better salaries.
2. I'm not sure of the antecedent here. ALA has some bargaining power. The association has worked hard on legislative issues. Some of what is happening at the FCC about e-rate and net neutrality is influenced by ALA's work. There are some things which ALA has done and supported that I think do not get much notice, the Oprah Book Club is one. ALA helped to get that going, and ALA institutional members received a benefit of receiving multiple copies of each of the Oprah selections. ALA also supports things like National Library Week, and Banned Books Week. The READ posters from ALA Graphics are well received.
3. I have been an ALA member since 1976. For more than the first ten years I did not do much besides get the magazine. (Other than job hunting when I graduated from Library School in '76 -- it was the Centennial Conference in Chicago.) It wasn't until the late 80s or early 90s that I began to be involved on committees. Yes, I will renew.
4. I learn a great deal from my professional activities. I have met some really great librarians over the years. I usually go away from every library meeting with at least one new idea or insight. But there is the other half of the equation that I hope that I have been able to help others. That is part of why I try to attend things like the NMRT (New Members Round Table) Orientation as well as the Council Orientation. While I still learn there, I also have an opportunity to share some of my knowledge with those newer to the event and/or profession.
Josh....thanks for posing the questions.