Do You ALA? Why or why not?

Whether you’re an active, enthusiastic ALA member, or ALA participation sounds as painful as getting your teeth pulled, we want to hear from you. What do you see as the association’s benefits and drawbacks? Why do you participate, or why don’t you want to be involved? Post your 1-minute video response to our YouTube group.


  1. Fortunately or Unfortunately,

    My employer focus on corporate libraries so my focus is on SLA. I am currently highly active in the local chapter and national association so my time is limited. As I am working more and more with ProQuest as AN embed, I can imagen there could be change back to ALA at some point. However, until then I will continue to focus and network primarily through SLA.

  2. I was an ALA member (briefly) as a benefit of a scholarship I received. The amount of mail and communication was exhausting – why oh why is there no consideration for the amount of trash produced by the organization? I do not ever want to receive mailings about things I care nothing about – my goal in life is to have little to no physical mail. If there was an electronic membership option (and my name was not on a million mailing lists and everything was in an electronic format) I might reconsider. I am totally bummed that to join ACRL I have to join ALA – it means I don’t belong to either. Truthfully, I would rather belong to a smaller organization related to my area of specialty. I think I’m one of the few librarians in my organization who is not an ALA member – but I don’t feel like I’m missing out on much.

  3. Jamal and Miss Fifi, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Jamal, I can see why you would be focused on SLA — I’m curious how your experience has been in that organization?

    Miss Fifi, I think it’s interesting that you’d rather join a smaller organization — do you participate in anything that fits the bill? What do you envision that would look like?

  4. The ALA membership drop out rate for young professionals is no mystery. Between 2003-2006, about 25,500 MLS were awarded in the US…that’s just three years. (
    After getting that degress, most of graduates aren’t able to get jobs as librarians…so why continue to be members of a professional organization? There are simply not enough jobs to warrant the enrollment levels in MLS programs. Of course, people argue that older librarians -especially in academic positions-are going to retire and vacate positions-I see no evidence of this happening. The tenured librarian remains in his/her position proving everyday that no replacement will be necessary when the day comes to leave. In public libraries across the country older librarians are being encourged to accept retirement to save $…those positions will not be filled.

  5. I completely agree with Miss Fifi that it’s a bummer you have to belong to ALA in order to join ACRL. Now I too belong to neither after 5 years of continued membership. And I also don’t believe I’m missing out on much.

  6. I’ve been a member of ALA for two years. The first year the membership was free thanks to a scholarship. My library school offered dual membership to TLA and ALA for one price, so I was able to be a member of both organizations while in library school for the price of one. I finished library school in 2008, so I no longer qualify for the student membership rates. I wanted to attend ALA annual this past summer, so I renewed my membership to get the discounted rate to attend ALA. So, I think the reasons I *do* ALA is because of opportunities — the opportunity to be a member for free via the scholarship I received, and the opportunity to get a discounted rate to the annual conference. If I had not planned on attending the annual conference, I probably wouldn’t have renewed my membership. Aside from having attended the conference in Chicago over the summer, I haven’t participated in ALA this year.

  7. I was a member of ALA and ACRL as an early career librarian, but have since allowed my membership to lapse. I did not find that the cost of membership was worth the value I was getting out of the organization or the meetings, particularly considering that librarian salaries have been pretty stagnant lately. As a youngish professional with family obligations, I do have to make the choice between paying the cost of membership and paying for other living costs. I also wish that I could belong to ACRL without having to pay ALA dues. In the meantime, I have found smaller, more narrowly focused organizations that are more relevant to my career interests.

  8. The best thing about ALA is that the American Libraries Direct email keeps me up to date on news about libraries big and small across the country. The thing I dislike the most is that ALA claims to speak for me on political issues, most recently on health care. I also dislike that most of my family and some library customers dislike ALA because most of ALA’s attention seeking behavior in recent history has been about fighting internet filtering and promoting “banned books.”

    I will probably continue my ALA membership after getting my MLIS if I am employed in a public library.

    Re: Kim’s question to Jamal about SLA– I joined SLA this year and I find the SLA website, webinars, and conferences are more focused on professional knowledge and skills. Less politics, less “Aren’t we great.”

  9. I have been an ALA member for 19 years. I joined when I was at library school at Indiana University at the encouragement of several faculty. Even though I am a Clinical Medical Librarian working in a Hospital I have retained my basic ALA membership because it is the representation of our profession. While the Special Libraries Association and the Medical Library Association are great their focus is not on all libraries and all ages. ALA does this. I have been a member of several different divisions of ALA but when money got tight I had to cut them. I just recently cut something out of my household budget to rejoin ACRL because they have a new Health Sciences group. I’ve never been active in committees because I can’t go to any of the meetings (they are always too far away and too expensive for me) and I’m very active in MLA which takes a lot of my time. Overall I like to read about the challenges facing our profession and exciting things we are doing in our ever changing profession. I want to have my hand on the pulse of our profession and ALA allows me to do that. Otherwise how would I be responding here if I hadn’t received my ALA Direct. That alone is worth the price of my ALA membership.

  10. I agree with Amy Taylor’s comment above: “The thing I dislike the most is that ALA claims to speak for me on political issues.” ALA needs to recognize the political diversity among its membership.

    However, I am in general an enthusiastic participant in ALA, ALSC, and YALSA — I attend Annual and Midwinter whenever possible, hope to be active on committees in the future, etc. I joined ALA as a MLIS student a few years ago, taking advantage of the student rate. Now that I am employed in a public library, my employer pays for my membership, but I would probably maintain it even if I had to pay it out of pocket. I do like the AL direct newsletter, the conferences, and the continuing ed opportunities.

  11. I don’t participate in ALA because I am an active member of the Medical Library Association — at the national and regional level. Participating and attending the two annual meetings keeps me pretty busy. In regards to professional development, I feel this organization best serves that need.

  12. I graduated with an MLIS in 2005 and have been a public librarian since 2003. I’m not a member of ALA because I feel like I don’t have much to gain for the amount of money it would cost. I’m quoting someone else here, can’t remember who, but they said that you when you get frustrated with ALA, you have to remember it’s the American LIBRARY Association, not the American LIBRARIANS’ Association. They seem to work on a beaurocratic level that has not much to do with my professional life at a small public library. I’m on board with the previous poster who said they would like the option of just supporting their section of ALA. I wouldn’t mind joining YALSA, but ALA holds no interest to me otherwise.

  13. I’m not a member of ALA nor do I have enough money to post buy a camera to record a video to post. I also don’t have the extra $200 laying around to become a memeber. I was a member as a student, but I don’t feel that giving money to the organization brings me back anything. I am a member of my state library organization and very active in that role.

  14. I have attended 3 annual conferences and do not have plans to attend this summer. I find the meetings offered at ALA to be hit or miss and usually do not have too much to take away for the time and cost of attending. I am interested in joining ACRL but I am also frustrated by the fact it is another membership fee on top of the ALA membership fee.

  15. @Amy and @Anna
    I think this is really interesting to hear. Can you think more about and communicate how you think ALA could work to represent more diverse political view points? What could we do so that all members felt their political viewpoints were heard, especially when it comes to passing resolutions regarding things like healthcare, etc.

    Any ideas you might have regarding this would be great to hear.

    Thanks for commenting.

  16. I am no longer a young librarian. I’m definitely a middle-aged librarian. But I identify with some of what I’ve read in these comments. I first belonged to ALA when I was in library school. I remember being overwhelmed by the mailings, and didn’t connect with a whole heck of a lot in “American Libraries”. I let my membership lapse, and in the early years got very involved with my local and state library organizations. I was generously mentored by folks at the Western Massachusetts Regional Library System, who invited me on committees and generally helped me get grounded in the profession. After 6 years in a small public library (which did not have a whole heck of a lot of money for professional development) I got a job at a prep school, where there were funds for an ALA membership AND to send me to conferences.

    Generationaly, I’m cusper, right between the boomers and the Gen xers. This certianly colors my following comments. I really like being involved in ALA for two main reasons. #1) It’s our national library association – and supports our fighting the good fight. #2) connections with librarians of all ages in all types of libraries all over this country and around the world. But, my involvement has been contingent on institutional funding for my participation (as a member and on committees etc.)

  17. I am a relatively active member of ALA. I became involved because I was awarded a Spectrum Scholarship and was given the opportunity to attend a wonderful leadership institute as part of the award. At the institute, I met Loriene Roy who encouraged me to become active in the American Indian Library Association (you do not have to be a member of ALA to join and it’s only $15). Over the years, I have served on various ALA committees, at first because it was a promotion and tenure requirement at my previous position. Every year, I struggle with whether or not to renew all of my memberships (ALA, ACRL, RUSA, & various roundtables). But every year I decide that it is worth it. Here are the reasons that I do ALA:

    – ALA has given me so many opportunities and $$ over the years. I’ve added it up and I’ve gotten more the $10,000 in scholarships and travel grants. In November, I am going to Guadalajara for the second time through the FIL Free Pass program . So I can’t really complain about $200

    – I support ALA’s advocacy efforts. I think that the Washington Office does a great job of representing our profession, especially on issues of intellectual freedom.

    – I actually enjoy ALA conferences. Although I think we should probably move to just one conference a year, I really enjoy my time at both conferences. I agree that the programs can be hit or miss, but I always get something from the vast exhibits. To me, the most valuable part of being active at conferences has been getting to know my colleagues from across the nation. Working with all these people has inspired me and taught me a lot about librarianship. And of course I always have a great time in any city when hoards of librarians invade.

    – I view reading the professional literature as a bonus to all the other perks of membership, but I have to agree that I do get too much stuff from all the associations

    Earlier this year, I was asked to run for ALA Council. I was VERY reluctant and actually took several months to decide. In the end, I decided to go ahead and do it because my involvement in ALA has been so beneficial.

  18. I am a member of ALA, and I have been to two annual conferences. The cost – as the comments above have stated – is a growing concern. When I was a student it was great (and cheap), and I could afford to be a member of as many things that interested me, but now I have to make cuts and that’s particularly hard because I don’t think I’m really at a place in my career where I can definitively say what kind of librarian I am and a member of what sole sub-organization I should be. Also, the annual conference is really enjoyable, so far I have found the programs to be very informative – but it’s overwhelming and really expensive. My work pays for me to go and I really want to get involved in ALA committee work, but they can’t afford to send me to two ALA conferences a year. I really want to go to a Midwinter conference, just to see what its like, but between airfare, hotel, and conference cost there is no way I can foot the bill myself.

    One of the hard things about participating in ALA for me is that I do it mostly for me, and my work is very supportive because they want to see me grow professionally. But I am torn, because I know that ALA (in conferences, committees, and as an organization) has little to offer the organization that I work for. I work for a hybrid museum, archive, and library – but at some point I might have to make a choice between what I want for me and what is for the good of the organization. Currently I draw from what I can in people’s presentations and papers, and use it creatively in our environment, but I know most people in our community don’t even bother with ALA because it doesn’t seem like ALA makes much effort to reach out to them either.

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