Should AL be in print? If we’re talking about the Annoyed Librarian, a lot of people have very clearly said yes, and a lot of people just as clearly have said no. However, I’m talking about the other AL: my dark twin American Libraries. The ALA is trying to go greener, and someone suggested that they give ALA members the option not to receive American Libraries in print, which would save on paper and presumably other energy costs associated with transporting physical items. There’s also the added benefit of saving me and countless other ALA members the effort of moving American Libraries straight from the mailbox to the recycling bin.
The AL Inside Scoop didn’t like the idea, though. The writer there sensibly believes that it’s "time to stop characterizing print AL as the sole perquisite of membership in ALA," which I’ve always found amusing and annoying. The pity is that it’s true, which shows us the perks are small beer. But check out the main rationalization for keeping AL print:
"The second correction is to the notion that producing print American Libraries is somehow a drain on the association. The fact of the matter is that AL operates much like any other print magazine. Circulation numbers attract advertisers, advertisers want print, and it is still American Libraries print that pays the bills and the overhead required for the association to employ people to do the work necessary to be an effective advocacy organization."
I’m thinking those advertisers aren’t terribly bright. If you have an ordinary magazine, then circulation and subscription numbers have some meaning. If I pay to subscribe to a magazine, I probably read it or at least glance through it. But American Libraries gets sent out regardless of who wants it to people who join ALA for all sorts of reasons. I don’t think I’ve ever read an issue. So the advertising revenue is based on the false assumption that the people ALA sends the magazine to actually read it.
I’d love to see the option to not get American Libraries in print or any other way. Saves paper. Saves energy. Saves me effort. Based on the ALA’s reasoning, though, it might be dangerous to give us that option. What if it turned out that the vast majority of ALA members don’t want it in print and don’t read it? It might be the death of ALA! Oh well. I suppose it’s better for the ALA to make money by duping advertisers than by raising my dues.