We got an exciting announcement a couple of weeks ago that if you’re an unemployed librarian, you can join ALA at a discount. Yay!
"Do you know, for example, that ALA has a special membership category at $46 for non-salaried library employees who make less than $25,000 a year or are unemployed?" we are asked.
In fact, I did know that. I’ve known about the various rates for years, and have been taking advantage of them all along. For a few years, I used the student rate, which is currently $33/year. Unfortunately, the ALA will only let you be a student for five years, so after that you have to come up with another plan. For a few years I pretended to be a library support staff member (currently $46/year), then I posed as a non-salaried member for a number of years, until finally I claimed to be a retired member (also $46/year), and I can probably keep up that fiction for the rest of my career. I have all the ALA junk sent to my home address, and what are the chances the membership people are going to try to track me down.
If I were really dedicated, I’d become a lifetime member. That membership is $2000 for the under fifties, $1750 for those in their fifties, and $1400 for sexagenarians and up. Lifetime membership in the ALA would seem to fall into the category of "more money than sense," regardless of the age. Obviously the ALA doesn’t think so. Consider this plea for your money:
"Giving the gift of Life Membership
Life Membership in ALA is a great gift for library students. ALA is their professional home and the key areas of ALA’s work will resonate in their new work life. For a 25 year old, paying for another 40 years of membership, until retirement, at current rates would cost $4,800."
I’d be curious to see how many 25-year-old librarians consider the ALA their "professional home." It seems to me the trend is to avoid the ALA and connect some virtual way, or maybe have an "unconference" and avoid paying registration fees. Young librarians are so cheap. They should know that paying their ALA conference registration fees helps subsidize my good time. Just something to keep in mind.
The initial blog post was trying to persuade unemployed librarians to join ALA. But why would they? I can’t think of a reason. On their website, the ALA used to have the claim that the "chief perquisite of ALA membership" was their house propaganda organ American Libraries, which at the time I remember thinking was a little sad. Now, even American Libraries is online. The site does say that, "ALA members now have online access to a fully searchable, digital database of American Libraries going back to January 2003." Wow! I’m so desperate to look through back issues of that rag that I might need a lifetime membership just so I don’t lose access. If you want to give me one, send the money to the Annoyed Librarian c/o LJ. I’ll use it for some new shoes a a big party with Chip and the gang, but it’s the thought that counts.
But really, why would unemployed librarians waste any money on ALA dues? They probably couldn’t afford to go to the conferences, even considering the off-season cheapo places where they occur. (Boston in January? Are they insane?) One might argue they should pony up for the conferences so they can participate in the interviews and get their resume critiqued.Ooooooh, exciting! Or, they can just go to the ALA jobs list and search the postings for free. They could probably get resume help from anyone. Heck, I should offer to post resumes on the blog and let readers critique. That would be fun!
Instead of the ALA trying to get blood from a stone, maybe they should be a bit more generous and just give away memberships to unemployed librarians. Sure, it would cut into their coffers a bit, but probably not much. The unemployed librarians could get exactly the same benefit the rest of us get – nothing – but wouldn’t have to pay. The ALA would get the benefit of increasing it’s membership numbers, and that’s always important.
In fact, that kind of membership boost would let the ALA take advantage of their "librarian shortage" propaganda over the years. This is perfect! They did their best to recruit people into library school with the promise of non-existent job shortages. Now they should do their part to give at least a modicum of dignity to those who can’t find jobs. They may be unemployed, but they’ll know the ALA cares about them! And gives them exactly the same benefits they give employed librarians!
That’s what I’d do if I ran ALA, anyway.