Not only are librarians becoming carnies, they’re also becoming beggars, even at the ALA. Is this a small anomaly, or a glimpse of the future?
A kind reader concerned that librarians are turning into beggars sent me a couple of links: this sad page in American Libraries on Why You Should Go to ALA Annual and this request by a librarian to donate money so that another librarian can go to ALA Annual. Yet another kind reader sent the original donation request.
The ALA appeal demonstrates their usual blend of peppiness and cluelessness. It begins, “With more than 500 programs, 500+ exhibitors, thousands of attendees to network with, do you really need to explain why attending the 2012 ALA Annual Conference and Exhibition in Anaheim is essential to your professional life?”
Since it links to a long page of suggestions on how to make the case for attending Annual and to an even longer list of librarian testimonials about how darned great Annual is, then, yeah, I guess they really do need to explain why attending Annual is “essential to your professional life.”
That “essential” amused me. Don’t get me wrong. I love going to Annual and hanging out for a few days wining and dining on my library’s or a vendor’s dime. But “essential”? As in, the majority of librarians who don’t attend every year can’t do their jobs effectively?
Let me put that another way. They might not be able to do their job effectively, but if so, is that because they didn’t attend Annual?
Also, if it were really essential, would so many libraries be cutting travel funding from their budgets?
It’s not that all the reasons for going are lame. “You’ll save your library time and money by reviewing products and services among the 700 vendors in the exhibit hall,” ALA claims. And you probably will. Whether it will offset the cost of attending is another thing.
Another claim: “Your library’s reputation gets stronger when you participate actively in your profession and show that your home institution is committed to professional development, innovation, and improving its services. So when they need to hire, the best candidates will already know why they want to work there.”
This seems like a dubious claim. The reality is more that libraries that can afford to spend money on professional development can also afford to pay more, and those that pay more attract the best candidates. But that professional development could take place at all sorts of conferences and workshops unconnected with ALA Annual.
You’re also invited to “Read what your colleagues say!” There you will find such informative testimonials like:
- The experience was awesome!
- I loved it. It was a fabulous experience!
- An awesome experience!
- Awesome! The conference to attend.
- ALA was an absolute blast!
Fabulous is good, but awesome is better! I’m convinced. Now even I want to go to ALA Annual!
Unfortunately, the six figure salary LJ pays me to write this blog mostly goes for upkeep on the summer house in the Hamptons they gave me as a signing bonus, so I can’t afford to go to Anaheim in June.
The ALA has the same motivation as the carny librarians. The reality is that fewer librarians are attending ALA conferences because they’ve lost their funding for travel and professional development during the past few years of recessions.
Maybe the appeal should be even more desperate to attract librarians with so many more professional development options than they used to have. How’s this:
ALA Midwinter Meeting is dying. The meetings are becoming increasingly virtual as technology improves and budgets shrink. ALA Annual is one of the top fund generators for ALA. If Annual also shrinks and dies, so does the ALA. If you want the ALA around, start going to Annual. Don’t go to that cheap “unconference.” Don’t bother with “webinars.” Come give your money to us or we won’t be around much longer.
But how to afford it? That’s easy! Librarians should all support each other in our aim to go to ALA Annual. We should all start asking for donations.
Asking for donations from other librarians might seem pointless, since they don’t tend to have a lot of extra money. Maybe librarians could hold bake sales or walkathons. Sending librarians to ALA could become a charitable cause.
There could be donation jars in libraries: “Since my library is too cheap or broke to send me to a library conference, can you please give me money to go?”
If enough people donate, that might cover the conference fee and travel expenses. While at the conference, librarians could then live on the street and wear signs saying, “Will attend an ALA program for food.”
The possibilities are endless.