Annoyed Librarian
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Do You Want AL in Print?

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.



  1. How would I prop up that short leg of my couch?

  2. Long John Silver says:

    If I didn’t get the American Libraries in print I guess I would have to use my copies of Library Journal for my parrot to $hit on.

  3. Annie Linney says:

    Dear AL,

    I decided not to renew my ALA membership. I don’t read American Libraries, and can’t afford to go to the conferences! And the ALA works to cut our salaries by over-recruiting! What a bunch of meanies!

    I want to tell them why I’m letting my membership lapse, but I don’t know how! I keep getting letters asking me to renew, but there’s no phone number or address of a member services person to whom I can express my frustrations! It’s like they don’t even care!

    What’s the best way I can let the ALA know why I’m leaving?

  4. Groucho Marx -- Librarian says:

    I wouldn’t want to be part of any organization that wanted me as a member.

  5. Vegans For Meat says:

    I read American Libraries once; it was during an extended nod I was having after a morning methadone dose.

  6. So long as American Libraries doesn’t mention $ex I will maintain my subscription.

  7. I’m one of the odd ones who actually does enjoy reading AL in print. However, the electronic format is sufficient and more environmentally friendly. I say Go Green, and perhaps issue just an annual or semi-annual special issue of AL.

    RCN, SF Bay Area

  8. If I ever decide to actually read it, I’ll read it on my ebook reader, tyvm.

  9. good-looking straight guy librarian (not says:

    American Libraries occassionally has some useful articles in it. I read those and then ignore the others.

    It’s a better use of time than reading it, not liking it, and then complaining about it continually. (which is the mode of many a soul in library-land).

  10. Advertisers aren’t being duped. Most of the people who receive the magazine at least read part of it, even the people on here who proudly proclaim to throw it away immediately – as if that makes them superior in some way.

  11. Mr. Whipple says:

    I always get it in print and always will.

    You never know when you are going to run out of toil3t paper and you will need more $hit wipe.

  12. Vegans For Meat says:

    hotlanta, just because Flava Flav dumped you doesn’t mean you have to take it out on us. American Libraries is worthless: even the whinos I hang with know that!

  13. library one says:

    Dash Canyon – what an incredibly random comment. Truly strange.

    I flip through the print AL, but I actually give more attention to the online AL Direct.

    I’m not sure why. Easier to skim? More portable? Arrives more often in smaller pieces?

    I’d love to not receive AL in print, or C&RL for that matter. Online would be fine.

  14. It is, of course, outrageous that librarians in the arts and humanities have to practically eviscerate their current journal titles to come up with a
    couple thousand dollars worth of savings, when the sciences (and to a lesser degree, the social sciences) need only cancel one title to make the same

    Difficult times–difficult decisions. One thing to keep in mind though is
    maintaining access to the cotent of the journal and not worry too much about
    the format of delivery. Academic based projects like JSTOR and Project Muse
    are likely to remain stable and reliable. So often the content is compromised in the electronic versions of titles because of copyright issues
    involving the reproductions. And what about journals that offer the
    reproductions in color?

    It’s my observation that print journal browsing is declining steadily in all libraries. I’m becoming less and less concerned about having print copies
    of the latest journals (except for the absolute core) on the shelf for
    faculty or students to browse through if the content is readily available to
    them online. We need to adapt to the changing research patterns of the
    students and younger faculty.

  15. Auntie Nanuuq says:

    “I want to tell them why I’m letting my membership lapse, but I don’t know how! I keep getting letters asking me to renew, but there’s no phone number or address of a member services person to whom I can express my frustrations! It’s like they don’t even care! What’s the best way I can let the ALA know why I’m leaving?”

    Silly…..send the requests for renewal back to them asking to be removed from their mailing list as well as explaining why you are dropping them!

  16. I don’t think it’s a matter of feeling superior. American Libraries, like the ALA, is very public-library oriented. Most librarians aren’t public librarians. Though of course I am superior, my superiority isn’t manifested by immediately recycling a magazine that has almost no interest for my professional life. I’d be happy not to get the print of any of the ALA mags. The only one I ever look at is C&RL News, and only then to see if someone I know changed jobs.

  17. Mr. Kat, I object. I used to work in Journal Deselection, and it is one of the stupidest ideas I know yet.

    it seems like a good idea. Unfortunately, Libraries are regarding these journal subscriptions like physical matierials: buy it once and you own it forever. Journal Subscrptions have been going up at a steady rate of 8% each year for the last 5 years – take a guess how library budgets have been going!!

    A spot of good news: if you ever need the print, you can always ring up CRL. They have tons of old stuff!!!

    The electronic world is killing hte print world, and it’s about time. I think it will do us all a lot of good when these pompous library foggies get kicked out of their fake prestigious journals and into the cold cold world that is the bloggersphere. Lets see how the twopointopians LIKE the 2.0 world once they have to be a part of it!! hA!!

  18. AL when you go into print, I will rush down the road to buy your book ad sent it to the US to get you to autograph it for me. Your scari comments make my day

  19. annoyed more often then not says:

    The advertisers think they’re ad are being viewed by the people who make the decisions and spend the dollars, when its actually being looked at by peons who aren’t allowed to spend dough or make decisions.

  20. What is the ratio of Public Librarians to Academic LIbrarian?

  21. Vegans For Meat says:

    What is the ratio of Public Librarians to Academic LIbrarian?

    That information is located here: h(2t)p(colon)//nces(dot)ed(dot)gov Under School, College, and Library Search

    Library Journal, your blog platform is a disgrace.

  22. Bill Gaines says:

    American Libraries is barely one step above the National Enquirer for journalistic integrity.

    However, because Library Journal is a for profit magazine for people with alleged social consciousness, they are below Hustler when it comes to their view of the people who provide “content”.

  23. Better stats seem to be and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. I’ve tried to link and I won’t bother with workaround. You’re librarians, after all. You can find it. Of the roughly 158K librarians employed in 2006, it looks like about 63K were school librarians, 31K academic librarians, and about 45K public librarians (or at least librarians who work for “state and local govt”). Looks like the school librarians win.

  24. The road ahead for public and academic libraries will be a rough one. Public and academic librarians can be proud of the work they do, but the value that their patrons place on that work might decline to a point that threatens not only jobs, but even libraries.

    So if you’re a public librarian, when was the last time you, say, spent a morning at the city police department asking them what their upcoming projects are and suggesting ways the library could help with those projects?

    Or if you’re an academic librarian, when was the last time you, for example, attended a faculty governance meeting, then contacted individual faculty afterwards to express an interest in their ideas and inform them about how the library could support them?

    And if there’s not a last time for either, why not make the first time be tomorrow?

  25. Yeah

    There are only academic or public or school librarians out there.


  26. Library Cynic says:

    There are only academic or public or school librarians out there.

    That’s not true.

  27. is ALA a cult?

    AL, could you please do a blog on library school! I’m thinking about getting an MLIS to complement my MA in English and I keep hearing bad things about library schools. It’s not worth it, it’s a joke, it’s an insult to one’s intelligence, and…and it’s run by the ALA, the bane of librarianship…so some librarians say.

    Please, AL, I implore thee, enlighten me with the stroke of your pen (or keyboard) and the wisdom that flows out of it so that i may make a decision as to apply or not.

  28. Well, to hear people b!tch and moan, you would think that they are the only ones out there.

    I guess they are the only ones that matter.

    Sorry to have bothered anyone.

  29. MLS Extraordinaire says:

    dork, go to library school, get your MLS.

    People here talk it down because once you get in it is the cushiest way to $100+ a year I know.

  30. librarydude says:

    You shouldn’t go to library school. It will probably be too difficult for you.

  31. MLS Extraordinaire says:


    Don’t listen to librarydude.

    You can be making $100 large PLUS each and every year.

    It is totally sweet.

  32. $100+ a year, start pay? Will I get my own parking space, city-paid car (I’d like a Mercedes-Benz AMG SL65 Black Series, but I know that may be asking the taxpayers too much so I’ll settle for just a used M-B SL500 [R129]–black, please!), and a 50″ plasma widescreen for video conferencing? Wow, imagine what a director gets! I’m applying to library school stat!

    AL, forget about the blog request! I am truly inspired and motivated!

  33. Considering about 140K out of 158K are public, school, or academic librarians, and that the rest are very scattered, they are the ones that get the most attention. The ALA, though, seems to focus only on public librarians, so about 30% of the whole.

  34. Although the number of public librarians is small, their politcal clout is disproportionate.

    It is obvious that there is much to be gained from analyzing recently collected data on library ballot measures both at the state and national level. There is definitely a trend toward placing more library measures on the ballot to allow the electorate to decide on public library funding.

    Public library ballot measures generally obtain an approval rate of over 60%, but the degree of success is highly dependent upon the percentage of “Yes” votes needed for passage. In those states with only a simple majority vote requirement, the success rate is generally fairly high (nationally the reported success rate for library campaigns is approximately 80%), however, in those states where a super-majority is required for passage, the success rate drops off steeply.

    Further, the chance of success for a library issue appears to be closely tied to how well the community has supported other public service measures in the past such as those for schools, police and fire services. Obviously, library campaign planners should be very interested in the overall and individual precinct results for previously held elections involving public service measures. It appears that the library’s past performance record is one of the most important criteria for success or failure, and that campaign messages addressing literacy, new technologies and the positive impact of libraries on children are also important to success. The issues of increased taxation, poor timing of the vote, negative economic climate and significant organized opposition are all factors which strongly increase the chance of failure for a library measure.

    Public library use is on the increase. Library use by the electorate is important, since the more people use the library, the more they will support it at the polls. Voters who are better educated, wealthier and Democrats tend to use the library more often and generally tend to support library measures more frequently. One popular concept with voters is the idea of “set-aside” funding for libraries. This means the approval of either a special tax which will generate a revenue stream that is dedicated to the library, or a specific percentage of general fund revenues dedicated for public library use only which can not be reduced or diverted by elected officials to other purposes.

    It is obvious from the data, that there is a lot to learn about public library ballot measures, their successes and failures, and it is even more obvious that without a continued and comprehensive data collection effort along with prudent analysis, many communities will not benefit from improved public library service because they will not be able to avail themselves of the benefits derived from an adequate and stable funding source for their libraries.

  35. Mr. kat, I wish you had a clue about what you were talking about. I could take your impostership a little better.

    Here is my understanding of the university system in the trenches: The departments expect the information int eh library to be as interactive as the informaiton on the web. They expect that librarians know this already and have already gone forward and built large databases of of all the informaiton that is contained within the jounrals already. They expect that the librarians are able to select every single article on a particular subject and send it to them – all of the articles within 72 hours.

    the problem for libraries is that there are indeed information resources that already operate like this. Furthermore, there are some departments on campus who have budgets large enough that they can buy access to select journals on their own, library be damned.

    I come from an academic world where when the library went to the departments for support, they recieved back votes of no-confidence.

    My stint in library school showed me that the library world is no where near tackling today’s informaiton challenges; that the librarians of today are no more advanced then they were fifty years ago – with one advantage, they know how to use a computer and use simple HTML.

    The library’s future is as a computer lab. One giant exhaustive computerlab, for the undergraduates who cannot yet afford laptops.

    But then I see Universities mandating that all incoming freshmen have laptops int eh near future. Some already have.

  36. Although the number of public librarians is small, their politcal clout is disproportionate.

    Referendum 5 is a sham and this post was plagarized.

  37. Vegans For Meat says:

    The library’s future is as a computer lab. One giant exhaustive computerlab, for the undergraduates who cannot yet afford laptops. But then I see Universities mandating that all incoming freshmen have laptops int eh near future. Some already have.

    Yeah, that’s why John Hopkins University is expending a vast sum to add to their library

  38. From what I understand, Johns Hopkins (not John Hopkins) is increasing their public computer use as part of their expansion – proving my point.

  39. Library Cynic says:

    Libraries might be starting to resemble large computer labs, but it at least keeps library staff employed.

  40. Vegans For Meat says:

    Mr. Kat, I mean, anonymous, first I want to offer my deepest apology for the typo I committed.

    Now, it is true that more computer space will be available, but the point that you seem to be missing is that this is still taking place within a library. Complaining about adding more space for computers and other media is like getting angry over adding more shelving space for books; they are both mediums for obtaining information and knowledge. The important point here is that students are using computers more often in the library, just as students before them used books in the library. Most students probably at Johns Hopkins probably have laptops anyway, but the new facilities offer much more than just new computer terminals. All this reminds me of how some scoffed at the electric guitar thinking that it was the end of “natural” music instruments.

  41. The point that you are missing is that students aren’t using the computers for “research.” They are using the computers for checking their email, facebook, etc. That’s the difference between a computer lab and a library. That difference is eroding.

  42. Vegans For Meat says:

    I have a feeling that it’s somewhere in-between. The students are alt-tabbing between their research and Facebook, while text messaging their friends all the while listening to music on their iPod.

  43. Vegans, you’re responding to one anonymous Mr. Kat and myself, the other Mr. Kat [the original on this blog form the “I’m Kat!” days. However, anonymous this time nailed the point.

    The number one reason I see students using hte LIbrary computers is for the software packages. Office 2007, and it’s the Ultimate version, not to mention a stack of software that would cost individually close to 3 or 5 thousand dollars.

    The research that is being done might make use of the library databases – that happens quite a bit. What this does mean is that the physical materials are not being used near as much. I remember that in my own research fo rresearch papers, one of the criteria for any resources was that the artical had to be available via the internet. If it was not, then I did not use that article in my paper. It was really a matter of convienience and time management, where using print articles took no less then twenty minutes going and getting the materials. Ten seconds is the Internet way. That gave me nineteen minutes and fifty seconds to think about my next post for the AL blog comments section or one of the other five communities I frequent!!!!

    The fact of the matter is that this shift in library technology means that librarians are no longer necessary. Instead, you will be seeing IT and other network people, along with programmers and people very familiar with computer applications. The mode will be those who can think and build using the computer, rather then those who think using the book. Librarians haven’t built much of anything ever since the OCLC days when libraries actually did original cataloging to make new MARC records.

    I only hope that librarins could be a little more efficent at putitng information on the web. We need to start using our field specialties and going into teh stacks of jounral research and putting the contents of those papers on the web. Yes, you CAN write good descriptions on the web so long as you include the source citation. that is what the science departments want!! If libraries do it then we don’t get stuck paying the third parties an 8% increase each year for the databases!

  44. Detached Amusement says:

    “…which would save on paper and presumably other energy costs associated with transporting physical items” In other words $$. And yet we have “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.” Here we have ALA being necessary for “advocacy”. Advocacy for what? How has their advocacy actually helped LIBRARIANS? THUMBS DOWN! Their lobbying has been a bomb in D.C.. They keep up this misinformation about there being a “Librarian Shortage” for at least three decades, allowing the diploma mills to crank out more people with worthless diplomas, and a hefty student debt.
    Maybe ALA needs to SERIOUSLY justify what they are doing, and what they plan to do, and WHY. I used to be involved with ALA JMRT, but my eyes were opened somewhere along the way as to the sham of it all. It’s too bad there isn’t a National Association of LIBRARIANS, to pick up the flag and do it right. Saving the whales isn’t necessarily going to help LIBRARIANS, Libraries, or the PUBLIC who use libraries, or MIGHT. Just where is the field headed? It seems like it has been on too much of a tear on cheap gin or “two buck Chuck” [vs. martinis]in recent decades. Somewhere they’ve had a “blackout”, and a “lost weekend” lasting a few decades. Rehab time for ALA, or hire others who can do better?

  45. re active duty, and then when you get out, all tuition, fees & books are paid by the GI Bill. And if you don’t have a job when you get out and want to go to school full-time, the Veteran’s Administration’s Vocation Rehab Program will buy you a laptop and pay you a monthly stipend while you are a full-time student. It’s truly a great gig. Getting my library school degree didn’t cost me a dime. And all the while I was earning those great educational benefits, I was also serving my country will full pay, free healthcare, and all expense paid 179-day vacations to the desert every other year or so. A small price to pay for that library school degree.—-

    And it keeps getting better…Once I got my degree, I was eligible to become a government civilian employee librarian. Those start in the GS-11 or so pay range of at least $52,000. That is MUCH better than a public school librarian who only makes $43,000 a year to start and (in Texas at least) must be a teacher for 2 years prior to getting that school library job. That is not so in every state so choose your residence wisely. And as a GS employee, you don’t work federal holidays or weekends. And every once in a while, the President will throw you a bone and declare another government holiday like he did for Dec 26th this year. I did see a library job at K-State Univ that started at $73 and was tenured position as well. That’s almost enough to make me move to Kansas…almost.—-

    Now me? I wasn’t happy with just 4 years so I went ahead and put in my 20. And along the way, the military taught me all about computer systems. It was very cool. So now, I can utilize that little nugget of information along with my library school degree and bring our library into the Data Center of Excellence I’ve always dreamed about. Our stacks are getting fewer and fewer, but our knowledge base is expanding by the day. So I say phooey to just about anything in print. —-

    Interestingly enough, our printer paper usage isn’t up either. So if a patron finds an article they want in hard copy, you’d think they would print it. But they are not. That just proves that hard copies are going by the wayside. The only thing I really detest though, is that some journals won’t allow you access to their online subscription without first purchasing the hard copy. What kind of crap is that?

  46. At the risk of sounding like a complete knob, how do you savvy folks get paragraph separations in your posts? I try all the HTML coding, holding down the shift key on Return, first typing in Word, etc. I know, and nothing seems to work. Please enlighten.

  47. librarydude says:

    If you need paragraph breaks, that means your posts are too long.

  48. The original GI Bill provided full tuition, housing, and living costs for some 8 million veterans; for many, it was the engine of opportunity in the postwar years. But, in the mid 1980s, the program was scaled back to a peacetime program that pays a flat sum. Today the most a veteran can receive is approximately $9,600 a year for four years – no matter what college costs.

    Now, five years into the Iraq conflict, a movement is gathering steam in Washington to boost the payout of the GI Bill, to provide a true war-time benefit for war- time service. But the effort has run headlong into another reality of an unpopular war: the struggle to sustain an all-volunteer force.

    The Pentagon and White House have so far resisted a new GI Bill out of fear that too many will use it – choosing to shed the uniform in favor of school and civilian life.

    Such administration objections infuriate the lead advocate in Congress for upgrading GI Bill benefits, US Senator James Webb, Democrat of Virginia. Webb, a Vietnam veteran and the only serving senator with a son who has seen combat in Iraq, said he simply can’t understand why veterans struggling to pay for higher education is not on the nation’s political radar screen, particularly in the presidential primary season when the war and the economy are both at the center of the debate.

  49. I’ll lforego the obvious computer-savvy bashing which is inevitably going to come, and just tell you to use ”br” as the HTML code (short for “break”). < br > and then < /br > will leave one line between paragraphs. (Of course, don’t include the spaces … I had to leave them in or else it would actually be code). Hope that helps!

  50. Vegans For Meat says:

    Am I the only one who didn’t put 2 and 2 together to realize that the woman in the Toto video for the song, “Africa” is a librarian? I knew all that methadone was making me slow, but this is ridiculous. I think that video was very precient for its time. In the end all the books are “accidentally” set on fire and the white guy with his books dreams about returning to the cradle of civilzation, i.e. the state of nature we all long for. Toto’s worldview is not kind to IT departments and databases and by god I’m with them on this. It’s time to shut down the Library. Shut it down!

  51. a good looking straight guy says:

    Hey Harleygirl, what did you do in the military? I did a little over two years in the early 1990s Army (easy peacetime stuff between the First Gulf War and the Balkans, so I got off easy though I did jump out of airplanes.) It got me 17 grand for my Ph.D. After getting that and a second Master’s in LIS I landed a pretty cool academic library job. (Although, as former airborne, I’d rather have a beer than one of AL’s martinis).

    People complain about the library field too much. If you don’t like it, improve it. That’s more constructive and productive than just complaining. For example whenever I had a library school assignment that was trite and stupid, I rewrote the assignment to be substantive and challenging and turned in something based on the rewrite instead. It worked like a charm.

  52. A good looking straight guy that is prior service and drinks beerz like me? Oh be still my heart…:)
    I was an AF medical computer systems geek from 83 – 03. (Still am I guess). Before landing this cushy job, I kept our systems secure so hackers couldn’t get in. Information Assurance we like to call it now. Having all that security knowledge really helped when the library IT guys initially said “No” to my systems upgrade and software requests. But I wowed them with gibber jabber they could understand and batted my baby blues at them…oh, and cookies. They really liked the cookies.
    Thanks for the HTML coding reminder. I use a wysiwyg app and forgot my basics!

  53. PrintisnotDead says:

    I’m an e-resources librarian, yet, I still like to sit with a journal, mag, newspp and read it from cover to cover. I scan my AL issues and like doing so.

    It’s not surprising that a response to such a query (print v. electronic) would get a lot of feedback trashing print when the question is being posed w/in an electronic format. To be fair, perhaps you could ask the same question within the next issue of AL?

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