Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

The ALA Wants to Diminish My Social Life

The ALA doesn’t want me to spend a couple of weeks socializing with my librarian friends from across the country, and they’re doing everything they can to prevent it.

All during ALA, I was hearing the portents of doom. It seems next year they’re planning to shorten that Annual Conference by a day, supposedly to tempt people to run for ALA Council by saying they don’t have to spend an entire week listening to dull speakers at Council meetings. They’ll only have to spend 6 days! Good luck with that.

Or there are those people who can’t come anymore because their funding has been cut because, you know, we’re in an economic crisis. Personally I think that’s just an excuse from people who didn’t want to come to Conference in the first place. Many of those people have long wanted to become "virtual" members of ALA committees, and the ALA was all excited about it until they discovered the definition of "virtual member" was "member who doesn’t do any real work."

Then there are those "young people" who don’t do things like join organizations or go to conferences. They’re too hip for all that, and they’d rather have "virtual" conferences. I don’t know how true this is. When I walk around the convention, there seem to be a lot of young people, at least people younger than me and I’m not exactly ancient yet. Still, I can see where this might concern the ALA. They probably have access to demographic data stating the average age of ALA members is 72 or something like that. It wouldn’t surprise me. I see the younger librarians walking around on the convention floor, while the older librarians are probably wheeling their oxygen carts into ALA Council meetings.

Then there are supposedly vendor complaints. Apparently, few librarians go talk to vendors, even though they go to all the trouble to pay for booths and haul all their crap to the conference, plus host a lot of receptions and luncheons and dinners and awards and buses and stuff like that. So the vendors sit on the convention floor drinking coffee and trying to sell each other library furniture and book tape. One can see the vendor’s point on this. Most of the time it’s pointless to talk to the vendors anyway. If it’s just information you want, you can find it online, and if it’s a problem you need solved or a question you need answered it’s almost guaranteed that the rep you need to talk to just went to lunch, even though it’s 10a.m., and the person you’re talking to started at Big Library Database Corporation three weeks ago and is really still just learning the ropes.

Then there’s the "green" excuse. Oy, am I tired of hearing this one. If the ALA wants to go green, that’s fine, but can’t they quit using so much paper or turn the heat down at ALA headquarters or something like that? If they’re worried about all the wasted fuel for flights, they can just have all the conferences on the east coast and I’ll be happy to take the train. I love taking the train. I always sit in the dining car and hope Cary Grant comes in and befriends me because he’s hiding from some evil spies after being mistaken for a good spy who doesn’t really exist. Maybe not Cary Grant himself, of course, but a Cary Grant type. Then I could hide him in myPullman car and help him find out who the bad guys really are. Or something like that.

Some naysayers – and you know how I hate a naysayer – claim the problem is with ALA itself. They’re a moribund organization that hasn’t adapted much since the 1970s. The divisions and committees are dominated by librarians who are uncomfortable with change. They charge too much money for everything and don’t do anything for their members. That kind of thing.

There’s a bit of truth in this, I suppose, though I’d put the last adaptation date back to at least the 1940s. Also, the divisions and committees are dominated not by librarians uncomfortable with change, but with librarians who like to get away from their home library for a week and meet other people.

As for charging members a lot and never doing anything for them, well, yeah, that one seems to be pretty much the truth. If most members saw the skull beneath the skin at ALA, they’d probably wonder how the place functioned at all. Need some evidence of that? Take a look at the most recent ALA website. They updated it recently, and now pages have disappeared. The same thing happened three or four years ago when they last updated the website. It seems just as they get everything back online and organized they think it’s time to create a new website. A competent website is the least we should expect of ALA. If they can’t do that right, what are the chances that they’ll get anything else right?

But all these are just excuses. Shortening the conference, creating "virtual" committees, going green: I don’t believe any of it. The answer is obvious. The ALA hates me. The ALA knows I belong to the organization and come to conferences to socialize. Thus, the ALA wants to destroy that bit of enjoyment for me. Well, if they think they can shorten or eliminate some of my social life and think I’ll still be interested in them and they’re committees, then they have another think coming. It’s been long time coming, too.



  1. that was disappointing says:

    You’re getting paid for this? Yawn.

  2. Six days does seem like a long time for a conference still – but a short time for socialization. I know lots of young people who attend these conferences to try and find one of those elusive library jobs. I don’t think that they attend council meetings – takes a bit to break into the “in” crowd.

  3. The Cardinals have no chance on Sunday. They might as well stay in the hotel.

  4. watchingdvr/dvd Sunday says:

    Is there some kind of game on Sunday?

  5. AlwaysWanted2B says:

    In one of his video presentations the late Randy Pausch, probably one of the best professors in the country, talks about a conference where he did a presentation. He states that anther professor who he admired but never met, identified himself and asked Pausch a question. Pausch responded in part by asking the man if he would have lunch with him. You can’t do lunch virtually. Librarians are a bunch of whiners and I get tired of listening to them complain about the costs of conferences.

  6. I went to the annual conference once. And that was enough for me. I’d rather stay here in my library and work.

  7. do professional conferences legitimize one’s profession?

  8. I worked the recruitment booth for my library at the 07 Annual. Plus I went to the exhibits afterwards on a free vendor’s pass.

  9. Here is my problem I had to sign an ethics agreement and I dont get free lunches or dinners or anything any more. I just have to pay with my underpaid salary. But hey its a living

  10. Vegans For Meat says:

    I find conferences to be merry events. I really don’t see why there’s so much fuss. I look forward every year to attending conferences and feel like they’re a completely legitimate and for the most part beneficial professional activity. Come on folks: smile on your brother and try to love one another right now.

  11. Auntie Nanuuq says:

    Back in 2004, while working on my MLIS, one of our class assignments was to review and make a presentation on a “Professional” organization for librarians. My group chose ALA… we came to the conclusion that for the amount of yearly dues paid to ALA, the benefits received amount to ZILCH! Don’t get me wrong, the RUSA guidelines were great for gleaning information when writing papers on reference services…. But we honestly couldn’t figure out, just what the dues were for, especially since a person is charged additional fees/dues for each sub-group they belong to. With the notoriously low salaries librarians earn, how do they expect us to keep paying these exorbitant dues anyways (or do they)? Maybe, they only want certain levels of librarians to join?

  12. Kurt Warner says:

    No way! The Cardinals are the team of destiny this year. We’re going to rock Pittsburgh’s world on Sunday.

  13. At least the conferences give you a chance to discover the geographic variances among martinis. Does the thin air in Denver require more vermouth?

  14. one post and one comment says:

    The number of comments for each post just keeps getting less and less. This blog is dying a slow, but sure death.

  15. Just go to the ones in Hawaii or San Diego, spend a day collecting the free stuff from vendors, then spend the rest of the time lying on the beach.

  16. rump daddy says:

    If the Cardinals can contain the Steelers’ pash rush, they have a good shot at the upset.

  17. What has happened? AL started off so well. It was like a fresh warm breeze across the cold salty face of librarianship. Alas the blog is floundering for inspiration. Ahoy – another irritating 2.0 LJ article by the every present Michaels (Stephens et Casey)come to save the day and sink traditional librarianship. Hard starboard. Guns ready….

  18. anonymous says:

    Oh, please. Is this supposed to be funny somehow? If so, it’s too subtle to be funny and too boring to be interesting. LJ is paying you how much again?

  19. naval history fan (somewhat) says:

    Hey Bonobo….You need to sound general quarters (or “action stations”, or something else, depending on whose navy it is). Don’t just say “guns ready.”

    I do, however, appreciate the reference to naval combat.

    By the way, one of the best maritime special collections libraries out there is the Mariner’s Museum Library in Newport News, Virginia. If you like that stuff, visit them. If anyone from that library is reading this, good wishes to you.

  20. It's true the 72 yr-olds run ala says:

    I have to agree that after serving on committees for 4 years nothing much was done, and my age, still in the 35 and under category, was brought, so until the 72-yr-olds retire/leave/die, there is not much hope for ALA. I still pay dues, but only because my job pays for them. I can’t afford it otherwise and I am an academic librarian!

  21. Original Library Cynic says:

    “The number of comments for each post just keeps getting less and less. This blog is dying a slow, but sure death.”
    Amen. Wasn’t there something REALLY stupid to inspire your annoyance? No hyper-off-base SRRT Crusade that has nothing to do with libraries or librarians? No seemingly endless meetings where folks debate the way a statement is phrased, word for word? Not even a report on “The Meat Market”, aka ALA Placement, in this ongoing recession? In the case of the latter I suspect folks would rather spend their $$ on lottery tickets. They’ll get a better return. Not even another rumor of a “Librarian Shortage”, or has the committee found another way to parse the lingo on this?

  22. Original Library Cynic says:

    There’s no way the Steelers will score 34 points. The Cardinals passing attack will score at least three touchdowns – in the first half! My prediction is Cardinals 31, Steelers 17. Anybody on here going to the game?

  23. There is a new PEW pole that reminded me of AL. Denver is the number once city in the U.S. Americans would want live in. So, once again, AL is out of touch. Detroit is last (no surprise).

  24. I’d too addicted to NCAA football to really watch the NFL…sure, once college football is over one can at least watch the NFL playoffs and Super Bowl but if you’re a fan of the pigskin there really isn’t anything like college football. I’ll watch the Superbowl but I’m counting the days until August.

  25. down south says:

    LSU has one of the few library schools where the students actually have enough gumption and know enough about having fun to go tailgate. I’ll also be happy when August rolls back around.

  26. one band and one anton says:

    The Brian Jonestown Massacre is touring the US in 2009. I strongly recommend that you go see their show and eschew all this football nonsense.

  27. pigskin chick says:

    College football is more fun to watch in person but pro football is more fun to watch on TV. BTW, the Cardinals have no chance this weekend.

  28. Vegans for meat, You’re dating yourself. Not dating, dating, but dating. Huh.

  29. Naval History Fan (somewhat) – Merci beaucoup. It’s been years since I devoured by Hornblower (a young adult classic series in the old days to you 2.0 ers) I did not know that about Newport News. Too bad because I lived in Norfolk for 2 years.

  30. Jim Rettig says:

    You devoured a hornblower? Are we allowed to talk about things like that on this blog?

  31. doggiestyle says:

    I had a date with a hornblower last night. It was awesome!

  32. Vegans For Meat says:

    Vegans for meat, You’re dating yourself. Not dating, dating, but dating. Huh.

    I have no idea what this is in reference to. Perhaps I should cut back on this cough syrup. And, since I’m here already, I just want to say that I love being a part of this community, the AL commenter community. I used to stay up late nights perusing seedy chat rooms. All that’s stopped, now. I am home.

    Home! And this is my room — and you’re all here! And I’m not going to leave here ever, ever again, because I love you all! Especially librarydude. And — Oh, Auntie Em — there’s no place like home!

  33. Illinois library lady says:

    I don’t ever plan to go to ALA Annual or midwinter again unless my boyfriend is also going because his employer pays for hotel. Too expensive to go solo, too much hassle for too little benefit. Should cut back to one every 2 years.

  34. Parapro in KY says:

    Speaking of the financial crisis, I’m not renewing my membership this year. I have better things to do with that $100+.

  35. Herman Munster says:

    Speaking of the financial crisis, I’m not renewing my membership this year. I have better things to do with that $100+.

    Thanks for that valuable piece of late-breaking news.

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