Annoyed Librarian
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Special ALA Rates for Unemployed Librarians! Woo Hoo!

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.




  1. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t take the membership even for free.

  2. Jabesthelibrarian says:

    As a library student with one more semester to go until graduation, I would be very interested in seeing what resumes are like in librarianship. I was trained from a young age in the fine art of cover letters and resumes so I have been shocked to learn that many of my collegues have no clue how to do them. I ll be at work all day so I’ll need the laugh, AL.

  3. I’m still employed (thank you Lord!) but I stopped being able to afford ALA dues on my pathetic salary two years ago.

  4. Dances With Books says:

    Oh yea, because that is just what I would need to spend money on when I am unemployed. 46 bucks a year to the organization that pretty much continues to spread the b.s. propaganda of new jobs coming down the pipe so library schools can be packed and their professors employed.

    That was my question too: how many “young” (or maybe newly minted?) librarians consider ALA their professional home? I know I never did when I was at that stage of my career, and I dropped my membership after library school like the proverbial bad habit. I can’t afford it now, and even if I could, I probably would not be interested in anything they have to offer overall.

    Plus, how many library school students or recent graduates do you know have a “sugar daddy” who will put down 2K on their behalf as a “gift” so they can have a life membership? Not many? I thought so.

    At least I am still employed, but no thanks to ALA.

  5. And what great logic that is: “Unemployed recent LIS grads, don’t you have $2000 dollars to spare? It’ll save you money in the long run! And, come on, who needs internet? Or cable? Or even heat or a car! You should’ve gotten used to boredom and discomfort in Library School, you sissy!”

  6. Fancy Nancy says:

    At my first job out of library school my employer reimbursed us for ALA dues. Then the budget got tight and that was the first thing to go. I have not been a member since.

  7. still a student? says:

    I signed up for ALA at the student rate just months before graduating. Now, a few years later, I’m teaching LIS students, and still paying the student rate! Once my student rate gig is up, my membership will cease.

  8. New Librarian says:

    I’m a 25 year old new librarian. I’m still riding out my student membership to ALA, but when that’s up I just can’t justify shelling out more money for this. I work part-time as an academic reference librarian and definitely qualify for the destitution discount, but even at $46 I don’t see the benefit. I can’t afford the conference, I can’t afford the continuing ed classes, and I don’t have time to get involved because I’m too busy trying to impress the members of my actual “professional home” – the people who sign my paycheck.

  9. NotMarianTheLibrarian says:

    Jabesthelibrarian – most of the resumes and cover letters I’ve read lately are pitiful. It’s why we haven’t hired all sorts of folks. I think it’s only a matter of time before the proper-English challenged of the world start claiming discrimination.

    I’d like ALA to offer lifetime membership to people who have kept their membership up 20+ years. It’s not like I got much from it but I kept it up because my degree is from an ALA-accredited school. Figured if they ever moved to a qualifying exam I’d get grandfathered in. And that’s the only reason I’ve kept up my membership. ALA, unless you’re a political critter, is pretty damn useless.

  10. Dr. Pepper says:

    So long story short, anything with the “ALA” designation is a scam :-)

  11. Count me in for the shadow conference or the unconference that happens right before or during the “real conference.” We could meet in some seedy bar and discuss the meaning of the word “censorhip.”

  12. 44-year-old guy librarian says:

    Nicole – darn those typos, anyhow. :)

    AL – I’m a long-time listener, and a first-time caller. Thanks for taking my call.

    I don’t get the rant.

    The ALA advertises itself as good – which is what all advertising does, it says ‘we’re great, spend your money with us!’ Right? I wouldn’t join a group that advertises – ‘We suck. Send us money.’ So, the ALA is guilty of what?

    And, you don’t have to join the ALA, right? Librarians don’t have to join, do they? I haven’t. And I won’t. So, you don’t like the ALA, then don’t join.

    And personally, I think it’s alright and sort of nice that the ALA is willing to take a little less to join, you know, for those people who have a little less. The gas station isn’t charging less for their product so the unemployed can get to a job interview.

    Anyways, thanks for taking my call. I’ll hang up and take my answer off the air.

  13. the meaning and the spelling….

  14. Canadian Librarian says:

    The mere fact that ALA is instituting an unemployed rate is evidence that the profession is in trouble. It recognizes, finally, that the status of librarian positions are not as it had purported. The librarian shortage never and WILL not materialize. And the jobs that remain are gradually being given over to library clerical staff or “paralibrarians” as some like to call themselves. After all, these library staff categories demand a lot less pay. Of course, the service in some cases is inferior but that’s a price a library pays. In many cases “passable” or even the illusion of service is good enough.

  15. Techserving You says:

    Blah blah blah. The service paraprofessionals provide, in many cases, is as good as, or better than, what some librarians provide. Experience counts for a lot in terms of job performance – it just doesn’t count or anything in terms of getting a ‘professional’ job. And yes, I have my MLIS and a professional job. But a paraprofessional with experience is often much better-qualified to perform library work than are many newly-minted MLISs. And, if they can do the work, why should it be considered professional level, anyway?

  16. I too stopped being a member after my student rate expired, and after 10 years of being a librarian I’ve found my lack of membership has had no effect on me whatsoever. When they lower the rate to $20/yr, MAYBE I might re-join.

  17. I fear there is a turn towards paraprofessionals mainly because they CAN be just as qualified if not more so as a freshly minted MLS student. I was one for 12 years gaining the experience I needed to finally get a “real” librarian job in which there is no difference in my duties. In fact, at my last paraprofessional job I ordered, cataloged, planned programs, etc…At my “library” job they only let me order. Oh, I do have some supervisory duties now. I’ve forgotten my point, except to say that my library system has decided that to save money, when a librarian quits, they will split the position into two paraprofessional positions. Maybe one. At least they won’t have to pay people with a pesky MLS.

  18. “non-salaried”

    Yes, I like that better than “out of work”, “unemployed”, or “unemployable”

  19. Jabesthelibrarian says:

    NotMarianTheLibrarian, thanks! I can only imagine.

    AL, can I just thank you for this blog. I am 24, in my second to last semester of library school and absolutely despise all of my classes. If it wasn’t for my job, internship, volunteer hours and reading this blog, I wouldn’t be learning anything about librarianship.

  20. If you go to ALA Annual, the cost of non-member registration is greater than the cost of one year’s ALA membership plus the member registration fee for the Annual Conference. That fact is the only thing that has ever induced me to join ALA, and I join only during a year when I plan to attend the Annual Conference. I see no other reason ever to join ALA.

  21. I dropped out over their membership dues too, and am staying out over their blatantly left wing politics that have nothing to do with libraries.
    Much like AngelaB above, I haven’t missed it, not the conference, not the magazine, not any of it. Good riddance.

  22. Ewwww…left wing politics. How evil! You folks crack me up. ALA is as mainstream as it gets.

  23. NotMarianTheLibrarian says:

    Jabesthelibrarian – you’ll probably love being a librarian if you’re hating the coursework! All those classes (and the one that was kinda interesting) will get you your union card.

    Just learned we’ll be getting a position. I’m already dreading the dreck we’ll have to sift through to find a qualified candidate. My guess is 75% will have the online MLIS and little/no experience.

  24. Cancelledmembership says:

    I cancelled my ALA membership because I couldn’t justify the steep annual dues rate, especially since I couldn’t afford to foot my own bill for their conference fees where all I could look forward to were presentations from those “Look at me!” librarians, the ones AL alluded to in some previous posts. But even after I opted not to renew, I still get a regular reminder email: “You have passed your deadline to renew and are now in a ‘grace period.’ Sign up before it’s too late!” Uh yeah, no thanks.

  25. Jabesthelibrarian says:

    NotMariantheLibrarian, I actually had a classmate get upset because I said that library school was merely a hoop to jump through and a way to get a union card. She responded back with this self-righteous blather that library school teaches you things that the real world could never teach you. Like censorship and intellectual freedom. Whatever. I have worked two and half years at a public library, interned at an academic library, was a graduate assistant at an academic library, and volunteered at a school library. What has she been doing? Oh, that’s right…working in the reading center and has just recently started working as a graduate assistant in a library. Believe me, I’ll be the one who is better prepared to handle the “demands” of real librarianship.

  26. Sonny Hill says:

    My employer would cover my ALA dues (and a portion of the conference cost as well), but I feel like there are others that are more relevant and go with those instead. For instance, AALL is a true organization of professionals, for professionals.

  27. ConfusedyItAll says:

    I wish I had AL’s way with words so that I could write a scathing blog on AL’s newest scam: becoming a certified Library Staff person.

    That’t right: for only $320 to sign up, plus at least $400 to take the required number of courses — and after you’ve worked the equivalent of 1,820 hours in a library: yes, you have to had work a least 1 year fulltime in a library — you, too, can show that you…know how to work in a library!

    And for those of you out there who want to ride this cash cow into town: they are looking for instructors with ideas for possible classes, so step on up, folks! I don’t know what an instructor’s take is (you’re probably supposed to do it for the good of the profession), but maybe they’ll throw in a membership for free!

    Are things normally this ill-planned. You know, to have a Cetification Course, yet not know what they classes yet are? I’m new to this world, and your ways are strange.

  28. NotMarianTheLibrarian says:

    Jabesthelibrarian – you get that self-righteous blather from “librarians” too. I have always been puzzled that those who value the degree most, tend to be the least useful. I’ve also found that most people who really value the degree tend to think library school was challenging. B-b-b-b-oring … but ultimately useful once I got my union card.

  29. The ALA provides no benefits that warrant any spending on my part. I believe this is the same for all librarians.

  30. TheIlliterateLibrarian says:

    @Dances With Books: As a young librarian, I can’t say I consider the ALA my professional home. They have always seemed like an unwieldy bureaucractic machine to me. I also don’t understand the relative benefit of shelling out that much money for membership in a professional organization. It seems like it is too big for me to make any professional connections which may actually prove useful to me in the future. A lot of professional reading is available online for free. I actually use Twitter to direct me to this. I have become Twitter-friendly with several librarians in my niche area, and they often tweet or re-tweet links to useful articles. Honestly… I’ve made better connections with fellow librarians in my area at science fiction conventions than via professional organizations (my SLA membership is lapsed for the same reason). I don’t feel like SLA and ALA are keeping up with all the new ways to connect. Twitter feels more friendly to me than a bulky institution that assigns me a number and mails me out a publication on a monthly basis.

  31. If someone spent $2000 on a gift for me and it was a lifetime membership to ALA, I think I would literally s**t a brick. Oh my God.

    And yeah–the day ALA stops whoring itself out to vendors and spewing propaganda that hurts my chances of employment in pursuit of their political(?) agenda is the day I’ll join ALA again. Or at least consider it.

  32. “And for those of you out there who want to ride this cash cow into town: they are looking for instructors with ideas for possible classes, so step on up, folks! I don’t know what an instructor’s take is (you’re probably supposed to do it for the good of the profession), but maybe they’ll throw in a membership for free!”

    Actually, potential instructors have to include $100 with each course proposal.

    No, really.

  33. As a current library school student myself, I have to say I have no interest in joining the ALA, and have no plans to do so, even at the student rate. I surveyed a few of my classmates, and found more than a few expressing the same sentiment.

    I have to wonder if all the ALA’s talk about the “graying of the profession” is really more about the “graying of dues-paying ALA members.”

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