Membership was one of the themes Emily mentioned over in her post on In the Library with a Lead Pipe
Q: What do you (the reader) get out of your membership in ALA?
A: Sorry, you’ll have to answer that one for yourself. *grin*
Q: What do I get out of my membership in ALA?
A: I personally feel one gets out what one puts in. I put in ~$350 in membership dues (ALA, ACRL (CLS+ULS), LITA, RUSA (BRASS+MARS), GODORT, LHRT, NMRT) plus my personal time for serving on several committees (OITP Advisory and ALA Council, currently) and other initiatives (I volunteer as an ACRL Legislative Advocate and am doing some ALA Web Advisory Committee activities, on the side, too). I’ve been an ALA Committee Intern (OITP Advisory Committee) and an ALA Committee Virtual Member (ALA Membership Committee) in addition to “regular” committee memberships. I get loads of positive feedback as well as self-approval for my activities in ALA. Sure, I would rather not have to pay the dues to do this; but our dues support so much more than what we individually do.
Q: What do libraries (and librarians, all library employees, and library patrons/users) get out of our membership in ALA?
A: My perception is “LibraryLand” (encompassing everyone listed in this Question plus everyone these folks interact with in the course of the day) gets huge benefits. and now I’ll switch to bulleted list format for brevity:
The ALA Washington Office is a tremendous asset to LibraryLand as a whole. With a relatively small staff, the WO really provides more bang for the buck than most of the Divisions. The WO provides a needed focus for LibraryLand voices as well as spearheads our efforts to affect and effect public policy on behalf of all of us.
- ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom / Freedom to Read Foundation / etc.
How to sum up what OIF, FTRF, and all these other programs which tirelessly advocate for our rights to free inquiriy, to privacy of circulation and purchasing records, to teaching people to read, and everythings else they do? They do the stuff I feel is important but for which I have not the time or energy to spare. My dues (plus other donations) go toward their efforts for which I wish I had time.
- Consolidated administrative / overhead costs for areas each of us find [most interesting/most important]
Contrary to some folks, I figure the Divisions actually get a good value for the dues they don’t have to charge their members. “BigALA” takes the flack for high dues and the Divisions can focus their dues income into projects deemed worthy without really having to worry about full-time funding for all the positions “BigALA” provides.
Connection to a very large group of people who put their money where their mouths are, supporting member and Association activities which further the advancement of “library” and thereby “public good” issues and which aim to thwart agendas which do not serve the public at large
That last bullet is really loosey-goosey and wide open to interpretation, of course.
In my view Information Policy is a vital battleground these days and libraries/librarians/library employees/library users all need to be engaged with protecting users’ rights to use what we have legally acquired in digital format. We also need to be in the forefront of protecting the rights of future users of today’s created-digital content.
In other members’ views our attention should be on best practices for reference, or the future of cataloging, or data modeling, or a host of other valid concerns.
The beauty of being an ALA member is: at the macro level your dues go toward supporting all the above and more; plus everyone’s dues go toward supporting people acting upon your personal concerns. On a micro level, hopefully you are one of the people taking action on your concerns, if not your concerns might not be fully addressed. I’m in there advocating for changes I see are needed, many others are in there advocating for the changes they feel are important. More people advocating for and supporting results which benefit all of us means a stronger voice for our collective concerns.
More members = louder voice (we just have to be sure our collective voice is focused on promoting the services we can, do, and could provide for the public good)