A discussion (or was it a couple of different discussions?) on Twitter regarding ALA fees and navigating the ALA website led me to declare why I haven’t renewed my ALA membership. For one thing, ALA’s website, well, sucks. Is that really such a big deal? No, not really. ALA has already shown signs of changing with the changing times, and with Jenny Levine working for them, I’m sure their web presence will improve by leaps and bounds in no time. My other reason for not renewing my membership is a bigger problem: the cost of membership dues. As a student, joining ALA was $28, which was quite affordable when I was flush with student loan money. Now that I’m a professional, my first year would cost me $55. This is much less affordable. My second year dues would be $83, which is really not affordable. This is also assuming I don’t join any of the divisions or round tables. Actually getting involved in ALA, outside of paying the basic first year dues, would seriously compromise my ability to support my family. And to be honest, I can’t see what I would get out of being a member.
Is ALA an organization for professional development? I already get loads of professional development assistance from my coworkers and supervisors, my place of employment, and my time spent on the intarweb. Given the choice between the ALA and my blogroll, my blogroll kicks ALA up and down the street, making it cry uncle.
Is ALA a political advocacy group? I love that ALA gets into the political arena and supports causes and issues that I personally support. But so does the ACLU, and I only have to pay $25 a year to be a card-carrying member of that organization.
No, the more I think about it, the less I can find in ALA that I find worth paying my dues for.
This chatting on Twitter led to some remarks about starting our own alternative to ALA. Jokes and snarky comments morphed into somewhat serious questions of “Are you really going to do this?” to conversations of “We should definitely do this!” And so was born the Library Society of the World! It’s free to join and free to participate in. To be honest, this is sort of a lark, and I don’t take it all that seriously. On the other hand, I do take alternatives to ALA seriously. I think we already have an alternative to ALA, and it’s every library person engaging in conversations and collaboration on the internet and in other non-official ways. The Library Society of the World is just a cheeky way of formalizing that (sort of).
I encourage everyone and anyone who reads this blog to join the LSW, because…well, why the heck not? If you want to help with the wiki, email, IM, Skype or Twitter me (or call me on the phone, or talk to me in person) and ask for the password. At this point, I’m not going to post it publicly, but I’ll give it to anyone who asks nicely for it.
Champions of free information! The Library Society of the World wants you!