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BFTP: Why I belong to ALA/AASL

A weekend Blue Skunk "feature" will be a revision of an old post. I'm calling this BFTP: Blast from the Past. Original post, May 15, 2007. My renewal notice from ALA came this week, so I thought this might be appropriate. The sentiments hold true, still, but writing that damn check gets harder every year, especially since the SIGMS group at ISTE is vibrant (and a lot less costly). While this is about ALA, any educator reading this should take heed: you are not a professional unless you belong to a professional organization. Yeah, I'm old school about this...


Yup, I complain about at ALA and AASL.Vociferouslybroadly and publicly. I think the $180 or whatever is way too much for annual dues. I think American Libraries, the OIF, and the ALA legislative committee ignore school libraries. I've stopped attending the Midwinter Conference and I've given up any hope that ISTE and ALA can figure out how not to schedule their summer conferences on the same dates.  The AASL Executive Director and all her staff are probably grossly over paid and treat money like it grows on trees. The ALA Board spends way to much time on resolutions that have little to do with libraries - like human rights in Guatemalan nunneries and such.

You want more?

But I still pay my dues, have done so for the past 17 years and probably will do so for the next few. Here's why:

  1.  Paying dues is how I show my support for the ideals of intellectual freedom. ALA is the one organization brave and organized enough to be listened to when censorious legislation or commentary comes up. I love ISTE, but it doesn't have this sort of conscience going for it. If ALA goes down, it will take a lot of peoples' rights to read and access information with it. That to me is absolutely horrifying.
  2. Paying dues gives me complaining rights. I get to complain about the organizations to which I belong. If you don't belong, if you don't work in the organization, if you don't speak up - you don't get to piss and moan. Simple as that. Non-members bitching is like somebody trying to redecorate a house by throwing rocks at it from the sidewalk.  If the organization isn't perfect, it isn't because I didn't try to make it better. 
  3. Paying dues supports national library standards. AASL is the national organization that represents school libraries and as such has some gravitas on issues like standards and guidelines. These are often helpful at a building level when the "voice of authority" is required. (Although, AASL needs to do a 180 degree turn back toward practicality in the standards for both programs and student skills.)
  4. Paying dues gives me opportunities for inter-species communications. Reading American Libraries and attending ALA conferences put me in contact with the sometimes bizarre habits of librarians of other types - public, academic, and special. (Often very special if you know what I mean.) This interaction mostly makes me very thankful that I chose to become a school librarian. 
  5. Paying dues shows that I honor quality writing for children and young adults. Yes, ALA gives the Newbery and Caldecott awards (and Printz, King, Edwards, etc.) So OK, the books chosen usually suck as far as most kids are concerned, but at least someone is saying that we should be worried about quality when writing for kids. 
  6. Did I mention paying dues give me complaining rights? Lets see you form a better organization to support school librarians.

Joining a professional organization is not necessarily about the good we as individuals get from membership, but the differences our contributions in both money and time make to the profession as a whole - and to those whom the profession serves. It isn't always about you!

Yes, $180 or whatever is a chunk of change. You could instead buy:

  • one McDonald's grande latte every week for a whole year
  • 2 or 3 nice suppers out with your significant other, depending on how picky you are about your wine selection
  • 2 pairs of shoes, 4 dress shirts or a cheap sports jacket when on sale
  • a 2 day pass to DisneyWorld
  • almost a color Nook
  • 4 tanks of gas
  • 9 copies of The Classroom Teacher's Technology Survival Guide

I'm not going to convince anybody to join or not to join. Just stating my reasons. I don't feel like a sap for paying my dues, but like someone who is contributing.

And I am among the most cheap and cynical people I know.

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