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Question 2 – #TT4ALACouncil

An explanation of what’s up with these questions is available here.

Many in the TT4AC caucus referenced young members/new professionals in their platforms. What is one concrete step ALA can take to engage this demographic? And, if elected, how will you ensure Council pursues it?

I think the first step is already done: a group of fairly new professionals* is running for ALA’s second-highest decision-making body. (Executive Board is higher.) We’re doing it loudly and publicly, and I hope that at least some of us win, so that another group of new professionals will do the same next year. Getting new people into the leadership, where other new people can see them, is a major piece of what ALA needs to do to make us feel heard. It’s so easy to write off Council as “not diverse” and “not representative”—frankly, I have, in the past. If you know that there’s a loud minority—and we’ll be a minority, unless this plan of running a caucus of new folks is wildly successful and grows significantly over the next few years—fighting for what you think is important, and if they’re approachable enough that you feel like you can tell them what’s important to you, then all of a sudden, the organization doesn’t seem so foreign and monolithic.

That’s only part of it, though, obviously.

We also need to get a group to sit down and really look at ALA’s value proposition. (At least part of Council is already aware that this needs to be done, but I didn’t see anyone volunteering to spearhead a group to actually do it.) I have paid my dues, some years, solely so that I could be involved in the New Members Roundtable. ($130 extra, just to be part of a $10 roundtable, made me angry.) I pay now because I like being involved in ALA—NMRT is still a disproportionate part of my involvement, but I’m branching out. And I pay because I think it’s valuable to have lobbyists. But I’ve heard other new librarians refuse to pay ALA’s dues, because they don’t trust that the lobbyists are working on anything important. I’ve heard other new librarians refuse to pay ALA dues because they think they’re just paying for the right to be on a committee.

And I don’t honestly know what ALA’s value is, beyond the lobbying and PR (which I think we could do better) and the right to be on committees. I suppose it gives you a shot at some awards, at the Emerging Leaders program; that’s good. It makes conference a little bit cheaper, if you can afford to travel.** But if there are other benefits, they haven’t been spelled out very well.

So that is what I would push for, and I hope others in #TT4ALACouncil will help. We need to figure out what makes ALA worth joining, for someone who isn’t really interested in committee work, and we need to publicize that. If we find out that it isn’t much, we need to start figuring out what people want, and see if we can add it.

*If Council Forum at Midwinter was representative of the larger body, the modifier “fairly” can be removed when you compare us to Council at large.
**I really feel like virtual participation and streamed conference sessions could help a lot with improving the value proposition to new members.

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