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* Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Why I'm Not Joining ALA Right Now After All

Subtitle: ALA Absurdity Hits a New High (or Is that Low?)

Several months ago, I agreed to be part of a panel at the Public Library Association Conference in Boston in March 2006. Now, I don’t normally get to go to ALA or PLA conferences unless they’re in my backyard and cheap, so I’m spending the last of my out-of-state travel budget for work in order to do this. I plan to do a lot of networking while there, too, which is often the most valuable part of such a large conference anyway. But make no mistake that PLA is not paying me to do this and I’m not even getting reimbursed for it. I do it because I – and luckily the organization I work for – think it’s important to teach libraries about this kind of thing and PLA is a good place to reach a wide audience. My session will take place on Saturday morning, the last day of the conference, in case you’d care to attend.

Actually, I mention that it’s on the last morning of the conference in part because it’s not even a full day. However, I recently received an email from PLA noting that I have to register in order to speak at their conference, and I’m pretty angry about it. I don’t have any money left in my budget to pay a registration fee (for half a day, no less!) for the privilege of accepting an invitation to speak at their conference. So I pursed this with the person who put my program together, and today I was told that I have to pay a full day’s fee if I’m a member of ALA. If I’m not a member of ALA, I get a complimentary day pass instead.

What is wrong with this picture???!!!

But that’s not even the worst of it. My co-presenter, Michael Stephens, is bearing the brunt of this truly idiotic policy. Michael is a long-standing ALA and PLA member who actively encourages librarians to join, and he’s traveling to Boston on his own dime in order to be part of this one presentation. For this loyalty and generosity, he is being punished by having to pay the day fee just to stand up on stage. His only saving grace at this point, if you can even call it that, is that he’s a doctoral student so he will only have to pay $65 to give this presentation (on top of the airfare, meals, and hotel costs he’s already paying out of his own pocket).

I’m so angry about all of this that I’ve had it with our national association’s conferences. I am heeding Jeff Jarvis’ call, “Panelists, Unite!

“We as panelists come as their trained monkeys to give these conference organizers the only damned content they have and they expect us to pay for the bananas? Well, peel this!” [BuzzMachine]

I’m not even asking for the decent swag briefcase made of real fabric or leather that Jeff goes on to request, but I guarantee you this: I will never accept another invitation to speak at an ALA-related conference until they reverse this ludicrous policy of CHARGING THEIR SPEAKERS TO SPEAK. It’s insane, absurd, surreal, and unethical. You don’t have a conference without your speakers. I understand they can’t reimburse speakers for travel expenses, but the very least they can do is comp their speakers’ conference registration fees. And the whole conference, too, not just a day. You either value your own professionals or you don’t, and the current policy tells me you don’t.

So while I had planned to join ALA this week using the money from the ALA TechSource blog, I’ve now been officially told by ALA itself that I should wait until after March if I don’t want to have to pay them to present at their conference. Read that again and weep.

And catch me at PLA if you can, because it may just be the last ALA conference I ever go to.

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