Thursday, February 23, 2012

@YALSA is Not Your Mom Either

YALSA (the Young Adult Library Services Association) has a firm position on the right to open access to information. One of the points in the YALSA Vision Statement reads that YALSA "supports equality of access to the full range of library materials and services... for young adults". So, I was a little surprised to discover last night that YALSA is now requiring members to log in and non-members to fill out information before accessing the YALSA book award pages and book lists

Here's where I tell you that I'm a YALSA member, but I'm not on any YALSA committees and I was not part of making the decision to change access to the book lists. I didn't know that this was happening before last night. If they announced the change, it was in something that I skimmed or didn't read. Which is annoying, for sure. If only they'd announced the change was coming and explained the reasons behind it, I might not be writing this post.

As I discussed this change on Twitter with some librarian friends, I know I came across as defending the change (and, perhaps by extension, YALSA and/or ALA). 

Really? I know it's a pain. I'm the only YALSA member at my library (and I'm not the teen librarian) and it pains me to have an added barrier to getting other staff members at the library to utilize YALSA's selection lists. I want our library service to teens to be awesome and the YALSA book lists can help make that happen... but not if access to them is restricted. And yes, it only takes a minute to fill out the information they're looking for. And yes, access to the lists is still free. And yes, once you submit that information you can get the direct links to the lists and bookmark them so you don't have to enter your info again. But how many people are going to actually do all that? My guess is not many. And let's not even think about any teens who might want to use the book lists (although I'd guess the number of teens accessing these lists through YALSA's web site is small at best). 

But I can see where YALSA is coming from. Membership is down. I imagine they're trying to emphasize what a valuable resource the YALSA selection lists are. Maybe some people who use these lists have never stopped to think "Hmm... It costs money to facilitate the creation of these lists. I would like to help support them." Maybe some people who use these lists have never even stopped to think about what YALSA really is and what it does. Getting an email address from people who use the lists could feasibly be a way to target non-members who might be interested in joining YALSA. 

And maybe it's not something that's going to work and things will go back to the way they used to be. I imagine YALSA's trying it out. (And I also imagine that the response to this move will be overwhelmingly negative.)

This issue brings me back to thinking about the value of ALA membership, what ALA is and what it isn't. Several people piped up on Twitter last night to say that having access to book lists would not encourage them to join ALA, but having barriers to accessing book lists would stop them from using YALSA's resources. 

It was pointed out (as always) that ALA membership is too expensive. You know the only way that's going to change? If ALA members vote for it to change. (In 2011, YALSA members actually voted to increase the YALSA dues from $50 to $60 for librarians. That is a thing that happened.) If you don't like what ALA is doing, get involved and change it. The people making these decisions are people just like you. Committee members, ALA Council, and ALA members who are voting (and only 20% of ALA members voted in the 2011 election. What is up with THAT?). 

I get that it's not possible for everyone to join YALSA that might want to. It is expensive and if your library can't or won't cover some of the costs of joining a professional organization or attending conferences, the costs can be prohibitive. But the fact remains that the only way to change the organization is to get involved and make that change happen*. 

You can't afford to join a professional organization? I can't afford not to. 

(Wondering about the title of this post? It's a reference to a previous post of mine: ALA is Not Your Mom.)

Edited to add (2/25/12): YALSA President Sarah Flowers has posted about the rationale behind the changes to the website on the YALSA Blog. I urge you to click through to read what she has to say and leave a comment to let YALSA know your thoughts! I won't quote the post here, although I will note that Ms. Flowers said that the change "is not expected to be temporary".

* Or. You could just not use the YALSA book lists and when they find that their site traffic has dropped dramatically, they'll eventually lift the barrier. Maybe?