|CC: Emily Laurel|
- The connections. I have made some REALLY GOOD FRIENDS through attending ALA conferences. These are friends with whom I brainstorm for work, celebrate achievements, commiserate when we've had hard days, present with at conferences, and more. I've met people with whom I've connected on Twitter and blogs. These librarians are constant sources of inspiration and problem-solving to me!
- The education. Of course you can still attend ALA conferences if you're not an ALA member, but the lower the price and the more involved I am in the organization, the more likely I am to request to go (and get approved!). This year's ALSC Institute was one of the best conferences I have ever been to. I came home feeling totally exhilarated and inspired to do more than ever before at my library!
- The professional opportunities. Over the course of my ALA membership, I've volunteered for committees, become a regular contributor to the ALSC Blog, and been asked to write for American Libraries (due to connections made through my work for the ALSC Blog). Not only has this been fun work, but it has helped me develop my skills and it looks great on a resume. (I'm not job hunting, but you never know!)
Of course, ALA's not the only way to get these things. If you don't feel you can afford ALA membership, you might want to look into membership in your state library association or seek out and join library listservs like PUBYAC or PubLib. Or check out this handout from my presentation on blogs, Pinterest accounts, and Twitter folks for programming ideas to get your own social media network started.
ALA works for me because I work for ALA. Only by getting involved do I truly get out of ALA everything I want to get out of it. I've written before that ALA is Not Your Mom and I still think that's absolutely true. Nope, it's not a magic organization that's going to get you a raise, send you free books, or provide free conferences or trainings (you can access some archived webinars for free, but I do wish they'd provide more free trainings... guess I need to figure out how to make that happen!). But it is a group of people who care greatly about what we do and who are willing to help others to make America's libraries awesome. And I want to be a part of that.
And that's why I'm writing that check to ALA.
Full disclosure: I've been an ALA member since 2010 (plus one year as a student member in grad school). This post contains only my personal opinions. ALA did not ask me to write this post.