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04 January 2014 @ 07:00 pm
It was just one sentence in an email, but it stopped me cold when I read it. It has been crashing around inside my brain ever since. "I don’t think you really give a hang about organizations—" It was not said in any sort of mean way at all, but it still rankled for some reason. You see, I love organizations, especially those that match my passions. I have been a member of ALA for 25 years and NCTE for more than 30 now. But, you see, I do not just join organizations; I BELONG to them. I become active. I serve in any way I can. I think there is power within an organization as it it not just my voice but the voice of all the members that are given a forum.

But, in another sense, that observation about my concept of organizations is spot on of late. I think my organizations ought to reflect the attitudes and concerns of its members. As organizations bleed members (and most of them are losing members annually), perhaps they need to examine the reasons why some of us are disenchanted. Cutting back on publications that go out to members was one misstep. Having the publications become a mouthpiece for CCSS is another misstep. But the biggest reason why organizations have failed is that they are not reflecting the concerns of ALL the membership and not just the leadership. Some of the leadership has become so insular that they talk only to themselves and not to the membership at large.

I may be critical and be outspoken in my criticism, but I am also always happy to help, to volunteer, to serve. But I expect my organizations to help me, to serve me as well. And truth is they do not always do so. An organization is an ORGAN-ization. That organ should be the heart, but I fear sometimes it is more head than heart. Instead of considering this question, "How can we support our members and their autonomy?" they think, "How can we profit?" or "What can we cut?" Instead of being political, they are more concerned with being politically correct. They want to "have a seat at the table" instead of leading the march in opposition to what they know is bad policy.

Truth is, there are many organizations that I continue to support. This month will find me at the TCTELA conference doing presentations and running an exhibit booth for my department. I am heading to some local meetings of school librarians in February to speak about books. In the spring I will talk to hundreds of librarians at our state conference (which rivals NCTE for attendance, BTW). I will do a preconference at the YALSA Lit Symposium in the fall. And November will find me outside of DC at the NCTE/ALAN shindig. When I belong, I BELONG.

So, bottom line is this: organizations need to remember the Tin Man from THE WIZARD OF OZ who observes: "I'd be tender, I'd be gentle/And awful sentimental/Regarding love and art." Have a heart (and an open ear wouldn't hurt either).
Current Location: home
Current Mood: determineddetermined
RebelLibrarian: Question Everythingrebellibrarian on January 5th, 2014 05:33 am (UTC)
I let my ALA membership lapse when I was out of work and I haven't missed it so I haven't renewed it. I burned out on organizations and despite missing people like you that I only got to meet through those organizations, I don't think I'm going back.

LOL Of course by saying this I've set the wheels in motion so I'll somehow find a renewed spirit for it in a few years... but for the time being, I'm out.
Donalyn Millerdonalynbooks on January 6th, 2014 12:07 am (UTC)
Thank you!
Thank you, Teri, for voicing concerns that many of us share. I am a member of ALA, ALSC, YALSA, AASL (although I am not a librarian), NCTE, ALAN, IRA, ASCD, TCTELA, and probably something else I forgot I joined. I encourage colleagues to join professional organizations, but many don't see the value.
Janice Raspen on January 6th, 2014 12:19 am (UTC)
I was discussing this with a colleague this morning. Our state librarians' conference was held in the beginning of November, and handouts have not yet been posted. What message does that send? I am so disenchanted with my state's organization--other than the state conference, spring regional conferences, and the quarterly newsletter (where it seems we toot our horns an awful lot), I am not sure what this group is doing for me.