LITA’s 40. Will I make it to 45?

It’s LITA’s 40th anniversary (as a division, not with the current name). There’s a section of LITA’s website devoted to the 40th anniversary celebration. (If you go there, and you look at the PowerPoint of pictures, be kind: I don’t always or even frequently photograph well.)

I was president of LITA in 1992/1993. That was part of six continuous years on the LITA Board (which, given ALA rules, is only possible if you’re elected Vice President/President-Elect in the third year of a Board term–unlike ALA Councillors, Division Board members can’t be re-elected), including four on the Executive Committee. I presided over the program honoring LITA’s 25th anniversary. (If you can do the math, you’ll see that it wasn’t LITA’s 25th, but I did the program.)

The first major award I ever won was the LITA/Library Hi Tech Communications Award (that’s not the full name, which is too long to repeat here), in 1995.

I edited the LITA Newsletter for almost ten years, more than half of its life as a print publication. That included the LITA Yearbook 1992, the one and only book-length issue of the LITA Newsletter (Actually, it was a supplement, and came out of the regular budget–I learned how to manipulate the newsletter budget to get more pages without more money, partly by doing the copy-editing and typesetting myself. The supplement was a 122-page paperback, and the d*nedest annual conference report LITA’s ever seen.)

Fact is, for a very long time I only joined ALA because you had to be an ALA member to join ISAD (LITA’s predecessor) and, later, LITA. LITA was where I met people, where I started writing and speaking within the library field, where I found a few hundred friends and acquaintances.

So I’m a LITA member for life. Right?

Maybe. Maybe not.

It bothered me when the LITA Newsletter disappeared–first moving from print to online publication and dwindling pretty rapidly after that. I nudged about it now and then. I heard encouraging words about steps LITA was taking. Meanwhile, I still have very little idea what interest groups will be discussing at Midwinter, even less idea what happened at Midwinter, and not much help to plan Annual either, except for the formal programs. The LITA blog helps a little, but I still feel somewhat alienated from my division.

It bothered me a lot when LITA increased its dues to $60, the highest in ALA–and, for the first time in my memory, did so without a membership vote. I’ve been asking here and there just what I’m getting for $60 a year…with relatively little response. LITA lost a fair number of members after that dues increase, but as with most sharp increases, the overall numbers apparently look good–but at the expense of a shrinking membership.

Now there’s an ALA dues increase, although at least we get to vote on this one: $30 a year, phased in over a three-year period. So I’d end up paying $190 a year. Plus, of course, increasing prices for conference registration.

I appreciate ALA’s lobbying efforts; I think the Washington Office generally does a fine, effective job. I appreciate American Libraries (even if I wasn’t a good fit as a columnist). I still enjoy Midwinter most years and Annual perhaps a little less; those are still the places I get to meet new colleagues and get in touch with some of my long-standing friends and acquaintances. And, once in a while, even learn something new. I don’t know about ALA-APA, but in any case I’m not a professional librarian, so it’s largely irrelevant.

So is the ALA-LITA combination worth $160 now and $190 in 2009? (OK, so when I retire some time later, the ALA portion of the dues goes down. Doesn’t it?) Am I really going to stick with LITA forever because of my past history with the division? Will I still be part of LITA for its 45th anniversary? (That’s the question in the title. It’s 15 years too late for me to make it to 45 in a more general sense.)

Damned if I know.

3 Responses to “LITA’s 40. Will I make it to 45?”

  1. I hope you stay. Your thinking, and more importantly your writing about your thinking has helped many of us in the profession.

    And, yes, there is a category for retired folks which is much less expensive. I am not a LITA member, and don’t know their rules about “lifetime” or “honorary” membership, but I do know that you can also purchase a lifetime membership to ALA. It is priced higher if you are younger, but isn’t that just fair?

    In your benefits of ALA membership you mentioned the Washington Office. One part of that is the Office of Government Relations which organizes our legislative activity. But the other part was created with the last dues increase, and is the Office of Information Technology and Policy. That is a place where you can hear what is happening, and perhaps have an great positive impact. I hope you stay, and that you vote for the dues increase.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I need to note that I am a member of the ALA Executive Board.

  2. walt says:

    I meant to mention OITP. I haven’t always agreed with everything OITP people are saying, but that’s a good thing; I have appreciated (and do appreciate) the work done there–there’s an OITP briefing awaiting C&I comment.

    It’s a little late for ALA’s sometimes-offered lifetime membership to do me much good, I suspect. If I conclude that ALA — and LITA, which may be a tougher issue — continue to provide good value for money, I can afford them. The one-two pitch of LITA’s unvoted increase and ALA’s proposed increase (and, three, what appear to be significantly higher conference registration prices) does make it necessary to think about it again.

    Thanks for the kind words about my thinking and writing. I expect to continue those as long as (a) my brain works, (b) enough people read what I write to make that worthwhile. And, honestly, what may be the strongest argument for me to stay in ALA is that non-program time at the two annual gatherings is important to refreshing my sense of what’s actually going on.

  3. Jon Gorman says:

    It’s nice to see I’m not the only person who is having trouble deciding this. I’ve been a member of LITA for about two years now, about the same amount of time I’ve actually been involved in the library world. I had a couple of reasons for joining ALA and LITA.

    Perhaps one of the more potentially silly ones is I have a computer science background and feared my library background being ignored by those who instantly cast me as a “techie”. I hoped that being a member of ALA showed my commitment to the library as well as to the technology.

    A better reason was for social networking. On the other hand, with the price increases I start wondering if it’s worth it. People still tend to be surprised when I mention I consider myself a librarian, despite my obtaining a MSLIS degree. The social networking seems to be able to be found in other places. I had a good experience at the recent Code4Lib, whereas other conferences I’ve attended I still feel somewhat an outsider. Truth be told that at the only ALA annual I’ve been to I wasn’t able to make any of the social activities for LITA, so they’re not entirely at fault there.

    I would imagine the social networking will improve as I go to more conferences but there is a lot of money involved in LITA and ALA. My ACM membership is also expensive, but there’s a ton of resources besides just networking available for the expense. LITA just doesn’t seem like it’s offering a lot.