Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Meredith Farkas Has Gone Too Far!

Just when I thought we'd settled once and for all that Meredith Farkas isn't the Annoyed Librarian, she has to go and write like an annoyed librarian. She's complaining about the ALA again, this time about how damned expensive it is and how the conferences cost a bundle and don't do anything worthwhile and asking why we can't have "virtual" participation and stuff like that. Ahh, these kids today. You can read the whole post, but here's the concluding paragraph:

"So my generation is alternatively skeptical of what the ALA can offer us and passionate about working to improve the profession. If participation continues to mean making the kind of sacrifices it does now, the ALA is going to lose my generation, save those whose libraries fund their participation in ALA or who have to participate in ALA to get tenure. Not that they won’t still do great things for the profession; they’ll just do it outside of ALA. There need to be more ways that people can come together and create something like the BIGWIG Social Software Showcase or Five Weeks to a Social Library within the confines of the ALA. While we can talk about revenue streams until the cows come home, if we don’t attract new members with benefits that speak to their needs/wants, you will lose untold money in the long run. We can’t pretend that things haven’t changed."

As far as I'm concerned, Meredith Farkas has gone too far! This is just crazy talk, and I think it should stop right now, Miss Missy. Though I might criticize the ALA as an organization, I stand firmly behind the need for conferences every year, and I applaud the steadily rising expenses of participation in ALA.

First, let's deal with the expenses. My ALA dues this year were enormous. Fortunately, I don't have to pay them out of my own pocket, because if I did, it would depress me. Do you know how many martinis I could buy for $200 or so? At least a dozen where I come from, and a lot more if I make them at home. A dozen martinis or a dozen issues of American Libraries going unread into my recycling bin--not exactly a hard choice, is it? And the conferences! I don't know how much I blow each year on ALA conferences. I don't really keep track. It's only money, and not my money anyway. Still, I think the high cost is absolutely necessary to keep out the riff-raff.

Yes, you heard me right. These things are so expensive because we don't want every librarian out there joining, now do we? If every librarian joined, then it wouldn't be the nice exclusive club that the ALA is now. And you can imagine if the riff-raff came out in force to the conferences. I shudder to think. Admittedly, there are some riff-raff now, but they're easily spotted. They're the librarians stuffing their tote bags with piles of free pens and pads and posters and every sparkly thing they can grab by the chubby fistful as they waddle along the conference aisles. We see them. We avoid them. But if ALA were cheap, we'd have more of them, and they would be harder to avoid.

As for the conferences, of course we need the conferences. If we started allowing a lot of "virtual" participation, then we wouldn't have anywhere to go, and if we didn't have anywhere to go, then we couldn't eat and drink on the library's tab, now could we. My library sure isn't going to shell out $1000 for me to take my laptop to bars and restaurants and socialize "virtually." I need to be there, baby, and besides, I don't want to spill my martini on my computer. As long as my library administration is under the impression that we all get some professional benefit out of ALA, so much the better. I encourage this delusion in all libraries.

Also, if we didn't have conferences, then the ALA couldn't get all that booth money from vendors who then sit around complaining about how no librarians ever stop at their booths. The only librarians they ever see are the ones trying to grab fistfuls of pens. The clever vendors just put out one pen at a time, and then remove it when they see old Cat Sweater Person hoving into view for the fourth time. See, it's not just librarians who pay a lot to go to ALA; it's the vendors, too. The ALA needs that money, and it's not just the ALA. Without the vendors there, who would pay for all the free receptions? Who would take all the librarians out for free dinners? No one, that's who. It's all a delightful perpetuating cycle designed to get librarians free food and drink. I don't know about you, Meredith, but I think that's a good thing.

I suppose there must be some professional benefit to attending ALA. I can't think of any, but I cant believe all the people who claim to get some benefit from ALA are lying. Many of them are very nice people, and I just don't think they'd lie. But professional benefits pale in comparison to free booze and free dinners. I think we can all agree on that, at least.

And it's not like ALA doesn't do a lot of great stuff for all the money they get. There's a whole Washington office they have to fund, which spends its time lobbying unsuccessfully on all sorts of political issues. Oh, and there's the impressive ALA website, what we all know to be a model of its kind. That kind of work doesn't come cheap. And of course there's the free bar every day at the ALA headquarters in Chicago. This might seem extravagant, but it's the only way any intelligent people can stand to work there. And don't forget about how the ALA protects our intellectual freedom from worried mothers in Bumflap, GA who ask to have "I Married a Dead Gay Penguin" removed from the shelves of their local grade school library. Without the ALA, we would have no intellectual freedom, and you should just pay your dues and thank God there's an ALA around to protect yours, you little ingrate.

So you can complain all you like about how your generation needs this or wants that, about how everything has changed, about how you're all passionate and whatnot about the profession. I've heard it all before. All those old, jaded, slack-eyed lumps you see around the ALA conference were once that way as well. But with age comes wisdom, and eventually you'll realize that there are far more important things than doing great deeds for the profession (which hasn't ever been much of a practical concern for the ALA). Instead of complaining that ALA is for the haves and those on the tenure track, you need to make yourself a have on the tenure track and bask in the glory. That way you can take advantage of what ALA has to offer--free food and booze. The entire machinery of ALA revolves around making sure I can get away from work for two weeks a year and eat and drink at the library's expense. I can't think of any greater good than that.

31 comments:

Harry Potter Adict said...

A "greater good"? Perhaps "the Graeter Good" even? Are you importing things from the Potterverse again?

Anonymous said...

So, you're not Meredith Farkas, yet every post these days focuses on her? MFAL?

Dances With Books said...

Hmm, when you do figure out what is the professional benefit of attending an ALA conference, do enlighten the rest of us riff raff. Anyhow, these whiny posts about ALA come out every six months or so, kind of like those birds in Capistrano or whatever the place is. There will be some fussing, complaining about how the next generation wants this or that, it blows over, end of story. And for what? ALA is not going to change anytime soon.

As for basking in glory, hmm, is there not some line somewhere about all glory being fleeting? Well, back to the trenches. Keep the good work alive AL.

Dances With Books said...

Hey, not sure if you saw Schneider's post saying that ALA conference fees are actually too low. I think you hit the nail right in the head: it is meant to keep the riff raff out. I mean, if the riff raff can't even afford the "too low" fees, they really should not be there, huh?

Anonymous said...

Hey, not sure if you saw Schneider's post saying that ALA conference fees are actually too low.

Wha?!!? Great idea. Keep increasing all the fees and then membership will decrease.

Josh said...

Admittedly, there are some riff-raff now, but they're easily spotted. They're the librarians stuffing their tote bags with piles of free pens and pads and posters and every sparkly thing they can grab by the chubby fistful as they waddle along the conference aisles

Oh, AL. you always make me think, but sometimes you make me laugh out loud (or LOL as i've heard it called). i do so cherish our time together. if you ever reveal your secret identity i'll add to your free drinks by buying you a martini at the ALA conference of your choice.

Anonymous said...

Virtual conferences?

Heresy.

And along the lines of ALA being "pricey" and "elite" and offer that that SLA does the same.

When I was between jobs and could not afford membership in the SLA, I could not get job information from them because that was for "members only". Well, I guess the Heller amendment serves them well because once I did become gainfully employed I refused to join their elitist organization. Maybe if I get fired (for spending so much time reading and posting to blogs) I can join the SLA so I can get job.

Anonymous said...

Just because "Meredith Farkas isn't the Annoyed Librarian," that doesn't mean that 'the Annoyed Librarian isn't Meredith Farkas.'

Anonymous said...

There is one consistent, yet annoying thing that comes out of ALA conferences. Library management types come back with "new" ideas that they want us to implement yesterday. These are the same ideas we enthusiastically brought to them 6 months to a year prior and they shot down before we could finish getting the words out.

The.Effing.Librarian said...

"The entire machinery of ALA revolves around making sure I can get away from work for two weeks a year and eat and drink at the library's expense."

Where do I sign up?

The Topiary Cow said...

"Cat Sweater Person..."

Heh.

The Zero Gravity Janitor said...

Here's the conundrum:

-Libraries steadfastly refuse to charge admission or control entry in any manner which might lead to protection of their multi-million dollar collections, machinery, etc.

Homeless, thieves, the ranting mad: come in, come in!

-Library societies refuse free access to members of their own profession, to professional societies, conferences, job boards...

Degreed, poorly paid librarians: stay out!

Brent said...

Having librarians not meet in person is good. Librarians are anti-social.

You are so wrong AL. Wrong!

Anonymous said...

All professional conferences are expensive because it is usually the largest sole income for the organization. The ARMA conference in Baltimore this year was $800 for 4 days.

Kevin Musgrove said...

I'd like to protest against all those people going about sweating cats.

Gilbert Bland said...

There is but one "convention" and one only that is more horrible than an ALA convention. It is called "the Genealogical Jamboree."
There are not only cat sweater ladies and brocaded sweatshirts and cat sweaters bearing messages like...God I can't say it, it is too painful! Librarians too, some of them from public libraries, speaking of the hoi polloi.

Anonymous said...

Why would anyone give $200.00 dollars to the ALA?

If the library you work at pays your annual dues, how can you in good conscience ask those who fund your library (students, taxpayers, etc...) to foot the bill?

Geez....

Anonymous said...

Indeed as the lovely ladies of library science wonder about the the vendor areas with thier B&T Cat Bags the "Smart set" are coming up with the latest thing to justify our shakey place in the food chain. For instance whole information literacy thing is one great piece of Cat poo that we can take home and act important and uppity about save nobody at home cares as long as you impress the admin folks with all that poo in your cat bag. Only have got to go to 2 ALA's in 14 years but I got my cat bag to bring the poo home in along with a free trip, great meals and an interesting night with a hot red-headed book jobber.

cadzanova said...

"and an interesting night with a hot red-headed book jobber."

What! Someone got laid at an ALA convention?!

AL said...

You might be surprised.

Anonymous said...

is al meredith farkas? who gives a farkas. is al been a little too into herself lately, and have her blogs suffered as a result? yes!

Anonymous said...

AL like your posts but enough of the martini jokes!

Anonymous said...

AL, you've became a lil' redundant lately.
Otherwise, gotta love an ol'-fashioned cat fight.

Mack Guffin said...

What! Someone got laid at an ALA convention?!

I thought that was one of the major reasons for attending. Admittedly, it may be more difficult (or more unpleasant) for straight folk.

Anonymous said...

AL, I have to agree with the above comments, your blog is losing something with all this nonsense about MF and identity, along with all the cutesy comments.

I miss the old AL.

AL said...

It's odd that everyone seems to think this post is about MF, when it's really about ALA conferences and their professional usefulness.

Farkas is Willin' said...

There's an old yiddish saying: "...If God lived on earth, people would break his windows."

or in AL's case her martini glasses.

RedLipstick said...

Like $200 for ALA dues now? WTF! I attended two conferences when I was in library school because the fees were like $65 and I got to hang out in a great place like San Diego in January. I didn't even spend very much time at conference events but I had so much fun at the San Diego Zoo and in the Gas Lamp District. Since I didn't want to be bored out of my mind I didn't even bother going to annual in D.C. and I live there!

redlipstick

AL said...

ALA has some sort of graduated fee rate after you leave school, I think, and when you add in sections the price rises more quickly.

Stephen Denney said...

Maybe there should be a declining scale for ALA membership, according to income.

webbygrl said...

For as much beer as I drink, $200 for two weeks is a deal. Is the sign-up form on the state-of-the-art website?