Library Association Memberships

This is potentially a controversial issue – but it has to be said.

I just renewed my SLA membership, the only library association I belong to. Why is it the only one? I love the people at SLA, the courses they offer and how they keep up with the times and technologies. Even with all of that, I wouldn’t be a member if they treated members the same way some of the other associations do.

I was recently asked to participate in an interest group for an association. I said, ‘heck yeah, but I’m not a member do I have to be?’ Apparently I can participate for a period of time without being a member – but why not join the association?? It’s simple. I do a lot of speaking and I have only one rule when it comes to speaking – I will not pay to speak for an association (local libraries – sure – but big associations – fat chance). I will accept a reimbursement of my expenses (without honorarium) in most cases, but I will not pay out of pocket to speak for an association when I can educate librarians at no cost to me via several other venues.

Today I filled out forms to speak at 3 conferences. Two of them require that members speak without any compensation and I just can’t live with that – so I don’t join. I spoke at a state conference last year and had to fight to get my mileage reimbursed because they insisted that association members and librarians who work in the state don’t get paid to speak. Why?

I want to belong to more associations, I want to help the library profession and share my knowledge, but I do not want to – and will not – go bankrupt doing so.

So there you go, that’s the reason I am not a member of many library associations that I would love to join (and pay for membership in). That’s the reason you’ll be seeing me at so many conferences next year – because I’m not a member and that means I can actually afford to come speak to you.


  1. There seem to be several instances related to librarianship in which the money appears to flow in the wrong direction. Have you ever found anyone who can offer more than, “That’s just how we do things”? Does anyone know how things got this way? Or, assuming SLA is an exception, how it went about deciding to be an exception?

  2. I’m on the board of my state’s library association and there simply is not enough funding from people’s dues to be able to cover the costs of paying for all of the speakers at our state’s annual conference. I speak at our state conference almost every year. As a member, I would be attending the conference whether I was speaking or not. So I don’t require payment for speaking.

    That said, if you want to make change, the way to do it is to get involved in associations rather than not becoming a member. Join units, create communities of practice, lead divisions, serve on the association board. Chances are that you will get changes made and get insight into decisions that are made.

  3. Tasha,

    I’m not asking to be paid – I’m asking to not have to pay. Giving me free registration if you’re within driving distance is A-OK with me. If I have to fly and stay in a hotel then just give me free registration and cover my travel. I understand that financial times are tough – but remember it’s tough for all of us – so me having to pay to come educate your members just seems wrong for me.

  4. I am with you on this Nicole — I don’t need to be paid, but I do not want to be money out of pocket either. My presentations that I give for conferences are all done at home on my own time (usually late at night when I could be relaxing or sleeping). I do not charge for the time spent in preparation for an association.

    Last year I was invited to speak at an association conference. I told them that I was not planning on attending as my Professional Development funds were going for other conferences. They called me back a month later and asked me again to please be on the panel… I relented and agreed. It was within driving distance and I could go just for the day. The gas money was not going to be more than $30 or so dollars.

    I did not register for the conference and when I arrived I was asked to please register. I told them that I was going to speak on the panel, have lunch with some friends, and help out another friend who was presenting. They got very huffy with me that I would not pay the fee to register for the day.

    I paid for gas, spent my own time prepping to prepare for the conference, took a day off work to present… and got paid zip. Yet they had the nerve to be huffy with me about not registering.

    Needless to say, it will be quite some time before I present for them again. I have heard from others in libraryland of similar treatment from a variety of library conferences. It is not acceptable. Period.

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