Back in June I attended the New Jersey Library Association
luncheon at which my friend Eileen was installed as President. She made a very good speech so I asked her to
send it to me. She never did, so it
turns out I had to write this one myself instead of stealing directly from
hers. Some friend, right?!
There were several reasons why I didn’t say no when I got
that phone call to run for president of PaLA.
After I stopped laughing and gave it some thought, I realized that it
feels good to think you’re making a contribution to something that’s important
to you. And then I started wondering why
it isn’t important to everybody, because I think I can make a pretty good case.
After all, aside from those, you know, LIBRARY issues, membership is one of the
most critical concerns we have as an association. So you lucky people get to
listen to me talk about it, and by lucky I mean "captive.”
People say that membership in associations is a baby boomer
idea—that the boomer generation feels an obligation to serve and give back to
the various professions in a way that succeeding generations do not. My Exhibit A to contradict that supposition
is PALS, the PaLA Academy of Leadership Studies. I think that Mary Garm, who suggested that
the association give the concept a try, ought to get the Nobel Prize, or
possibly a Congressional Medal of Honor—no, maybe a Nobel Prize--for that
suggestion. 2013 marked the fifth year
for PALS, a 3-day program geared alternately toward librarians with under 6
years of experience and those with 7-10 years.
Around 20 librarians go to workshops, listen to experienced librarians
acting as mentors, and choose a project to work on during the following
year. PALS graduates have not only
embraced the NOTION of themselves as leaders, but they’ve PROVEN themselves
leaders by getting involved actively in PaLA, including taking on the planning
of PALS itself. This year, one past
President, one current President, and one future President were all
mentors. The incoming treasurer of PaLA
is a PALS grad, as is the 3rd vice-president. All over the state
PALS grads are chairing chapters, planning workshops and contributing to the
association in a variety of meaningful ways.
So I don’t buy that non-baby boomers aren’t interested in membership;
we’ve got proof to the contrary.
And the next thing I’m excited about is membership itself. PaLA is a membership organization and
obviously depends on its members to survive.
Since the Great Recession, both personal and institutional memberships
have dropped. It is more than
understandable that because libraries have been faced with budget cuts,
association membership is sometimes the expense that goes. But think about the value you get by being
members: reduced costs to come to the conference, excellent programs that
enrich your professional lives as well as entertain you, the opportunity to
meet new colleagues and learn from them—I could go on and on. This year the Membership Committee, led by
Charity Leonette, has added great value to the conference in two ways: career counseling for job seekers and three
sessions that can help anyone in the market for a new job. That’s part of why people join their
professional associations—for concrete help they can get from their peers.
You’ve all heard about PA Forward. In fact, if there’s anybody in this audience
who doesn’t know what it is, come up here so that one of us can smack you. It’s hard to narrow down the ways in which PA
Forward is important. I see it as a new
way of thinking, both by us about us, and by our partners about us. I see it as the strongest advocacy and
marketing tool we’ve had in a long time, and if you’ve been attending the PA
Forward sessions that have already taken place at this conference, I’m sure
you’d agree. Having access to the PA Forward
toolkit, taking what you’ve learned either from the sessions here or from the
training workshops that have been presented across the state, making
connections with elected officials and with your patrons using PA Forward
language—these are all invaluable tools that you can use, and you have them
thanks to Kathy Silks and her PA Forward Steering Committee and PaLA. That’s another reason membership is essential.
And finally, Ex Libris.
You may not have heard of Ex Libris, and if you haven’t, no one is going
to smack you. But, you may have heard of it and not had a very clear impression
of what it is. You might be picturing a
club, like the sketch they do on Saturday Night Live with stars who have hosted
the show five times or more. Steve
Martin and Tom Hanks stand around in smoking jackets, sipping cocktails and
talking about how important they are. Cocktails
ARE involved at the Ex Libris reception, but I can guarantee you that nobody is
wearing a smoking jacket, not even Glenn, who might be the only one who could
pull it off. And nobody is talking about how important they are, at least
individually. But together, the members
of Ex Libris form an annual giving society whose donations are used to fund
needed PaLA expenses, like technology upgrades and repairs that may not be
foreseen, oh, like lightning striking the building. And that is significant. The cocktail part is an added benefit that is
extended to people who contribute, as a way of saying thank you. And just to be clear, food is also involved. In any event, it is a very worthwhile
organization and is another way of giving back to your association.
So I hope I’ve begun to convince you that PaLA is important,
that membership in PaLA is important, that you should find ways to contribute to
it both time-wise and financially, and that you will go forth and bring us lots
of new members—or become a member if you’re not already. These are all the reasons why I said yes when
I got that phone call. I don’t expect the coming year to be easy; what year is
EVER easy? But I know each and every one
of your names and phone numbers, and I will not hesitate to call on you to
help. Please don’t block my number.
I was intending to end with some inspiring quotes about
libraries by famous authors, but we already have Facebook for that. I wanted something a little less reverent, so obviously,
the best place to look was at the Simpsons. And I found this quote, from Homer, driving a
car full of kids to school and listening to Grand Funk Railroad, Homer’s favorite
band, on the radio. The kids never heard
of Grand Funk Railroad—there are probably some kids in this room who never
heard of them—so when Homer drops them off, he calls after them, "For more
information on Grand Funk, consult your school library!” And this one from renowned
library user Bart Simpson: "There are no
good wars, with the following exceptions: the American Revolution, World War 2,
and the Star Wars trilogy. If you’d like
to learn more about war, there’s lots of books in your local library, many of
them with cool, gory pictures.” Now, I am
aware that the Simpsons are not REAL people, but even their writers seem to
understand the value of libraries; how hard can it be to
convince everybody else? And who better
to do it than all of us, and our association?
So let’s do it.