Q&A: ALA Dues Increase

Q & A: ALA Proposed Dues Increase - What You Should Know

1. Why do we need a dues increase?

It has been 10 years since ALA’s last dues increase. During this period, ALA members have seen a greatly strengthened Washington Office, a new Office for Diversity and The Campaign for America’s Libraries. Major successes include increased federal funding for libraries, the e-rate and new funds for school libraries.

The association’s new strategic plan, ALA Ahead to 2010, builds on these successes and responds to members’ concerns for strengthening services in six goal areas: Advocacy/Value of the Profession, Education, Public Policy, Building the Profession, Membership and Organizational Excellence. The plan also calls for a significant increase in advocacy efforts nationwide: more efforts to increase public awareness of the contributions of libraries, librarians and library workers, more legislative effort at the national level, more research to document the value of libraries and more support for local advocacy efforts to improve library funding at the state and local level.

Developed with input from some 20,000 ALA members, ALA Ahead to 2010 calls for a more active and proactive association. But ALA has reached its financial limit. While membership is up 16 percent since 1995, inflation during the same period has eaten away 30 percent of our spending power. ALA has worked hard to reduce costs and to hold the proposed increase to a minimum, but a dues increase is needed to keep ALA—and libraries—moving ahead.

To learn more about the new ALA Ahead to 2010 plan, see www.ala.org/ala2010 .

2. When was the last dues increase?

The last dues increase was approved 10 years ago in 1995. That increase supported ALA Goal 2000 and resulted in the expansion of the Washington Office and creation of the Office for Information Technology Policy, Office for Diversity and Spectrum Scholarship program.

3. How much will it cost?

For ALA personal members, the proposal calls for an increase of $10 for each of the next three years. The proposal calls for an increase of about $3 per year for students, retirees, low income and other special membership categories. If approved by members, the change would go into effect in September 2006. Organizational dues were increased five years ago by the ALA Council and will remain the same.

4. How will the dues increase benefit me/my library?

The number one priority of the 20,000 members who participated in the planning process was increased advocacy for libraries and librarians. This includes increasing public awareness of the value of libraries and librarians, increased research to document the value of libraries, legislative advocacy at the national level and support for grassroots advocacy at the state and local level. In communities across the country, libraries of all types continue to be threatened by funding reductions, staff cutbacks and even the elimination of libraries altogether. Librarians and library supporters need more help if they are to win these battles. ALA can—and should—be as helpful to those seeking to fight budget cuts, pass a referendum, prevent the closing of a school library, build or expand a library building or increase library funding as it is to a library facing a censorship challenge. The dues increase will help provide the resources, training and networks that local advocates desperately need.

The ALA Ahead to 2010 plan also recognizes the breadth of ALA’s activities and the need to increase support and move forward in many areas. Whether your priority is school libraries, academic or public libraries, rural or urban libraries, stronger chapters, intellectual freedom, literacy, outreach, children or young adults, support staff or trustees, you will see some direct benefits from the dues increase.

5. Can we raise the funds we need through other sources?

Dues are the most reliable source of income for any association, but dues make up only about 20 percent of ALA’s operating revenue. For every dollar paid by members, ALA generates another four dollars through conferences, publishing, workshops and grants. The ALA Ahead to 2010 strategic plan calls for the association to generate an additional two dollars in new funding through sources such as fundraising, grants, new products and services for each new dollar in member dues. The dues increase is only part of the overall funding needed to meet our goals and meet the challenges ahead.

6. Can’t we reallocate existing funds to undertake the new programs?

ALA has already tightened its belt over the last five years to the point where further cuts are impossible without drastic reductions in services. Budgets have been reduced, and positions have been cut or frozen. Its budget has not increased at all in the last five years, while inflation has increased at an annual rate of about 3 percent each year. ALA will continue to seek cost savings and generate as much revenue as possible, but this is not enough. Projections show that even with an improved economy, this situation will become critical next year.

7. Who approves a dues increase?

ALA members must vote on a dues increase. The association’s Budget Analysis and Review Committee (BARC) and Treasurer recommended a dues increase in June. The ALA Board then asked the Membership Committee to examine various options and make recommendations that best meet member needs. The Board approved the Membership Committee proposal at its fall meeting and will submit it to the ALA Council at the Midwinter Meeting in San Antonio. If approved by Council, ALA members will vote on the dues increase on the ALA ballot in spring 2006.

8. Has ALA considered a graduated dues structure based on salary?

The ALA Membership Committee considered but recommended against changing the current dues structure in a June 2005 review. ALA already offers lower dues rates for support staff, students, retirees, unemployed librarians and those earning less than $20,000. As part of the recommended dues increase, the salary threshold for a lower member rate would increase from $20,000 to $25,000. Only 2 percent of national, voluntary, educational organizations have a salary-based dues structure, according to the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE). For more information, see www.ala.org/duesstructure .

9. Didn’t ALA have a budget surplus in FY 05?

ALA has worked hard to stay within its budget and has reduced expenditures each year to "match" revenues that have failed to meet projections due to the economic downturn of the last five years. In FY 05, revenues were 4 percent less than projected, and management reduced expenses by 6 percent, primarily through salary savings from unfilled staff positions that were held open in anticipation of the revenue shortfall. These one-time savings were used to pay off the remaining legal costs for CIPA. Leaving these positions unfilled would seriously affect the association’s efforts in areas such as legislation and publishing.

Thanks to these budget containment measures, the association is able to hold the proposed dues increase to a minimum.

10. How do ALA dues compare to those of other associations?

ALA’s dues of $100 for regular members are among the lowest for comparable organizations. For example, membership in the Special Libraries Association is $125. The American Association of Law Libraries is $198; the American Society of Information Science and Technology, $140; Medical Library Association, $165; National Association of Social Workers, $178; and Association for Educational Communications and Technology, $145.

11. Is a decrease in membership expected as a result of the dues increase?

Most ALA members understand the importance of ALA’s work and how they and their libraries benefit. While membership may decrease slightly in the short term, it can be expected to grow as ALA strengthens its leadership and programs. After the last dues increase in 1995, membership decreased by one percent the first year. By the third year of the three-year phase in, membership had begun to rise again and has increased 16 percent in the 10 years since the last dues increase.

12. How would the ALA dues increase affect divisions?

Division members benefit from a financially strong ALA and will benefit from the dues increase in a number of ways.  Services provided by the association that support the divisions include development, legal services, technology, human resources, finance and accounting, membership processing, office space and utilities. Division members also benefit directly from the association’s work in areas such as intellectual freedom,legislation, diversity, public information, research, accreditation, copyright and international relations. A financially stronger ALA will be better able to meet the needs of the divisions and division members.

The Ahead to 2010 strategic plan focuses on collaboration between ALA and its divisions, round tables and committees as necessary for success. Given the challenges and threats that face libraries of every type, working together is more essential than ever. The dues increase will directly support the collaborative projects necessary to achieve the ambitious goals of the 2010 plan.

13. Can I join now as a Life Member and save money in the process?

Yes, ALA offers a very attractive Life Member program. The dues range from $1,400 to $2,000 depending on the member’s current age. For further information, see www.ala.org/ala/ourassociation/membership .

14. Is it possible to pay my dues in installments?

Beginning this fall, ALA will offer members an opportunity to pay their dues on a semi-annual installment basis. These semi-annual payments may be automatically billed to your credit card or checking account. Please watch for information with dues renewals starting in September 2006.

15. More questions?

Your questions/comments are welcome. Please send to Karen Muller at kmuller@ala.org.