Welcome to Librarian Burnout, a new platform on cup of tea with that book, please, where we will both share different factors that cause burnout and our librarian burnout stories:
When I go on job interviews, I am a nervous wreck. Not only am I uncomfortable talking about myself but I don’t know what they are going to ask. So I sit there, wringing my hands (that is my nervous tell) anticipating what their next question will be and make sure what comes out of my mouth are coherent sentences. But then I am met with a question that annoys me, a question that has been asked at recent librarian interviews:
“Are you part of ALA or any other professional organizations?”
I always get irked when asked about my “professional associations.” Like who I associate with professionally and have to pay a high membership fee ranks higher than my capability of doing the prospective job. Let me explain. ALA is the American Library Association, a nonprofit organization that promotes libraries and library education. The ALA, the oldest and largest library association in the world, has a huge influence on the library science field. In order for you to get your Master’s degree in Library Science, the school has to be accredited by the ALA.
Like most member-driven organizations, there is a membership fee. If you are a student, you are lucky. It costs just $38 to be part of the ALA. Unfortunately, based on which category you fall under, you pay the full price, literally. Here is a further breakdown of the fees:
- 1st year(being a librarian):$72
- 2nd year: $110
- 3 or more years: $145
- Trustee: $65
- International Member: $87
And that doesn’t include the extra fees for the separate divisions of the ALA, such as the Young Adult or the Research Librarian divisions.
I use to be a member of the ALA. Even when their fees gradually started to increase, I stubbornly kept the membership. Not because of the apparent benefits, but the prestige it brought it. Saying that you are part of the ALA is like being part of an exclusive society. So you stay and try not to let the price bother you. But after a while, as the stress and the anxiety get to you, you look for resources that will help your predicament. It is natural that your first search would be within the organization that you are paying a lot of money. Unfortunately, you are left empty-handed. You can’t find any information related to your situation. All you find are advocacy efforts and advertisements for upcoming conferences.
I am not here to criticize the ALA or any other professional organizations. They do worthy work and provide useful educational resources for their members. However, their lack of attention towards such an important issue that is affecting a lot of librarians is very disconcerting. A librarian’s well-being is just as important as a member of the public’s continued use of libraries. Organizations like the ALA need to think like the unions: caring more about the health and welfare of its members.
What can be done? Professional organizations need to change their attitude in their approach towards prospective librarians. It should be more like a support group. After graduation, we are thrown into a new world and sometimes we will feel unprepared. If the organization promotes itself as a community of librarians, then it needs to be a community other than an elite social club. Libraries may be nothing without the public but they are definitely useless without healthy librarians. I think it is time that professional organizations realize that.