Professional Associations

The American Library Association

The American Library Association is both the largest and the oldest library association in the world.  On October 6, 1876, 90 men and 13 women -all librarians- signed up to become charter members.  Their mission at that time was “to enable librarians to do their present work more easily and at less expense.”  Since that time, the ALA has becoming the defining organization for American LIS professions, setting both the ethical and educational standards for the country.

Currently, ALA has identified 8 Key Action Areas that direct each of its initiatives within the LIS community.  They are:


Advocacy for Libraries and the Profession

Education and Lifelong Learning

Intellectual Freedom

Organizational Excellence


Equitable Access to Information and Library Services


Transforming Libraries


These Action Areas are designed with an ultimate goal in mind for the future:

“In this future, ALA builds a world where libraries, both physical and virtual, are central to lifelong discovery and learning and where everyone is a library user.”

According to the ALA Mission: “The object of the American Library Association shall be to promote library service and librarianship.” The stated mission is, “To provide leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.” (About ALA, 2013)

The resources and opportunities that are available to ALA members are extensive.  To start, there are opportunities for continuing education.  ALA has many web courses that are offered at free or discounted rates to its members.  These courses are great because they allow ALA members to keep up with the current trends and issues within LIS.  For example, there are upcoming web courses on both the new healthcare laws and common core state standards, two current issues that LIS professionals need to be knowledgeable on.  Mixed in with these are basic courses on storytelling and acquisitions that new librarians can take advantage of as well (ALA Online Learning, 2013).

ALA has a number of member groups, the most impressive of which is its Mentor Connect program.  Mentor Connect allows members to sign up to be a mentor or receive mentoring from other members of the ALA community (Mentoring FAQ, 2013).  Members can also sign up to serve on the various ALA committees and the American Libraries Direct electronic newsletter.

ALA has many different activities that members can partake in.  ALA sponsors various advocacy events, such as Library Snapshot Day, and is active in legislative activities as well (Advocacy, 2013).  Students can take advantage of the more than $300,000 dollars that ALA offers in scholarships annually (ALA Scholarship Program, 2013).  New librarians can join the ALA Emerging Leaders Program, which offers them the opportunity to join problem-solving work groups and network (ALA Emerging Leaders Program, 2013).  Also, ALA has an annual conference and midwinter meeting each year.

There are different levels of dues to sign up for ALA.  Students can join for $34 a year for a total of 5 years.  Regular members can join for $66 their first year, $100 their second, and $133 all subsequent years.  ALA also offers a non-salaried/unemployed member rate of $47 dollars per year for professionals who make less than $30,000 a year or are transitioning in their career (Membership, 2013).

I took a look at the June and September/October issues of ALA’s Publication “American Libraries”.  Each issue covered a wide array of subjects, including social issues (Is Your Library Plus-Size Friendly?, Apps and Autism), library design (Melding Minds to Make a Library), budgets and funding (How Low Can Our Book Budgets Go?), as well as many other features that are representative of the current LIS culture.  I found the articles easy to read and informative.

ALA has many different divisions that cover all aspects of LIS professions.  The beauty of joining ALA is that you have access to both the information and standards that all LIS professions use and abide by, as well as the information specific to one’s specialization.  For example, the second professional organization that I would join is ALA’s Public Library Association.


The Public Library Association

The Public Library Association is a member-driven division of the ALA with a focus on public libraries.  PLA was established in 1944 after a petition signed by over 1,200 members was presented to the ALA Council.  The original mission statement of PLA stated their goal was “to advance public library interests and to cooperate in the promotion of library service in general.”


PLA’s current mission statement reads:

 The Public Library Association enhances the development and effectiveness of public library staff and public library services. This mission positions PLA to:

-Focus its efforts on serving the needs of its members

-Address issues which affect public libraries

-Commit to quality public library services that benefit the general public


 Their Core Organizational Values state that PLA is dedicated to:

-Visionary Leadership.

-Member Focus.

-Integrity and Transparency.

-Openness, Inclusiveness, and Collaboration (PLA Mission and Goals, 2013).

-Excellence and Innovation.


One of the most impressive aspects of the PLA is the number of resources and opportunities that are available to its members.  For example, want to take a stab at writing or begin making a name for yourself within the library community? PLA is where you should be.  PLA has a constant open call for contributors and ask for a commitment of 400 word articles, twice a month, and the occasional book review.  All authors are volunteers (Get Involved with PLA, 2013).  PLA also offers a variety of resources to continue your education in their Online Learning section.  Live and archived webinars, workbooks, and online courses are just a few of the offerings available to PLA members (PLA Online Learning, 2013).  Within the Professional Tools area, you will find help on library-related topics ranging from ethics to e-readers (Professional Tools, 2013).  In addition, members have access to PLA’s e-news and exclusive email lists, as well the many opportunities to participate and network at the various conferences and meets (Public Library Association, 2013).

The Public Libraries Magazine is the PLA’s publication.  Published six times a year, is the only ALA journal that is devoted to only public libraries.  Just as with ALA’s publication, I found PLM’s articles both informative and timely.  PLA seems to know what information is important to the community and is eager to divulge what knowledge they can. 

PLA is very active on Facebook.  Their main Facebook page is a great mix of reader’s advisory, library-related news stories, and helpful information and tips.  They also hosts free hour-long Facebook forums that range in topic from author’s talks to IT consultants to practical help with everyday library issues (Facebook: Public Library Association, 2013).

Joining is easy and is open to both students and professionals.  Regular membership is $65 and student memberships are $25, although you must be a member of ALA to join PLA (Join PLA, 2013). 

Both personally and professionally I identify most strongly with PLA’s goals.  They are:

Advocacy and Awareness: PLA is an essential partner in public library advocacy.

Leadership and Transformation: PLA is the leading source for learning opportunities to advance transformation of public libraries.

Literate Nation: PLA will be a leader and valued partner of public libraries’ initiatives to create a literate nation.

Organizational Excellence: PLA is positioned to sustain and grow its resources to advance the work of the association.

Each of these goals represents an idea or standard that I strongly believe in.  Funding, transformation, digitization, technology, and illiteracy are things that every public librarian deals with on a daily basis.  The fact that there is an organization made up of my peers, working together as a community, whose goals touch on each of the main concerns that public libraries face is inspiring. 

I would happily join both of these organizations, and plan to come next year.  Both ALA and PLA seem dedicated to creating a community of librarians that are knowledgeable and active in their fields. 


ALA Emerging Leaders Program. (n.d.). American Library Association. Retrieved September 28, 2013, from

ALA Online Learning. (n.d.). American Library Association. Retrieved September 28, 2013, from

ALA Scholarship Program. (n.d.). American Library Association. Retrieved September 28, 2013, from

About ALA. (n.d.). American Library Association. Retrieved September 28, 2013, from

Advocacy. (n.d.). American Library Association. Retrieved September 28, 2013, from

Get Involved with PLA. (n.d.). American Library Association. Retrieved September 28, 2013, from

Join PLA. (n.d.). American Library Association. Retrieved September 28, 2013, from

Membership. (n.d.). American Library Association. Retrieved September 28, 2013, from

Mentoring FAQ. (n.d.). Latest From All Groups. Retrieved September 28, 2013, from

PLA Mission and Goals. (n.d.). American Library Association. Retrieved September 28, 2013, from

PLA Online Learning. (n.d.). American Library Association. Retrieved September 28, 2013, from

Professional Tools. (n.d.). American Library Association. Retrieved September 28, 2013, from

Public Library Association. (n.d.). American Library Association. Retrieved September 28, 2013, from

Public Library Association (PLA) | Facebook. (n.d.). Facebook. Retrieved September 28, 2013, from

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