I will re-engage the vision of previous ALA President Mitch Freedman
for the ALA Allied Professional Association (ALA-APA). Library workers
need a strong organization to advocate for improved wages, benefits, etc.
As ALA-APA President, I will be a strong voice for library workers and
seek to grow the influence of ALA-APA.
Since then, I have had a number of people ask me about ALA-APA and how it relates to ALA. ALA-APA is a separate and independent organization from ALA and exists “to promote the mutual professional interests of librarians and other library workers.”
The ALA President is also ALA-APA President and ALA-APA is governed by the ALA-APA Council, which is made up of the members of the concurrent ALA Council. Full details of the ALA-APA governance structure is available online. ALA-APA a number of committees working actively in support of its mission and I hope to see even more member engagement with these committees over the coming years.
I am very pleased that we have ALA-APA as a platform and mechanism for advocating and supporting library workers. As I have found myself saying time and time again, libraries cannot live on love alone and neither can library workers. Library workers deserve good wages and benefits, excellent working conditions, and provision of ongoing training and development.
Yet, I find myself very concerned about the job market and employment conditions for library workers. Library staff positions are often underpaid, especially relative to other jobs with analogous technical skill requirements. Many staff find themselves in positions without promotion opportunities.
Likewise, graduating MLS students face a job market that is unpredictable and fickle – a job market that may lead to a well-paying position with good benefits in a healthy organization with room for growth and support for professional development. Or, it may not. For too many LIS graduates, while libraries are their workplaces of choice, jobs are scarce because library staffing levels are contracting, or libraries are not a realistic option because wages and benefits are not adequate in light of the levels of student debt they carry from undergraduate and/or graduate education.
Mid-career and late-career librarians also face challenges of low salaries and salary compression due to years of no or minimal raises due to economically challenging times. Retired library workers may find their pensions inadequate. Library administrators find themselves managing staffing reduction processes that are externally imposed rather than training and development programs.
I see library workers of all types taking classes, training in new skills, and pursuing other opportunities to build their abilities with a strategic eye to way that their jobs are evolving, especially in light of changing technology. I’m pleased to see that LIS programs have been increasing their staffing for career preparation and job placement over the past few years. However, neither individual students nor individual library workers nor individual libraries can fully address the systemic problems in our job market and workplace conditions. More systematic action is needed.
I believe that ALA-APA is our vehicle for collectively addressing these problems and securing change. This is why I have committed to re-engage the vision of previous ALA President Mitch Freedman for the ALA-APA. We must create a better future for library workers. Library workers deserve our support.