What is ALA-APA? It is the ALA Allied Professional Association. It was created a few years ago because the restrictions of ALA’s 501(c)(3) tax status. ALA-APA has a different tax status, which allows it to promote the welfare of a professional group, and not just the public interest. (That is the basic distinction in the IRS code.) So ALA-APA’s major activities are getting a certification program going and doing research and lobbying to improve the status and pay of librarians.
There are certain oddities about ALA-APA that continue to be confusing to ALA Councilors, stemming from the way it was legally set up. It does not have members, but it has a Council made up of the same members as ALA Council. This keeps it tied to ALA in a practical way, and keeps ALA members in some control of it without being members of it.
The other oddity that has confused ALA Councilors has to do with ALA-APA’s financial foundations. Because they are two separate organizations, ALA cannot simply use it’s own funding to support the operation of ALA-APA. ALA gave ALA-APA a pretty big loan, but it has been unclear to some Councilors how ALA-APA is going to pay that back without dues revenue and without yet having a significant publishing program. Most of the funding will have to come from donations and subscriptions to Library Worklife, the ALA-APA Newsletter. According the ALA-APA’s financial report, given at the ALA Conference, the revenues from these sources are on track.
Under the direction of Jennifer Grady, ALA-APA has managed to get a lot of activity going in a stable way over the past few years. The Standing Committee on the Salaries and Status of Library Workers, which was a creation of Mitch Freedman during his ALA Presidency, has a number of subcommittees, made up of ALA members. These subcommittees are doing the bulk of the work to advance librarians’ status and pay.
Jennifer publishes Library Worklife, which was sent out for free for the first few issues and is now and revenue generator for ALA-APA. She recently sent out a special, “best-of” issue of Library Worklife, which has 26 articles that seem to be chosen for their general usefulness. I recommend looking at this special issue.
I have to admit that up until this conference I have had a somewhat cynical attitude toward ALA-APA, feeling that their creation was unnecessary, that ALA could fulfill the same functions without the same financial uncertainty or lack of member representation. I am officially changing my tune. I think that ALA-APA has now established their viability as an organization, in both a financial sense and in terms of the necessity of attracting ALA member involvement. They are doing the work that it was promised they would do, and I think we should all support them. I am donating to ALA-APA this year and plan to treat it as an annual voluntary “dues” payment. I think they deserve the support and that our support of ALA-APA will help us as professionals, as planned.