ALA Responds to Montana State Library Commission’s Withdrawal of Membership

July 13, 2023

American Library Association logo

On July 13, the Executive Board of the American Library Association (ALA) issued a statement in response to the Montana State Library Commission’s decision to discontinue the Montana State Library’s ALA membership. The statement reads as follows:

ALA is a non-partisan, nonprofit membership organization that develops, promotes, and improves library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all. ALA has remained committed to this mission since its inception in 1876, serving people of all demographic backgrounds and ideologies and becoming a valuable resource for its members and the field at large.

The value placed on ensuring diversity in perspective and background is evident in ALA’s democratic electoral process. ALA presidents are elected by its membership to serve a term of one year and make decisions facing the membership in concert with a 15-member elected executive board and a 131-member elected council. Operational decisions are made by ALA staff leadership working with a full range of committees and advisory groups.

One of the most significant benefits to membership is full access to ALA’s standards for library services; continuing education and professional development opportunities; community of practice and subject matter experts; and funding sources, grants, scholarships, in-kind support, and resources that help to underwrite the delivery of programs and services for library users. ALA membership also provides benefits to state libraries, including access to timely library data; reports and white papers; benchmarking information and environmental scans; policy and advocacy support; technical assistance on accessing federal and state-level funding; technical assistance on issues related to broadband access and affordability; E-Rates, ebooks, and copyright; as well as discounts on job postings, product purchases, media subscriptions, and more.

Through ALA membership, the Montana State Library has been able to join resourceful ALA divisions, such as the Public Library Association, Core, and United for Libraries to get information specific to public libraries and library leadership. Joining these specialized groups is a benefit of ALA membership and provides tools, resources, and community specific to that type of library or role within the library.

In the last two years, ALA has awarded more than $218,000 to 23 Montana libraries via program grants ranging from $6,000 for Digital Literacy Training Workshops to $35,000 from ALA’s COVID Library Relief Fund. Most recently, ALA announced a $10,000 grant to a Montana tribal college library. For its services to the broader public, ALA has received numerous awards and recognition. This fall, ALA is slated to receive one of the nation’s highest recognitions for its work in adult literacy, an area that the Montana Library Commission members cited as an area of priority during the July 11 hearing.

ALA membership is voluntary and contributes directly back to ALA’s mission, with the largest portions of dues going directly into supporting professional development for library workers (40%), membership engagement (21%), and advocating for the preservation of library services (14%). Individual and institutional memberships serve to improve and expand the reach of school, academic, and public library services and learning; create an expansive and inclusive information ecosystem; and promote and raise the visibility of librarianship and library stewardship.

ALA is the leading organization advocating for state-level funding from the federal government through the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ grants to states. Through ALA’s efforts with its members, the Montana State Library has seen an increase of 24% from 2019 to 2023, resulting in $1,428,817 in funds. The Montana State Library uses these federal dollars to provide communities with a variety of services and programs, including access to electronic databases, computer instruction, homework centers, summer reading programs, digitization of special collections, access to ebooks and adaptive technology, bookmobile service, and development of outreach programs to the underserved.

Despite the decision in Montana this week, ALA remains committed to providing essential support, resources, and opportunities for every library and library worker in every state and territory across the nation to help them better serve their communities.

The Montana Library Association’s response to the decision is available here.