Recession Drives Membership Numbers Downward

July 7, 2009

By any measure, the American Library Association's membership retention level has always been enviable. But the other shoe has dropped in the nation's economic "deep recession," as May figures show. With ALA Publishing Department revenue already in decline, membership dues revenue at $4.3 million is under budget by $127,000 or 2.8%. The number of new and renewing members has declined from 67,827 to 65,437, or -3.52%. On the plus side, ALA continues to see growth in student membership; May numbers were up by 2.3%. Year-to-date statistics show a flat renewal rate overall for personal members and new membership enrolments are down 6.33%. The YTD statistics also show movement from reular and other classes of membership to the "continuous member" category, which is up 8.7% and no doubt reflects the retirement trend within the profession. Of ALA's 11 divisions, only the Young Adult Library Services division has seen growth of 1.04% over FY2008. Not surprisingly, the Public Library Association has born the severest drop at (12.67%), followed by the Reference and User Services Association (8.24%), the Library and Information Technology Association (8.18%), the Library Leadership and Management Association (7.25%), the Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (6.05%), and the American Association of School Librarians (5.17%). The other major piece of the ALA revenue pie (in addition to publishing and membership) is conferences. Registration for ALA in Chicago is currently strong—2,000 ahead of Anaheim last year—but not likely to be the record-breaker it could have been under normal circumstances.