Professional Organizations

The number of professional organizations available to librarians can be overwhelming: which are worth the price of membership? Are some organizations more prestigious than others? How can joining the right association help me reach my professional goals? For this entry, I explored two divisions of the American Library Association that focused on my personal goals—the Public Library Association (PLA) and the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA).

The PLA was established in 1944 and it currently has over 9,000 members, who largely dictate the direction of the organization as a whole. The goal of PLA is the advancement of public library services, such as acquiring adequate funding, intellectual freedom, and improved access to library resources.

Though PLA is geared toward public librarians in the US and internationally, membership is also open to retired library professionals, library vendors or workers, students, and library trustees. Membership dues vary from $25 a year (student price) to $65 a year, depending on the type of personal membership chosen. Organizational memberships are also available for an annual fee of $100. Both personal and organizational memberships require ALA membership and include subscriptions to the PLA’s publication Public Libraries, discounts on ALA sponsored professional development conferences and seminars, and discounts on ALA and PLA products.

PLA has a very strong social media presence. Aside from their parent website, they maintain Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest accounts for their Public Libraries Online division, as well as Facebook and Twitter accounts for their annual PLA Conference and Library Edge.

YALSA was founded in 1957 and currently has over 5200 members. The goal of the organization is to expand and strengthen public library services for teens through advocacy, research, and professional development.

Membership to YALSA, as that of PLA, requires membership in ALA; other than that, it is remarkably flexible, and personal membership is open to students, librarians, library workers, retirees, friends of the library and trustees, both in the US and internationally. Organizational and corporate memberships are also available, and dues for all types of membership run anywhere from $25 annually to $570 annually. Membership benefits include access to YALSA’s e-learning library, grants and scholarships offered to members only, free subscriptions to the quarterly journal YALS and the weekly e-newsletter, service projects, professional blogging opportunities, and discounts, as well as additional ALA membership benefits.

Overall, I think I will definitely be joining the parent organization of both the PLA and YALSA, the ALA. Not only does membership offer some great benefits and discounts on its own, but it also opens up the opportunity for membership to the dozens of different divisions and associated organizations of the ALA. I think that YALSA’s specific focus on Youth Services also makes it a valuable resource, and a great way to network with colleagues who are interested in the same area. PLA might be nice to join as well, but it wouldn’t be my first priority based on what I’ve seen.



American Library Association. Retrieved from 

Public Library Association. Retrieved from 

Young Adult Library Services Association. Retrieved from

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