In 1898, one of the compelling reasons for MLA’s birth was “the exchange of duplicate publications” among the association’s institutional members. Access to the MLA Exchange remained an essential benefit for decades, until the revolutionary shift from print subscriptions to online access. Today, MLA’s 382 institutional members (down from a high of 1200+ in the early 1990s) have different motivations. It’s fair to say that most join MLA to a) support MLA as their professional organization and b) be eligible for discounts on MLA services, such as allowing 3 nonmember staff to attend the annual meeting at the member rate, obtaining a 25% discount on job ads, or purchasing site licenses for MLA online webinars.
Forward 118 years later, it’s time to take a close look at our MLA institutional membership structure. How can we improve the value of what MLA has to offer for both institutions and for the individuals who work in them? We want the statement “If my employer is an institutional member of MLA, then I get x, y, z benefits as an individual” to be meaningful, clear, and compelling.
The Membership Committee will be busy the next few months revisiting institutional memberships by gathering data, reaching out to institutions and members, brainstorming with MLA’s membership staff, and working on recommendations to the Board for consideration in May 2016 in Toronto.
Easy? Not really. There are lots of moving parts, including rules at some institutions regarding not paying for individual memberships. And the current bylaws make changes to institutional membership really arduous and slow . . . You’ll hear more about bylaws revisions in the coming weeks and months.
MLA Exchange brochure, ca. 1994. Offerings included an ASCII format list on IBM-compatible 3.5" floppy disk.