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Revitalizing Institutional Memberships

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.





Institutional Membership Benefits

February 3, 2016 10:00 AM by M.J. Tooey, AHIP, FMLA

The HS/HSL at UMB has been a long time institutional member. We no longer need the Exchange and the Journal is open access. So why stay a member? Well there is the intangible of supporting the association. It is also nice to have discounts and be able to send three non-members at member rates to meetings. Other benefits I would find useful would be for membership in all sections to be included in the institutional membership. Institutional members could also have a set number of free educational offerings included (CE, webinars, etc) in their memberships that could be used within their institutions. The Membership Committee should consider what is valuable to libraries in our current environment.  The members of our library teams are our most valuable resource and things that benefit their professional development and growth enriches us institutionally. Thanks for asking. Best - M.J. Tooey

Institutional Memberships

February 3, 2016 08:30 PM by Ken Edison Petre, II

Having experience in the museum environment, I have also struggled with ensuring that membership benefits are beneficial enough to patrons to entice them to become institutional members.  Of course, there are those individuals who will do so to support the institution for its own sake, but many people will be asking, "What do I get out of this deal?"  The key is clarity in this regard.  Also being in a somewhat rural community, there are those who would want to see a benefit that actually extends to the greater community, such as materials medical librarians and health information professionals could disseminate to help advertise their services to the hospital, clinic, or local health information community.  Moreover, this would also encourage other health information professionals and medical staff to take advantage of these services in the future.

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