2016 Dues Restructuring Resource Center

On 9 September 2015, the SLA Board of Directors approved a recommendation from the Finance Committee to adjust membership dues beginning in 2016. As of 1 January 2016, SLA’s dues structure will be as follows:

2015–2016 Dues Rates Per Member
Membership Category 2015 Dues 2016 Dues % Increase
Full Member (U.S. salary $75,000+) $200.00 $200.00 0%
Full Member (U.S. salary $35,000–$74,999) $185.00 $200.00 8%
Full Member (U.S. salary $18,001–$34,999) $114.00 $200.00 75%
*Full Member (U.S. salary $0–$18,000) $40.00 $200.00 400%
**Full Member (U.S. salary $0–$18,000) $40.00 $50.00 25%
Honorary/Life Member $0.00 $0.00 0%
Organizational Member $750.00 $750.00 0%
***Retired Member $40.00 $100.00 150%
Student Member $40.00 $50.00 25%
****Unemployed Member $40.00 $100.00 150%

* Applies only to SLA members in North America.
** Applies only to SLA members outside North America.
*** For retired members with 45+ years of continuous SLA membership, dues rate is $0.00.
**** Rate is available for one year only.


The unit affiliation rates—$20 for each additional chapter or division affiliation and $12 for each caucus affiliation—will remain unchanged in 2016. The unit allotment calculation will also remain unchanged.

2016 Allotment Amounts Per Member
Unit Type *$200 Dues Allotment $100 Dues Allotment **$50 Dues Allotment
Chapter $14.40 $7.20 $3.65
Division $12.00 $6.00 $3.00
Caucus $7.20 $3.60 $1.80

* Includes organizational members.
** Includes honorary/life members and retired members who pay no dues.


Reasons for the Dues Restructuring
SLA last changed its dues structure almost six years ago, in January 2010. At that time, dues were increased by 15% for most members, and a new dues rate of $200 was created for members earning the equivalent of US$ 75,000 or more.

In the nearly six years since that dues adjustment, SLA has cut costs, reduced staffing levels, and become more operationally efficient. Notwithstanding these efforts, inflation and the high costs associated with conducting business with new technologies have far outpaced our ability to deliver the same level and quality of service at the current annual dues rates.

At the same time, revenues from the SLA Annual Conference and INFO-EXPO, our other main source of income, have been falling. The conference is still profitable, but not to the degree that it has been historically. Income from sponsorships and advertising has also shrunk considerably. These revenue sources are no longer supplementing dues income to the extent they once did.

Looking ahead, SLA will be implementing changes from the “Road Map” approved by the Board of Directors in June. Some of these changes will require additional funding, so we must begin shoring up our financial base now in preparation for those changes.

Impact on Individual SLA Members
Almost two-thirds of SLA’s members are currently in the $200 dues category (17%) or the $185 dues category (47%), and their dues will be affected minimally or not at all. Student members account for 11% of SLA’s membership, and their dues will rise only $10, from $40 to $50. Honorary, life, and organizational members account for about 2%, and their dues are not increasing. The only members facing significant dues increases are retirees with fewer than 45 years of continuous SLA membership (6%), those making $18,001–$34,999 (5%), and those living in North America who earn $18,000 or less (7%).

The $0–$18,000 dues tier was created for librarians and information professionals living outside of North America, in countries whose purchasing power is dramatically lower than that of the United States and Canada. But when the $0–$18,000 dues tier was introduced in 2008, the global economy was starting to slow down, and SLA members around the world were beginning to lose their jobs. Many librarians and information professionals in advanced economies who lost their jobs began taking advantage of the $0–$18,000 dues tier, and soon they vastly outnumbered the SLA members in developing economies for whom this dues category was created.

It was expected that this situation would be temporary—that the economy would improve and members in North America would become employed and resume paying higher dues. This has not been the case. Today, U.S. members account for 69% of members in the $0–$18,000 dues tier, the same share as in 2009, and the percentage of Canadian members in this tier (10%) has almost doubled during that time. Yet roughly half of all members in this income tier are employed, based on information provided to SLA.

Because the cost of servicing members is the same regardless of their salary or employment status, members paying higher dues are subsidizing those paying lower dues. The Board of Directors and the Finance Committee have concluded that SLA can no longer afford to support the lower-dues categories to the same extent as in the past. Consequently, the Finance Committee recommended, and the board approved, eliminating the $0–$18,000 dues tier for members in North America, raising the dues rate for retirees to $100, and reinstating a half-price dues rate of $100 for unemployed members (available for one year).

Impact on SLA Units
Units that face the greatest potential impact from the dues restructuring are those with significant numbers of members in the $0–$18,000 dues tier. Seventeen North American-based chapters (Cincinnati, Eastern Canada, Fairfield County, Florida & Caribbean, Louisiana/Southern Mississippi, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pittsburgh, Pacific Northwest, Rhode Island, San Francisco Bay Region, Silicon Valley, San Diego, Toronto, and Virginia) and six divisions (Academic, Education, Knowledge Management, Museums, Arts & Humanities, News, and Science-Technology) have more than 10% of their members in this dues tier.

Based on past dues restructurings, between 5% and 10% of members can be expected to drop their membership, with about half rejoining later. Because of the significant dues increases in the $0–$18,000 tier and the $18,001–$34,999 tier, these tiers may experience higher-than-average losses. The introduction of the one-year rate of $100 for unemployed members may help offset these losses.

Impact on SLA Relative to Other Library Associations
The dues restructuring will make $200 the predominant dues rate, which is in line with most other library associations and organizations (see attached chart).

Implementation of New Dues Structure
SLA members whose membership expires before 1 January 2016 can renew at current dues rates up through December 15; after that date, they must pay the 2016 rates. Members whose membership expires on January 1 or later must pay the 2016 rates.

Beginning October 1, SLA will mail renewal invoices to members whose membership expires in January 2016. Those invoices will reflect the 2016 dues rates.

Questions and Answers
The dues increase for retired members—from $40 to $100, an increase of 150%—seems especially harsh given that retirees have done so much for SLA over the years and require little cost or effort to service. How can the board justify such an increase?

The decision to increase dues for retired members prompted considerable discussion among board members, and it was not a step they took easily or lightly. The board recognizes that retired members have played a significant role in SLA’s success and still have much to contribute, and they are sensitive to the fact that some retirees are living on fixed incomes and will find it difficult to absorb a dues increase.

The Finance Committee presented the board with several dues restructuring scenarios, and each one proposed an increase in retirees’ dues. The rationale for the increase is that it costs the same to service all members (regardless of their employment status) and all members receive the same benefits, so the dues levels should be standardized as much as possible. That said, retirees will still pay less than full members ($100 versus $200), and they will continue to receive a discount on conference registration.

Member dues account for only about 30% of SLA’s revenues, so raising dues on retirees does not represent an attempt to “stabilize SLA’s finances on the backs of those who are least able to pay,” as some have put it. The board understands that some retirees will choose not to renew their SLA membership, but board members believe that most retirees will continue to want to support the association that best represents their interests. Even with the increase, dues for retirees will cost less than $9 per month while providing priceless connections to networks of valued friends and colleagues.

Many unemployed members have been without a job for two or three years or even longer. Any dues increase for these members would be difficult to absorb, but a 400% increase seems outrageous. How can SLA even think of raising dues so much for members who make so little?

The board debated this particular dues increase more than any other aspect of the dues restructuring, and in the end they agreed to raise dues only for North American members earning less than $18,000. That distinction deserves some clarification.

The dues category for members earning less than $18,000 was created expressly for SLA members living and working in countries whose economies are not as fully developed as those in North America and Europe. Special librarians in these countries found it difficult to afford SLA membership because of unfavorable exchange rates (i.e., their currencies were not competitive with the U.S. or Canadian dollar or the Euro). To make SLA membership more accessible to these librarians and encourage growth internationally, the board created a new dues category in 2008 that offered membership at $40 for those earning less than the equivalent of US$ 18,000.

Although this dues category was created with developing economies in mind, it is dominated by members in North America. This is an unintended consequence of the global economic downturn, which began taking a toll around the same time the new dues tier was introduced. Members in North America took advantage of the new dues category, and they now comprise 79% of the members in this tier.

Interestingly, half of the members in this dues category list employers in their membership profiles, and information provided for the most recent SLA Salary Survey does not reflect either the level of unemployment or the low salaries that would be expected from members in this dues tier. While no one is suggesting that SLA members are abusing the current dues structure, the fact remains that a dues tier created for certain members is being used by many others for whom it was not intended.

The new dues structure includes a category for members in North America who are unemployed. The cost is half of what full members pay, thus allowing unemployed members to maintain affordable access to the networking and learning opportunities that are critically important to special librarians seeking to capitalize on opportunities in today’s ever-changing job market.

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