Now, don’t let the word “money” cause you to avert your eyes!! This post isn’t going to cause any anxiety! At least, I hope not….

Last year you elected me as YALSA Fiscal Officer. Since then I have been working hard to learn about YALSA’s financial dealings. Before I took this position I had several misunderstandings about money issues and YALSA. I suspect many of you do as well. One of my goals during my tenure is to make YALSA’s financial picture more transparent so we all can be better informed. Watch for upcoming blogposts on such topics as what the Division does with your dues, why ALA conference registration is not the same as state conference registration, and how your donations to Friends of YALSA fit into the bigger financial picture.

We will begin with some myth-busting! Here are four common myths about YALSA finances:

MONEY MYTH #1 — YALSA gets money from ALA

YALSA does not get money from ALA. In fact, it’s just the opposite. YALSA contributes funds to ALA in two key ways.

• YALSA’s fund balance, or the amount of cash we have on hand, is in an interest-bearing account. All of the earned interest goes directly to ALA.
• YALSA pays “overhead” to ALA. In other words, when YALSA charges certain fees ALA takes a percentage. For example, ALA charges YALSA 25.5% overhead on its YA Lit Symposium registration. That means if YALSA were to collect $100,000 in registration, the Division keeps less than $75,000 of it.

What does ALA do with these funds? They use them to cover the cost of services that Divisions use, such as legal counsel, the Washington Office, membership & customer service, the IT department and more. This is all part of the “Operating Agreement”, adopted by ALA Council in 1989. (We’ll talk about the Operating Agreement in more detail in a later post.)

MONEY MYTH #2 — YALSA gets money from the federal government

YALSA does not get any funding from the federal government. The only federal funds available to YALSA are grant funds. YALSA has applied for federal grant funding in the past, but has not received it. Earlier this year, YALSA applied for federal funds via the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to hold a national forum to discuss the future of young adult services in libraries. YALSA will find out this summer if our proposal will get funded.

MONEY MYTH #3 — Your dues cover the cost of everything YALSA does

Dues cover about 30% of YALSA’s expenses. In order to balance its budget, the rest of the money comes primarily from the following sources:
• Fees for continuing education offerings (e.g. webinars)
• Royalties from products like books
• Revenues from ticketed events at ALA conferences like the Edwards Luncheon
• Donations from individuals and sponsors

If YALSA were to eliminate or reduce fees for dues or any of these other things, then the organization would have to reduce the services and resources it provides to members and others. It should be noted that when we’re talking about dues, some dues monies go to ALA and some to YALSA. That is made clear on your membership form. For example, if you’re a student member in both ALA and YALSA, ALA receives $33 worth of dues and YALSA receives $25.

MONEY MYTH #4 — Much of what YALSA does is cost-free

In much the same way the members of your community view libraries as a “free” service, you know that libraries are not free. Your “free” library pays expenses for maintaining the building, compensating staff, keeping up the collection, planning and delivering programs and so on. The same is true for YALSA. Everything YALSA does comes at a cost. For example, the popular yalsa-bk listserv is considered a “free” resource and anyone, regardless of whether or not they’re a member, can subscribe and participate. However, the listserv takes staff time to maintain, and YALSA uses a platform provided by ALA, which YALSA pays for by contributing that overhead I mentioned earlier to ALA. In a sense, YALSA members pay through their dues, purchases and donations, to support what the organization offers for “free” to nonmembers, including things like the web site, listservs, annotated lists of recommended reading, toolkits, downloadable bookmarks and more.

If you have any questions about YALSA money issues, please contact me or post a comment below. I will find the answers for you, and perhaps I will address it in a future blogpost. I appreciate this opportunity to serve you as Fiscal Officer. I hope our conversations will be enlightening!

Now, see, that didn’t hurt one bit!

About Penny Johnson

I am the teen specialist at Baraboo Public Library, Baraboo WI.

One Thought on “Money Matters

  1. Jacqui Milliern on April 1, 2012 at 11:42 am said:

    Good to know! Thanks for a peek behind the scenes of this uber important organization.

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