Official blog of the
Mountain Plains Library Association
But It’s a Dry Heat…is a series of occasional articles written by an MPLA member living in the Arizona desert. The desert is beautiful and full of life, if you know where to look. It’s also hot, and that makes people cranky. What makes them even crankier is when others say, ‘but it’s a dry heat’. True. But over 110° is just friggin’ hot, okay?
You know what else makes me cranky? There is no ‘D’ for ‘Desert’ in MPLA. I mean, really! We’ve already been passed over in America the Beautiful, while Mountains show off their ‘purple majesties’ and Plains are ‘fruited’ (and ‘enameled’, in a later verse). I’m not sure what that means, but at least it’s a mention. And the ‘amber waves of grain’? Plains again! I’m feeling a little Rodney Dangerfield here…
Just What is MPLA?
MPLA was founded in Estes Park, Colorado, in August of 1948, as a regional library association, already positioning itself between the national American Library Association and the local state associations. Like another (more famous) group of Founders, there were heated discussions about individual and state’s rights and allegiances, and voices of reason for the common good as documented in MPLA – The History by Blaine H. Hall:
Mr. Esterquest…suggested the group was perhaps “giving too much thought to state lines and state associations and should concentrate any emphasis on organizing a regional association on the basis of common problems facing librarians.”
Gordon Bennett prophetically observed that “state associations must get behind the regional association if it is to succeed.”
Over the years, MPLA continued to define itself as a geographic and professional association, work that continues to this day. The original seven states – Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas are states clearly defined by their Mountains and/or Plains, as are three of the more recent additions – Montana (it speaks mountain), Nevada (as in Sierra …), and Oklahoma (where the wind comes sweeping down the Plain). But Arizona and New Mexico as Mountain Plains? That’s a stretch worthy of the Western Jackalope. But I digress…
Sixty-three years along, MPLA is still providing opportunities for individual members of our state associations to address the common problems facing libraries (and the good people who work in them) in the MPLA Region. We meet annually in joint conferences with member states on a rotational basis, and are governed by an elected board of representatives from each member state. In addition to its board and its officers, MPLA activities, including
the prestigious Leadership Institute, are carried out by a number of committees and an executive secretary.
And sixty-three years along, MPLA is still refining its purpose and identity as a regional library association – how do we support libraries and library colleagues in ways the state and national associations don’t (or can’t), without taking away from what these valuable resources are and do? And while we can argue the value of membership,
the reality is that there is a cost to membership, made more apparent by these difficult financial times.
But MPLA does membership a little differently, the cost is determined by your annual salary and your first year is half-price! Retirees, students, and trustees are eligible for reduced cost memberships, and we give away several free memberships at each state’s annual conference. Why? We feel that if you experience MPLA, you will want to stay and get involved.
MPLA is not the obvious library association to join. It’s definitely a choice, often made after experiencing a conference or networking with an existing member. When I’m proselytizing, I use the 3 Bears analogy:
If Goldilocks worked in a library and went out in search of networking, continuing education, and professional development opportunities, instead of a chair, porridge, and a bed belonging to the 3 Bears, she (or he) might find 3 levels of library associations. The state association is local and accessible, providing a way to jump right in and participate, but limited to the state association and locations. The national association is loaded with resources and specialization, but can be overwhelming and distant. The regional association has a dedicated membership that provides varied perspectives, experience, and opportunities on a personal level. This Goldilocks belongs to all three and gets a lot out of each. But, MPLA is what I do for me; it’s…just…right.
And yes, we do have bears in Arizona. Now if we can just get that ‘D’ into MPLA…
Originally printed in the August 2011 MPLA Newsletter.