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Little-Known Geography: Kennewick is located in a cold, wet desert.

FOR A FEW WEEKS after a convention, when one sees members who did not attend, the first questions are: “What was the convention like? What happened?”

The predictable responses are: “Wonderful” and “Nothing much.”

So how was the Kennewick convention? “Wonderful.” What happened? “Nothing much.”

The pleasures of NAPA conventions become, to habitual attendees, as familiar as convention floor discussions. There is always the pleasure of meeting new people, some known through their journals and writing (Betty Humfleet and Dick Fleming, for example) and some who have yet to become active. The association of names with faces is a never-ending reward of NAPA gatherings. And, of course, best of all is seeing people who have become an extension of one’s own family. Actually, a little better than that since, unlike real family members, they seldom make unpleasant demands on one. And one always misses absent people who should be there (the Ficks, the Haywoods, the Boys, for example).

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I propose here to report briefly what did happen on the floor and then cover the same ground with expressions of my opinions on the subjects discussed. I do hope that more members this year will discuss in their journals some of the problems facing the association. I think, particularly, that action on the activity requirements could benefit from full discussion and argument through the year.

Two subjects, activity requirements and the drop-out rate of new members, were discussed, if that’s the right word, on the floor at two sessions. Some think they are connected: that our activity requirements discourage new members and cause them to drop out.

It may have been that the proponents of lightening or of eliminating the activity requirements were simply more vocal than the bulk of the attendees, but one got the impression that there is a strong current running to eliminate all activity requirements. An amendment was proposed and accepted for the ballot of the next convention that would make presence at the convention session fulfill the activity requirement for voting at that session. Many people favor this amendment. They argue that attending a convention is evidence of interest that should be sufficient to permit voting.

Various people expressed opinions as to why we have the turnover of members that we do. Several years ago Bill Boys suggested sending questionnaires to the members who dropped but nothing was done about it. Ann Vrooman volunteered to write to the drop-outs this year to ascertain the causes. This information should be useful.

After one day’s discussion of activity requirements with most of the expressed sentiments favoring lightening or eliminating them, a second session found the convention discussing the absence of activity requirements for life members and ex-presidents. If I heard correctly, and that’s not easy at any NAPA floor discussion, the sentiment was strong that life members should have to fulfill the same activity requirements as everyone else. Perhaps we’ll wind up permitting everyone, except life members and ex-presidents, to vote.

The whole convention was mild; hardly a disagreement surfaced. In the voting for convention site, some evidence of sectionalism became apparent; there was much talk of “east” and “west.”

I have never attempted to ascertain the turnover rate of membership in NAPA, but anyone who has watched the lists of a few years gets a good idea of it. In normal years, about 30 people join the association and about 36 leave, so there is a slow decline in total membership until some promotion such as the Kelsey mailing (through which I joined) of some 10 years ago or last year’s article in Graphic Arts Monthly causes an enormous spurt in membership. If I recall correctly, the Kelsey mailing produced about 75 new members to bring the total to about 420. After 10 years of slow decline, the GAM article produced about 130 new members during the past year.

From time to time people have taken the turnover and slow decline between membership drives to be the fault of the organization or the fault of the members who do stay.

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No analysis, to my knowledge has been made, but the numbers above suggest a turnover rate of about 7.5 percent per annum. I suspect the turnover of new members is much higher than this, and I guess that’s what concerns people when they talk about turnover. It seems that people join, stay a year or two, and quietly depart. Most new members probably drop out in the first couple of years.

There are two questions in connection with this that I would like to hear discussed or, better yet, see discussed in your journals and in the NA:

1. Is the turnover rate simply a normal, expected one?

2. How big do we want our organization to be?

Perhaps our loss of new members is a normal, unavoidable result of having open membership. That is, anyone who has a notion that it might suit him can join since the only requirements are the submission of the annual dues and an expression of interest. It is not surprising that many people do not know what they are joining. When they find that the organization is not what they thought it might be, they simply do not renew their memberships. The dues, after all, are not much of a barrier, and there is no better way to find out about an organization than by joining it. I know this has happened. Only last week a man said to me: “I was once a member of NAPA; so-and-so persuaded me to join. I don’t know why he did so; he knew I was not interested in the journalism side of printing.”

My point is that we should feel no obligation to change the association to something that would be more interesting to people who are not interested in it as it stands. I would not join a bird-watching club and then expect that it watch something else because I don’t like birds. Are we creating a problem where none exists?

The second point is one I’ve never heard mentioned on the convention floor: How big do we want to be?

Gale Sheldon, Harold Segal, and I talked about this a bit after the floor discussion, and it was our feeling that 500 was perhaps the upper limit and probably about 400 was a better number. Why? Don’t laugh, but partly because paper comes in 500-sheet reams. These numbers are obviously of no concern except to those who print for the bundle. Once you require more than 500 copies, you have trouble coming out evenly on both cover and text stock. I’m already printing just over 500 and the nuisance is real. With a motorized press, it makes little difference whether you print 500 or 600 but the collating, folding, and stapling become ever more onerous.

The mailing of journals to the mailer involves a greater packing problem and, of course, more expense. I would be interested in seeing optimum or maximum sizes discussed in your journals this year. What if we corrected all our faults and 30 members joined per year while we lost practically none. Would not this be a disaster? For sure I would stop publishing a journal long before the number reached 1000. How about you?

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Last week, someone, in extolling the virtues of the APA to me, said: “NAPA will never be any good until they get rid of all the deadwood by requiring activity in order to keep your membership.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him that NAPA seems to be leaning in the opposite direction; that it was argued at the convention that the activity requirements are unfair, burdensome, and actually discourage activity.

I have never been in favor of an activity requirement to maintain membership because I have seen too many fallow periods by valuable members. I think it is beneficial to the organization that they can retain membership during these periods. But I don’t see anything unfair or unreasonable in having an activity requirement for voting.

I have always thought the chair makes a serious mistake at election time at conventions when the request is made that the attendees sit in different locations according to their eligibility to vote. In fact it is usually done by asking the non-voters to move to the back, or to one side, of the room. Such a request induces an outcast feeling in the members asked to move. Few of use are so sure we are sheep that such a division does not induce a feeling that we just possibly may be goats. The purpose of the division is always to determine the number of voters present, but that could easily be determined by the number of votes cast or by counting. There has rightly never been any concern that someone not qualified to vote would do so. I feel certain that the actual division is at the root of the proposed amendment to make attendance at a convention sufficient to satisfy the activity requirement for voting.

That doesn’t bother me much, but I’m fairly sure that it is an opening wedge in a move to dispense with all activity requirements. (Next argument: Why should I be disenfranchised just because I can’t afford the time, or money, to go to the convention; it isn’t fair.) Should we have activity requirements? I don’t know.

The present requirements are so minimal that it’s hard to see why anyone objects to them. Presumably if you join the NAPA, you are interested in printing, writing, or both. Further, you are interested in actually doing these things – NAPA is not a book club, a correspondence club, or a social club. If you don’t print 1000 words or write and publish 300 words per year, you are an inactive member. No matter what the constitution is amended to say.

I have little sympathy for writers who claim they cannot get published. With a typewriter with a carbon ribbon, anyone can prepare a camera-ready copy which can be quickly and cheaply printed by an instant printer or by a regular printing house. That’s all you need to become a publisher. Well, of course, you need a little money. I was shocked at the convention when someone complained that an instant printer wanted $14 for 500 copies. Printing is never free; do not imagine that this journal is published (even using slave labor) for such a price. I discard that much in worn type when printing an issue.

In spite of all argument to the contrary, I know that our present activity requirements cause people to publish journals. In the May and June bundles each year you will find acknowledgements that people are publishing so they can vote at the convention. The requirements do serve as a spur and as a reminder of what the organization is all about, and I’m by no means sure that any part of them should be dropped. I will watch for and read with interest any discussions in your journals on the subject.

I have not yet decided how I shall vote on the proposed amendment.

See you in Cincinnati.

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Thanks For Your Comments

MANY OF YOU know that I’m a lousy correspondent. My usual excuse is the publication of this journal. For the two articles on Education, I do not have to make excuses. I have received so many letters and cards that I could not possibly answer them. I think I struck a nerve.

I had letters from many teachers – very thoughtful ones from Gale Sheldon and Rich Hopkins. I had angry letters, bitter letters, and ranting letters, but none really disagreeing with the views of the two articles. I considered combining several of the letters into another article but finally decided enough had been said.

Dave Smit had enough doubts about the articles to take advantage of my offer to publish opposing views. His article will appear in the November Boxwooder.

Please accept my thanks for your letters and cards. You may be sure that they were all carefully read and thought about even though you received no reply.

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Colophon

Hand set in Deepdene. Display type is Goudy Hand Tooled, Roman and Italic. Pictorial Initial is a gift from Jim Walczak. Text stock is Hammermill Ledger. Edited, published, and printed by Jake Warner in an edition of 530 copies. Printed on a 10 x 15 C&P.

The Boxwood Press
Greenbelt, Maryland 20770

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