Litho Clubs are alive and...well, hanging in there as gamely as any membership organization can be expected to do in these difficult days. Time hasn’t been kind to the printing industry’s once-thriving communities of small clubs and groups—the ones that operated mostly locally, often with a focus on a particular business niche or occupational category. (Anyone else from the NYC-metro area remember the Printing Estimators and Production Men’s Club?). In most cities, the decline in the number of plants has driven a corresponding decline in the ranks of those who once supplied the lifeblood of these informal but tightly-knit fraternities. Attrition also can be blamed on the difficulty of recruiting new, younger members; increased pressure on personal time that used to be set aside for dinner meetings and other activities; and a shortage of those willing to sweat the administrative details of planning programs and otherwise keeping the groups together. These challenges are well known to the Litho Clubs, which have been fixtures in most major printing centers for many decades. Their umbrella organization, the National Association of Litho Clubs (NALC), has been in existence since 1945. Blair Dreyfus, NALC’s national secretary, is far from believing that the best years of the Litho Clubs are behind them. We asked him to talk about the current status of these venerable fellowships and to state what their future contributions to the industry’s well-being might consist of. APO: What kind of year have the Litho Clubs been having in 2009? Is membership up, down, or flat? BD: The majority of our local clubs are having good years. Nine of the sixteen current active clubs are holding monthly educational meetings. Five of the others are having meetings sporadically. Three of our clubs are reporting an increase in membership—the others are flat. APO: Have any clubs ceased operating? Have any new clubs been started? BD: In 2006, 2007 and 2008 the NALC added two clubs per year and lost one to get to our current total of sixteen active clubs. The NALC is currently talking to representatives in two other cities in hopes of getting a club started in them and we are hopeful of reactivating those clubs who have gone dark. APO: What's the mission of the Litho Clubs in 2009, and going forward? BD: The mission statement for the national association is to function as a forum for the interchange of information relative to the operation of the local Litho Clubs and initiate national recognition for its member clubs, individual members and members' companies. The NALC does this with a local member of the year award, Club of the Year award and with its annual Impression Awards printing competition. We also foster and maintain educational scholarships for technical and management training in the graphic arts. We also initiate and assist in the forming of new Litho Clubs. APO: What happens at Litho Club meetings? BD: Most monthly Litho Club educational dinner meetings begin with an hour of networking and usually a no-host bar. Clubs will conduct a small amount of business prior to the educational portion of the meeting, usually announcements from club president about upcoming meetings but mostly to induct new members or to honor members with recognition for services rendered to the club. After dinner the club Program Chair will introduce the speaker after which there is a 45- to 60-minute presentation. Most of the clubs sell raffle tickets for their Education & Scholarship Funds and conduct the drawing for these prizes (usually donated by vendors or members) prior to closing the meeting. APO: Lithography isn't the predominant printing process that it once was. What do the clubs have to offer people who work for digital printing companies? BD: The topics for the clubs' educational meetings are as varied as their membership. Whether you work for a digital company, a prepress company, a finishing company or a traditional printing company, the opportunity exists to learn something about whatever the topic happens to be at that meeting. An employee with a good working knowledge of every aspect of the company for which he works is a very valuable employee. I've been attending Litho Club meetings for over thirty years and no matter the topic, if I went to the meeting with an open mind, I learned a thing or two at every one. APO: How did NALC's 2009 convention in New Orleans go? Will there be a convention in 2010? BD: The convention in New Orleans was my first one as National Secretary and quite frankly, didn't meet with my expectations. I set high standards for myself and for our members. I didn't deliver the product that I wanted to deliver to our attendees. Only half of our local clubs sent representatives to New Orleans. Our 2010 convention will be held in Chicago from July 21-24 and we are working on a plan to insure representation from every club. Participation by the clubs and the opportunity to share with each other the educational topics that worked well for them during the year, their ideas for future fund raising events, and receiving national recognition for themselves and their clubs are most important to the growth and prosperity of the NALC. APO: What's the sense you get from your members about the direction in which the industry is headed, particularly for small and medium-sized firms? BD: Most of our members are like everyone else, unsure of when the economy will sufficiently recover to afford an opportunity for renewed growth, no matter the size of the company. Whatever that direction is, the NALC will be there to help them reach their goals. I'd like to add that every metropolitan area should have a Litho Club in it to help educate the employees of the companies who do business in that area. If anyone feels that their city needs a Litho Club, please contact me, and together—we'll make it happen!