Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Who Pays to Attend ALA Conference Survey Results

84 librarians have completed my survey Who Pays for ALA. While that is a small sample, not enough to be significantly statistically accurate, it is enough to show that librarians are finding a variety of ways to attend the annual conference of the American Library Association each summer. It also is enough to show an inconsistency among libraries in whether they support their employees attending professional conferences.

The Questions

My survey only asks two questions.

The first asks who pays for the attendees to attend. The choices for the survey takers range from the attendees' employing libraries paying the costs to the attendees paying all the costs themselves. In between are other options.

The second asks the attendees types of libraries.

The Results

Here are the results, starting with the largest respondent group and descending to the smallest, with non-categorized respondents at the end.

Academic librarians:
12 - my library is paying the conference costs
15 - my library is paying part of the conference costs
1 - I am earning my way working for a vendor
6 - I am paying all the costs myself

Public librarians:
16 - my library is paying the conference costs
5 - my library is paying part of the conference costs
1 - I got a scholarship to attend
1 - I am earning my way working for a vendor
5 - I am paying all the costs myself

Non-profit agency librarians:
3 - my library is paying the conference costs
2 - I am paying all the costs myself

Job-seeking unemployed librarians:
3 - I am paying all the costs myself

Corporate librarians:
1 - I am earning my way working for a vendor
1 - I am paying all the costs myself

School Librarians:
1 - my library is paying part of the conference costs
1 - I got a scholarship to attend

Retired librarians:
1 - my library is paying the conference costs
1 - I am paying all the costs myself

Vendor librarian:
1 - I am paying all the costs myself

Others:
4 - my library is paying the conference costs
1 - my library is paying part of the conference costs
2 - I am paying all the costs myself


Totals:
36 - my library is paying the conference costs
22 - my library is paying part of the conference costs
21 - I am paying all the costs myself
3 - I am earning my way working for a vendor
2 - I got a scholarship to attend
0 - I am earning my way as a paid speaker

You can see all the survey submissions by clicking this permalink.

My Thoughts

Because the sample is small, I do not want to make grand pronouncements. Also, I see some flaws in my questions, as I did not specify exactly what conference costs were. I was thinking registration, hotel, meals, and transportation, but I did not list these. I think most respondents assumed this, but some may not have.

Still, I see some interesting results.

1. The portions of academic and public librarians having to pay all their costs themselves is relatively equal. Early in the poll I thought I saw academic librarians having to pay their own way and public librarians getting more library support, but the numbers approached each other as more librarians took the poll.

2. More public librarians had all their conference costs paid for by their libraries than academic librarians who often had to pay part of their costs. This is where I wonder if my questions were too vague.

3. It makes sense that the three unemployed job-seeking librarians paid their own way.

4. The number of school librarians in the poll seems rather small. As a group, this poll did not find them.

5. The results for non-profit agency and corporate librarians are not what I expected. I thought many non-profits would not have the funds to support librarians at conferences, while I thought corporate librarians would get support. The sample is small.

6. There are seven respondents from uncategorized libraries. Librarians work in a greater variety of situations than I allowed for in this poll.

7. I can see that there are stories behind all these responses. I wonder about the retired librarian who still has a library to pay the conference costs. I wonder about the person working for a vendor who had to pay his/her own way; was he/she actually the vendor/entrepreneur?
Did the public and academic librarians working for vendors get to attend any presentations? Who were all the librarians wanting to come badly enough to pay all their own expenses?

What Now?

I admit that I have not looked to see if anyone has studied the financing of ALA conference attendance. No one has commented yet to say that I should look at existing reports. I am sure that it can be done again in a more planned manner with more reliable results. This might be helpful in the future.

Why does it matter? I think the results show that high percentage of attendees do get support from their libraries. Paying all or part of the costs for an attendee is an accepted and good policy for libraries wishing to further staff development. Perhaps more thoughtful library administrators can use such findings to initiate programs to support their employees for future conferences.

2 comments:

Norma said...

Although I never belonged to ALA, I did attend MLA regularly. I had 2 sources of funding, neither were the library. 1) Friends of the Libraries used book sale money given to the Libraries to support our professional advancement; 2) the academic department which used the library (the dean) usually covered what the other didn't. Oddly, for a number of years, the Libraries account wouldn't cover food saying that you had to eat anyway. I could eat at home for a week on what one meal in a restaurant in Chicago cost.

Librarian N said...

I am looking for an estimate of the cost to attend a conference including everything. Also how much librarians received from their libraries would be nice to have too.