Remember That ACRL Membership Survey – Part Two

A fair amount of the ACRL membership survey, which ACRLog began sharing last week, reports on resources and services that respondents valued. In other words, what does ACRL offer that is most important to the members. It’s pretty clear that what most members like about being a part of their ACRL section is, well, you! Networking is the highest rated member benefit, and that appears to be the case no matter how long someone has been an ACRL member. ACRL affords academic librarians the opportunity to meet, work, and discuss issues with colleagues. Things get more interesting when respondents were asked about the value of newsletters, e-discussion lists, and conferences. Some real differences begin to emerge among those who’ve been members 11 years or more, and those who’ve been members 10 years or less. There is a clear preference for the newsletter and discussion lists among newer (younger?) members, while those who’ve been members more than 20 years prefer conference programs.

This supports my theory that more mature members of the profession are primarily using traditional keep up methods, such as annual conferences and traditional print journals, while newer ACRL members are preferring the non-traditional forms of communication (although discussion lists are fairly mainstream at this point). This is reinforced by another chart that shows that for members ages 36 and over journals are the second most important member benefit, but for those 35 and under journals are not nearly as important. For everyone, professional development is ranked as the most important part of being an ACRL member, but a much greater percentage of respondents 35 and under rate professional development highly. One way to attract younger, newer members could be to offer more virtual networking opportunities – and perhaps these need to be nominally priced webcasts. These newer members like to network, and they like e-methods for communication, so why not meet their needs with e-networking strategies. ACRL is already exploring this territory with a variety of virtual conferencing and e-learning opportunities.

How about member satisfaction with ACRL customer service? The organization received all time high marks in a number of customer service rating areas. Whether the area was prompt handling of requests for services, knowledgeable staff or professional service between 60% and 70% of members report being “extremely satisfied” with ACRL organizational services. These are, on average, double-digit increases from a 2000 survey, and are almost double what was reported in 1987. ACRL has clearly improved the quality of its communication and interaction with members. And 89% of respondents either “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that they would recommend ACRL membership to library colleagues.

But what are members getting out of their ACRL memberships in terms of particpation in the organization? The highest reported reason for renewing an ACRL membership was “to support the profession”, but does that translate into a highly active membership? Approximately 25% of the respondents reported wanting no involvement in ACRL. For all those that do get involved the number one way in which that happens is at the chapter level where 29% of the respondents reported involvement with their chapter. That was followed closely by section participation. Still, 46% responded that they have no involvement in their local chapter or with any national committees. However the outlook for member participation on several levels is disappointing. When asked about plans to participate in a number of different activities, such as attending the ACRL National Conference, attending ACRL workshops and institutes, and even chapter programs, the numbers are below 2003 levels. For example, in 2003 34% of members indicated they were “very likely” to attend the next national conference, but that falls to 25% for 2006. Even attendance at chapter meetings is projected to fall. The decrease in participation is largely due to financial or time constraints, as 68% and 53% of 2006 respondents said they are unlikely to attend for those reasons, respectively. (NOTE – there are indications in the report that a fairly low response rate to the 2003 survey should be taken into account when comparing 2003 and 2006).

There is a fair amount of detail in the report on how members of different sections responded to the survey questions. The predominant primary section affiliations of the 2006 survey respondents are the University Libraries Section (19%), the College Libraries Section (16%) and the Instruction Section (15%). All sections had at least some representation, except for the Slavic and East European Section, which only had 14 respondents (or less than1%) select it as their primary section. Many sections, such as the African American Studies Librarians and the Women’s Studies Section, for example, had only slightly more representation with 33 and 43 respondents respectively, both only 1%. Thirteen percent of respondents were not involved with any sections at all. Of those who are involved with sections, the most useful benefit by far was networking with peers / colleagues (26%). When examing the cross-tabulations between section affiliation and survey questions, there are few significant sectional differences that truly standout. You could learn that members of the CLS and IS sections report being more active at the chapter level than ULS members or that IS members are much more likely than CLS or ULS members to attend the national conference. These cross-tabulations will likely be of interest to the different sections, and their membership committees can access this report to allow for more a more detailed analysis of the data.

In the next and final report on the membership survey you’ll hear more about how the findings of the survey can inform ACRL about what opportunties it may wish to pursue in improving the association and services offered to the membership, along with some of the final recommendations suggested by the marketing firm that conducted the survey and analyzed the results.

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