23:4 (2008:12) Report of the NASIG Conference Attendance Survey

December 17, 2008 at 6:43 pm | Posted in News | Leave a comment

REPORT OF THE NASIG CONFERENCE ATTENDANCE SURVEY
December 2008

The Evaluation & Assessment Committee of the North American Serials Interest Group (NASIG) recently conducted a survey to get feedback on issues related to conference attendance.  Our goal was to give all members the opportunity to provide input, not just those who are able to attend the annual conference and fill out the evaluation form.   The survey was announced October 27, 2008, via an e-mail message to the membership.  Later, the NASIG Publicist announced the survey on three discussion lists (ACQNET, SERIALST, and LIBLICENSE) expanding the pool of respondents to former and prospective members.  The survey closed on November 21, 2008.  The survey was started by 593 respondents, 515 of which completed the entire survey.  The complete results of the survey, including graphs and open-ended comments, can be viewed online at : http://www.surveymonkey.com/sr.aspx?sm=rewNC8_2bbd7nF9R9vPd8lrH_2bZKGrwHXwYsZcduap8HS4_3d.  The E&A Committee would particularly invite current and future board members and committee members to look over the open-ended comments in the survey as they contain a wealth of ideas and insights!  A summary of the survey results is provided below.

RESPONDENT PROFILE

The largest number of respondents have attended between one and five conferences (43.1%).  Just under a fifth (18.3%) have not attended any NASIG conferences, while the remainder are divided among 6-10 conferences (20.1%), 11-15 (9.6%), 16-20 (5.6%), and more than 20 (3.2%).  When looking at recent conference attendance, 28.4% have not attended any of the past five conferences, while 16.8% have attended all five.  The remainder report attending 1 conference (17.9%), 2 (11.2%), 3 (14.2%) or 4 (11.5%).  Respondents reported their years of serials or related experience.  Most (19.1%) have 7-10 years of experience, while the fewest have less than one year (1.4%).  Other experience ranges each were selected by 10-14% of respondents, except those with over 30 years experience who comprise only 8% of respondents.  When it comes to job responsibilities, the categories with the greatest number of responses include:  electronic resources (56.9%), serials librarian (50.8%), acquisitions (46.6%), cataloging/metadata creation (43.1%), collection development (34.4%), technical services manager (24.7%), and licensing/rights management (23.7%).  All other categories were selected by less than 20% of respondents.  The types of institutions respondents work at are predominated by university libraries at 59%, with college libraries coming in a distant second with 11.6%.  All other types of institutions came in at less than 5%.

HOW DOES NASIG RATE COMPARED TO OTHER CONFERENCES?

We asked respondents to indicate the types of conferences they regularly attend, not including NASIG’s conference.  The American Library Association’s Annual Conference and Mid-Winter Meeting was the most popular selection at 38% of respondents.  Second most popular are state library association conferences (30.7%).  Several conferences are attended by roughly a fifth of survey respondents.  These include: the Charleston Conference (20.9%), ILS user group conferences (19.5%), state-level conferences with a topical focus (including division, section, or chapter meetings of professional groups) (19.5%), and regional conferences with a topical focus  (including division, section, or chapter meetings of professional groups) (18.3%).  All other conferences were selected by less than 15% of respondents.  We wanted to know how NASIG’s conference ranks compared to these other conferences when respondents prioritize what events to attend.  The largest number of respondents (44.7%) rate NASIG as their top priority.  It is a second priority for 23.2% of respondents, third for 12.3%, and fourth or lower for just 6.1%.  Unfortunately it is not a priority for 13.6% of respondents.

HOW DO REPSONDENTS DECIDE WHETHER OR NOT TO ATTEND NASIG CONFERENCES?

We wanted to examine the factors influencing decisions both to attend and not to attend the annual conference, looking at the past five conferences.  Specifically, are there things NASIG could be doing to improve attendance rates or are those decisions driven by factors out of our control?  We looked at different factors that could influence the decision to attend the conference, asking respondents to rate each factor on a scale ranging from “very important” to “very unimportant.”  The results were translated to a numeric scale with a rating of 4 being equivalent to “very important” and a rating of 1 as equivalent to “very unimportant.”  (In other words, the higher the numeric value, the more important a factor is in the decision.)  A ranked list of factors influencing the decision to attend the conference is as follows:

1.  Programs Offered (3.55 rating)
2.  Support from Employer (3.45 rating)
3.  Opportunity to Network with Peers (3.33 rating)
4.  Value Related to Other Professional Conferences (3.27 rating)
5.  Travel Costs (3.10 rating)
6.  Hotel Costs (2.97 rating)
7.  Geographic Location (2.90 rating)
8.  Registration Fee (2.87 rating)
9.  Conference Dates (2.86 rating)
10. Opportunity to Interact with Vendors/Clients (2.80 rating)
11. Serving as an Officer or Committee Member (2.75 rating)
12. Giving a Presentation or Poster Session (2.61 rating)
13. Personal Reasons (2.58 rating)
14. Required by Employer to Attend (2.41 rating)

A ranked list of factors influencing the decision not to attend the conference is as follows:

1.  Insufficient Support from Employer (3.20 rating)
2.  Travel Costs (3.12 rating)
3.  Hotel Costs (2.95 rating)
4.  Geographic Location (2.94 rating)
5.  Conference Dates (2.90 rating)
6.  Personal Reasons/Conflicts (2.89 rating)
7.  Registration Fee (2.75 rating)
8.  Programs Offered (2.59 rating)
9.  Value Related to Other Professional Conferences (2.43 rating)
10. Not Required by Employer to Attend (2.35 rating)
11. Not Serving as an Officer or Committee Member (2.19 rating)
12. Not Giving a Presentation or Poster Session (2.12 rating)

When asked for the three best things about NASIG conferences, responses echoed many of the highly-rated factors influencing the decision to attend cited above.  Programming, opportunities to network, the size and culture of the conference, and locations were all commonly given as answers.  Points for improvement included the desire to lower costs and a number of specific suggestions about conference programs and local arrangements.  The survey garnered over twice as many kudos for what NASIG is doing best compared to comments on what could be improved.

MEMBERSHIP NUMBERS
The next few questions looked at factors that could affect NASIG membership numbers in future years, specifically retirements and career changes.  Despite dire predictions for the “graying of the profession,” the largest number of respondents see their retirements or career changes as happening more than 10 years in the future (41.4%).  The second highest category is for those respondents who are uncertain (19.3%).  Those with more immediate plans to either retire or leave their serials or related position are comprised of smaller numbers with 18.1% projecting 6-10 years, 16% projecting 3-5 years, and just 5.1% projecting 1-2 years as the timeframe for their plans.  We wondered how retirement or career changes would affect conference attendance and membership numbers.  Only 6.5% of respondents plan to remain members post-retirement or after leaving their serials or related position.  Larger numbers do not plan to maintain membership (38.3%) or are uncertain (55.2%).  Anticipated conference attendance is lower with only 2.4% planning continued conference attendance and 48.9% not planning continued conference attendance.  Those who are uncertain comprise 48.7% of respondents.

FUTURE CONFERENCE ATTENDANCE
We wanted to gauge if the current economic climate or other changing factors would alter the decision-making process regarding future conference attendance.  When comparing ratings for each factor to previous decisions on whether to attend the conference, there was a slight uptick in the importance of the monetary factors of travel costs, hotel costs, and registration fees.  Programs offered, support from employer, and opportunities to network will continue to be top factors in the decision-making process.

1.  Programs Offered (3.50 rating)
2.  Support from Employer (3.26 rating)
3.  Opportunity to Network with Peers (3.23 rating)
4.  Travel Costs (3.13 rating)
5.  Hotel Costs (3.06 rating)
6.  Geographic Location (3.01 rating)
7.  Value Related to Other Professional Conferences (3.00 rating)
8.  Conference Dates (2.96 rating)
9.  Registration Fee (2.94 rating)
10. Opportunity to Interact with Vendors/Clients (2.76 rating)
11. Personal Reasons/Conflicts (2.71 rating)
12. Giving a Presentation or Poster Session (2.42 rating)
13. Serving as an Officer or Committee Member (2.38 rating)
14. Required by Employer to Attend (2.26 rating)

We asked specifically about plans to attend the next conference in Asheville, North Carolina.  Those planning to attend comprise 49% of respondents, while those not planning to attend only 19.5%.  About a third (31.5%) are uncertain at this time.

FUTURE CONFERNECE DATES AND ACCOMODATIONS
The next group of questions was inspired by conversations we had heard at previous conferences, including discussions in the 2008 brainstorming session.  First, we ask respondents to indicate which months in the year are acceptable for NASIG to be held.  A majority of 70% found May to be an acceptable month, followed by 55.7% for June and 45.6% for April.  All other months were selected as acceptable by less than 35% of respondents.  Conversely we asked what months are not acceptable.  Not surprisingly, 79.4% found December to be unacceptable, closely followed by January at 69.9%.  Over half (53.8%) also found November to be unacceptable timing for the conference.    At the other end of the spectrum, only about 10% found April or May to be unacceptable and 24.3% found June unacceptable.  Based on these results, it seems that May is the preferred timing for the conference.

We also asked about what days of the week to hold the conference.  The current practice of Thursday through Sunday had the greatest support with 69.2% of respondents finding it acceptable, followed by Wednesday through Saturday at 48.6%.  All other day spans were selected as acceptable by between 20%-35% of respondents.  Comments note that a Saturday overnight stay can result in cheaper airfares, while others don’t want to give up their weekends for work-related activities.  As far as the length of the conference is concerned, the vast majority of respondents (88.3%) think that NASIG is getting it just right.  A small number think it should be shorter (8.5%) and even fewer that it should be longer (3.2%).

In 2008, NASIG tried out a resort location for the conference for the first time at Tapatio Cliffs in Phoenix, Arizona.  We wanted to gauge interest in resort locations versus the hotel locations.  Most respondents did not express a strong opinion on the topic, with 34.9% indicating resort locations occasionally would be desirable and 36.5% reporting uncertainty or that it doesn’t matter.  Those with a preference for hotels comprise 16.8% of respondents and those with a preference for resorts slightly less at 11.8% of respondents.  Comments cite that cost should be the important issue in deciding on venues.  Just as on this year’s conference evaluations, many noted that they prefer locations where they can walk or find easy, affordable transportation to restaurants, shopping, and other attractions.

(Note:  In 2007, NASIG’s Site Selection Committee conducted a survey which focused on aspects of site selection and accommodations not covered here.  The results are available in the NASIG Newsletter, vol. 22, no. 3 (Sept 2007):  https://nasignews.wordpress.com/2007/07/16/223-200709-site-selection-survey-results/)

ONLINE CONFERENCE OPTIONS
In our increasingly wired environment, we wanted to determine the level of interest in offering some or all conference activities online.  Is this something the Executive Board should begin looking into?  When it comes to making the shift to an online-only conference, a strong majority of 69.2% do not see it as a suitable alternative to an in-person conference.  A smaller number indicate it could be considered if travel costs rise significantly (20.2%) and just 10.6% think it is a good idea regardless of travel costs.  One common theme among the comments was the importance of in-person networking that respondents do not think would translate to an online environment.  Some expressed that an online conference would be better than nothing, but should only be used as a last resort.  A majority of 58.2% are uncertain if they would be willing to participate in an online-only conference.  Almost a quarter (23.3%) indicate they would participate, while 18.4% would not.

We also looked at interest in a hybrid model, where selected conference programs would be offered as webcasts.   This idea was received more favorably with 55.4% supporting the proposal.  A significant number are uncertain about the option (39.2%), but only a small number are opposed (5.4%).  Support for paying a special fee for online content was somewhat less well received.  Just 34.6% are in favor, while 20.7% are opposed and 44.7% are uncertain.  Comments noted that this could be an important benefit to membership for those who are unable to attend annual conferences.  Webcasts could also be a way to advertise the value of NASIG to attract new members and conference attendees.

OTHER SUGGESTIONS
We wrapped up the survey by asking participants, “What other events, activities, or services could NASIG offer to increase the value of your membership, either related to the annual conference or independent from it?”  We received comments from 118 respondents.  Some ideas included:

•    Offering more continuing education events, including regional events and online opportunities (both live and self-paced)
•    Offering certificate programs
•    Expanding mentoring programs
•    Issuing more publications
•    Sponsoring a scholarly journal
•    Proposing NASIG take a more active role in the profession/industry following the model of UKSG.  We should spearhead initiatives, get involved in standards work, sponsor research, etc.
•    Providing a job placement service
•    Providing a service for locating external reviewers (for tenure, promotion, or other faculty reviews)
•    Providing a clearinghouse for title changes and publisher changes

CONCLUSION
Thank you to everyone who took the time to fill out the survey and provide thoughtful input that will help NASIG with future planning.  The survey highlighted some areas for growth and improvement, as well as provided a reality check on what NASIG is doing right.

If you are interested in discussing some of the ideas, comments, and information presented here, members should feel free to jump over to the discussion forums at: http://www.nasig.org/members_forums.cfm

Respectfully submitted by:
2008 NASIG Evaluation & Assessment Committee
Lori Terrill (Chair), Ann Doyle Fath (Co-Chair), Carole Bell, Jana Brubaker, Sarah Corvene, Susan Davis, Janice Lindquist, Martha Spring, Christina Torbert

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