An interesting post on the NMRT-L elist today from an established professional in the American Library Association titled “A perspective on conference attendance and support”. In the email the author points out that never have librarians been fully funded to attend conferences, that there is no “good old days” when professional development was not at least partly the responsibility of the professional, and generally the entire responsibility of a new graduate. Lorna writes:
“My first ALA in 1982 after working as a librarian for 2 years, was in Philadelphia where I stayed in a dorm, took a super cheap flight from Columbus to Philadelphia, and had most of my meals at a 7-11 across the street. But the experience of ALA– the speakers, the programs, exhibits, meeting other colleagues, was worth the money. And so it has been for these almost 30 years of regular ALA attendance. And trust me, a great portion has come out of my pocket and not because I am rich.”
I wrote to Lorna asking her if I could include portions of her email in a paper I am writing about conference attendance in the LIS profession. She replied in the affirmative, saying that she was stunned at the reaction her email has gotten, which “was written off the top
of my head in response to some deliberations by an ALA committee I chair… When comments came in about the cost, I felt they were missing the point. It has always been expensive and the majority of us just ate the costs.”
I have been thinking about the issue of the cost of conference attendance, especially in regards to the registration costs for #NLS5 that were released on Friday. I was surprised by the increase in cost since I attended NLS4 in Melbourne 2008. With the satellite day events, registration (member earlybird), library tours and the conference dinner, it’s more than double what I paid in 2008. Then there’s the flights to Perth and accommodation – a struggle for those of us on the east coast, though I’m really glad that the west is getting a national conference in their turf 🙂
I can afford it because I’m speaking so work is partly sponsoring me, I have a study grant that I am using to help me with conference attendance related to my research, and I am working full time in a non-graduate position. I am also able to take the opportunity to have a holiday afterwards. However I am wondering how students and more recent graduates are going to afford to go to what is bound to be an amazing event, and get the time off work.
I’ve been doing content analysis on the responses to my surveys last year on conference attendance, and it’s clear that cost is a major issue for new graduates in choosing to attend conferences. Now this is not surprising, but I think it’s worth remembering that it’s not new.
Another quote from Lorna as she says it better than I can: “(W)e used to call going to
conferences “buying our raise” — professional involvement might be rewarded when raise time came around but support to go to the conferences was minimal to none. The money I have spent on conferences and professional development– completely worth it!”
So if you’re still contemplating whether it’s worth shelling out the money to get to Perth for a truly unique and fantastic experience that we as Australian librarians have access to, consider taking what I am dubbing The Lorna Initiative. Buy your raise, or your promotion, or your next job. Or buy your first librarian job by attending – there will be employers there on Friday at Satellite Workshop 3 talking about graduate programs and cadetship opportunities.
I hope to see you there!