Rejuvenation and Networking Motivates Librarians to Attend Conferences

Yvonne Hultman Ozek

Abstract


A Review of:
Vega, Robert D. and Ruth S. Connell. “Librarians’ Attitudes Toward Conferences: A Study.” College & Research Libraries 68.6 (2007): 503-15.

Objectives – To determine why professional librarians attend or do not attend conferences and to consider their attitudes toward the various conference offerings and whether conference attendance is important to their careers.

Design – An electronic mail list survey designed to collect both quantitative and qualitative data through closed and open-ended questions.

Setting – Mainly academic and public libraries in the U.S.A.

Subjects – A total of 794 librarians participated in the study.

Methods – The quantitative and qualitative data gathered from the survey were analyzed using statistical software. The quantitative items on the questionnaire regarded the following: years working as a librarian, age, gender, average number of conferences attended each year, amount of financial support provided, and the importance of attending conferences. For qualitative analysis, the instrument included open-ended questions to gather comments about issues related to conferences. Electronic mail list subscriptions were used to reach approximately 17,000 potential respondents of whom 794 completed the survey.

Main Results – The study found the main reason the respondents attended conferences was to achieve professional rejuvenation (56%), and that this finding was associated with age: the older the librarian, the higher he or she would rate the need to stay updated in librarianship. The study also found that men as compared to women ranked rejuvenation as less important. Respondents who visited more conferences tended to rate rejuvenation as more important. Networking was also highly valued (40%), although was not of significant importance among reference librarians.

Exhibits were considered to be very useful among older respondents, particularly older public librarians and older administrators from all types of libraries, but were regarded as less valuable among younger academic librarians. . Invited speakers were rated highly by academic librarians, but less highly by public librarians. General sessions primarily attracted newer and younger librarians, and poster sessions primarily appealed to academic librarians. Being able to add conference participation to the curriculum vitae was primarily of interest to younger academic librarians. Academic librarians rated roundtables as important.

Conclusion – Respondents primarily attended conferences for professional rejuvenation and networking, though felt these benefits were not necessarily related to conference content. Those who had worked longer as librarians valued exhibits more than those who were new in the field. Based on the results, further investigation is needed to answer the following questions:

1) Why do public librarians find poster sessions of low interest?
2) Why do men compared to women find professional rejuvenation less important?
3) Have more experienced librarians learned to navigate exhibits better?

The findings of this study would be useful to conference organizers.

Keywords


conferences; staff development; librarians

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