July 21, 2012
It’s been nearly eight months since I last posted here! A lot has happened in that time, and believe me, I’ve missed blogging. I’m not sure I can even pretend this post is the harbinger of a comeback; I’m still doing all of the things that took me away from here last winter, and until that’s over, I’m not sure I’ll be blogging regularly.
What are those things? Well, I’m getting more involved locally. And like I mentioned ages and ages ago, I’ve been on YALSA’s Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults committee, and as of February, I’ve been chairing it. I also took over as member manager of The Hub last summer and I’ve been spending a lot of time on that as well. I started reviewing for School Library Journal. I think those are probably where most of my time is going — and as of the beginning of this month, I also have more hours at work! I’m still not quite full time, but I’m getting there, and there are so many things that have happened at work that I’ve wanted to tell you about but just haven’t made the time to write up. The things I do with YALSA seem to feed back into my work, and the things I do at work inspire new connections and conversations on Twitter, and then I see those people involved with YALSA and think to make new connections. I’ve definitely been busy, and it feels good! And while I miss blogging, I’m kind of enjoying just putting my head down and working. That feels really good.
So the more involved I get with YALSA — beyond committee work, I’ve also been on a taskforce, organized the speed networking session at Annual this year, and helped write up a proposal [pdf] that the YALSA Board form a task force to monitor what’s going on with ebooks and help YALSA create resources about ebooks for its members — the more involved I want to get and the more I want to learn about the organization and help make it better.
One of the things I’ve been thinking about recently is member involvement in divisions and in ALA as a whole. In addition to the “do more/want to do more” feedback loop, I’m also finding that I care more about elections as I get to know YALSA and its members better. After the last round of elections, I started gathering data on voter turnout for ALA elections. I wanted to know which divisions had good turnout, how voter turnout has changed over time, and if there were any trends I could pick out that might indicate what factors lead to high voter turnout among ALA and division members.
First, comparative turnout between divisions:
(In this chart and throughout this post, ALA voter turnout isn’t the overall turnout for all members; it’s how many members voted for Council and President of ALA–it’s engagement or investment in Big ALA, if you will.)
The obvious outliers here are ALTAFF and ASCLA, but they’re also the smallest divisions, so each vote counts for more. Everything else is fairly close, but I’d kind of like to sit down with someone at LLAMA and ALSC and find out what their secrets are, too.
The first thing I wanted to know was if division size mattered. Would being in a tiny division make people feel more attached and more interested in what happened? Would they be more likely to vote because they personally knew the candidates? Would being in a large division feel impersonal, or would a larger division offer more opportunities to get involved and get to know other members, increasing people’s feelings of investment in the outcome of elections?
Basically, size doesn’t matter. The two smallest divisions, ASCLA and ALTAFF, have seemingly very high and very low voter turnout, but I’m not sure that says much, since each vote counts for a higher percentage with them. Everything else is pretty squashed into the middle, and the largest division, ACRL, is at the exact midpoint. I suppose we might say that being a small division either really hurts or really helps, and being in the middle means you’re going to wind up in the middle. It could be worth having a conversation about how organizational culture differs between ASCLA and ALTAFF to see if there’s anything interesting there.
And since I work in a public library with teens, I also wanted to see how the youth divisions and PLA compared.
For the most part, voter turnout for AASL, ALSC, YALSA, and PLA are better than for Big ALA. And look, 2012 seems to have reversed that downward trend! What’s made people feel more invested in the outcome of elections? Is AASL turnout so high because now-President-Elect Barbara Stripling was an AASL member? (Did she drive the vote, or did the vote drive her?) Why is ALSC doing so comparatively well? What secrets can we learn from them?
Anecdotally, I’m under the impression that ALSC members tend to be older and YALSA members tend to be younger; among the general US population, older people are more likely to vote than younger people. Is that true here? Is that true across all divisions? (I’d love to see a scatterplot of average age of a member in each division vs. voter turnout for that division.) Are there other demographic factors that matter? Is there a way we can measure member engagement (percentage of members who are on committees, task forces, and so on) vs. voter turnout for each division? What other factors influence whether or not you vote?
Data for this post came from a variety of sources. Division membership stats and ALA membership stats are from ALA’s website and are supplemented with 2011 data provided via email by Ron Jankowski, the Membership Director. Voter turnout data was provided via email by JoAnne Kempf, the Director of the Office of ALA Governance. I’d be happy to provide data to anyone else who’s interested.
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