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CE Blog 2: Membership Survey

This is the second of the Chief Executive’s blogs – my way of keeping you in the loop with what’s happening at SLA headquarters. This post is going to focus on the recent membership survey we conducted. It opened in April, and we were pleased to have nearly 760 responses.  This blog will be some of the highlights, and hopefully give you some insight into the things we are working on.

Groups

Of the respondents, 90% were members, and 10% weren’t. 45% of respondents were members of CILIP, 23% were not a member of any support group, and 32% were a member of informal networking groups. Other groups most mentioned in addition to the National Literacy trust, CILIP groups and SLS’s were: UK Literacy Association, LIPSEE, Federation of Children’s Book Groups, Independent School Librarians Group, BookTrust and the Reading Agency.

This gives us a clear indication of the groups we need to be working with, and making sure we are maximising any opportunities for additional gain for our members. We are also mindful of those people who are not a member of any groups and the importance of ensuring they have support and opportunities to engage as well.

SLA Services

  • Most used: articles in The School Librarian
  • People were most aware of: the Weekend Course
  • Aware of but don’t use: Phone and email support
  • Least aware of: Board nomination resources

The bottom two are of particular interest, so just to clarify. You can use the phone and email support for anything – from policy queries to when you’re having a bad day and you just need to vent. Someone commented “I am tired, dispirited and need some support – this is a lonely and demanding job at times” and I think most of us can empathise with those comments, but if this is how you are feeling, pick up the phone and call us; you are not alone.

The lack of awareness of the board nomination resources is partly because a smaller percentage of membership will be interested in applying to become a Board member, but we need to ensure that members get the choice from as wide a pool as possible. Maximising awareness of these resources and of board members is something we need to bear in mind when we next come to advertise board vacancies. We will try and advertise them much more widely and make the expectations and support much clearer.

We also received a lot of feedback about the website, and the lack of branches in some areas. Both of these are things we are currently working on – the new website will (hopefully) be launched by the end of 2018, and we are currently having discussions in the office and trying to come up with plans for how we can best support those in areas without a branch. We are hopeful the new website may be able to help with this as well. Some suggestions of things respondents wanted from the new website included: a member directory, more online courses and making the resources easier to navigate – all of which are things we are discussing in-house.

 Lots of people mentioned also wanting mentoring/coaching, advocacy, more regional training and more working in partnership was a trend as well. Being new in post I have had a lot of people to meet, and this has been quite beneficial for me, as I begin to understand organisations from a different perspective. I am keen on working with different organisations for the benefit of our members – and I will let you know about any developments as soon as I can. More regional training is something we are also conscious of and will be working on developing once we have a full complement of staff in place. The mentoring service is fab, and can work really well, and we will be doing a review of this next year to see whether we can iron out making sure it’s working well for everyone involved. In terms of advocacy we are working away, both on the Great School Libraries campaign and on advocating on our own behalf. Recently we have sent letters to various All Party Parliamentary Groups highlighting the impact that school libraries can have on outcomes, and we are negotiating hard to get as much exposure directly to schools as possible.

57% of respondents either aren’t or didn’t know if they were signed up to the e-newsletter. If you don’t know, it’s an email that draws your attention to recent posts on the website, bringing the latest SLA news to you directly. If you want to sign up you can do that here: https://www.sla.org.uk/e-mail-newsletter.php though you do need to be a member, and signed in.

62% of respondents said they weren’t aware of the extra benefits of SLA membership, or didn’t know if they knew about them. This is the information on this page of the website: https://www.sla.org.uk/what-is-in-it-for-me.php and there will be a round up in the next info@ of the partnership offers so you can make sure you are using your membership to its full potential. These are things I will continue to work on, and we will announce them on the website and in info@ when they can be released.

Book and Digital reviews:

51% of respondents wanted more reviews, while 49% said they didn’t, but this combines with only 25% being aware of the additional reviews on the website, and 75% saying they’re not aware of them (they are available here: https://www.sla.org.uk/tsl-reviews.php listed in with the reviews which were in the journal).

Branches

Branches were predominantly wanted for networking, training and general support – and I would like to thank all our Branch committees who put so much time and effort into ensuring that things run in their locality. 91% of respondents said their school would let them out for training, but judging by the comments section, rarely is this as simple as it sounds with lots of additional cover, bargaining etc happening.

In terms of the best time of day 61% of respondents said during the school days was best for training, while 23% said a Saturday, and a fairly even split across morning, afternoon and twilight sessions (10%, 11% and 18% respectively). When it came to whether a full day or half day was best this was split as well, with 51% preferring a full day, and 49% preferring half days.

Publications

62% of respondents found SLA publications extremely or very useful, with 34% finding them somewhat useful. We will continue to produce high quality publications, and we will consider your requests seriously – some of which were: impact, boys’ reading, copyright, Fake News, displays and KS4/Sixth form. If we can’t do a publication on a topic, or it will take a significant amount of time I will try and make sure that need is met in a different way – through a blog post or resource for example.

In terms of the topics of interest we suggested, 88% of respondents said they would find educational research either useful or maybe useful, 79% said that about library design, and 69% said that about international school librarianship, so we will look to find ways of feeding those needs. There were also a significant number of comments about e-resources and evaluation, so I will feed that into training/publication discussions also.

General

I was pleased that all the awards got a good reception from respondents with someone commenting: “Morale boosters and awareness creators. Good!” which sums up why the awards are important very succinctly. I think it’s worth highlighting that the awards are run using only sponsorship, so no membership money is used for them. They are vital for advocacy as we need to be showing the powers that be what libraries and library staff could be achieving if certain barriers were removed.

Other comments included requests for more technology, more advanced courses and publications and for Board and award winners to be available to go to branches. And again, we will feed this in to discussions. One trend that I have noticed is that respondents weren’t aware of things we are already doing, or services we already provide, so I think there is a need for us to review our internal publicity (ie how we increase member awareness) and make sure people know what their membership offers, while balancing that with the need to not overwhelm members with emails and notices.

Finally, a massive 97% said they would recommend the SLA to someone else, which is a hugely positive thing, and something that inspires the office to keep working as hard as we do. Thank you to everyone who took part and for all the comments, whether it’s saying how much you value your membership or a point for us to improve on. They all help energise us and we will do our best to respond to you over the next few years. Don't forget you can continue the discussion using the #CEBlog and @uksla. 

 

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