Key Findings: Surveying Members’ Professional Development Needs/
May 07, 2020
The Professional Development Committee (PDC) of Atla “fosters the development of librarians and related information professionals who serve theological and religious studies scholarship and study.” We fully recognize that not all professional development opportunities are for everyone. As a committee, serving the Atla membership, we aim to develop programming that will reach a wide variety of members with various professional roles, at different stages in their careers, and in a variety of institutional settings. We value feedback and input from the membership and hope to develop programming to meet this wide array of needs.
In January and February, we launched a survey to measure Atla member needs for professional development opportunities and how the committee can better facilitate those needs through our programming. The committee wants to ensure that our existing programming and planning for future opportunities melds with the actual needs of the membership. We distributed the survey link via the Atla Newsletter and the ATLANTIS listserv.
While analyzing the survey results, the COVID-19 Global Pandemic hit, and we kept hearing about schools tightening their budgets. We felt this may have a significant impact on our member institutions and for those members who receive institutional support for professional development, including attending Atla Annual.
In the area of technology, 59% want to learn about integrating library resources into online courses, something that will be especially prevalent in the age of social distancing, and 48% want to learn how to run an institutional archive.
We decided to re-survey some of our questions and compare the responses with those from earlier in the year. Additionally, we included more detailed questions on modalities of learning, as we push to meet not only member needs, but consider current times and focus on online opportunities.
The results of these surveys will inform the PDC as we begin planning for the new year (and beyond), beginning July 1. Below, we highlight some of the significant results of the survey.
By far, an overwhelming majority of survey respondents (81%) identified webinars as their first choice of how to receive their professional development from Atla.
In our resurvey, we drilled down on this choice and asked: “What style of webinar would you like to see offered?” This question also asked respondents to rank their responses:
- Workshops/seminars that are 2-3 hours in length was the primary choice at 43% (16)
Most participants ranked panel presentations as their 2nd choice at 44% (17)
Single speaker sessions were either ranked top priority (35%) or 3rd choice (38%)
- Small group discussions were ranked as the last choice at 68% (25)
In our 2016 survey, we asked respondents to explicitly choose which professional development topics that most interested them. Of the choices offered, the top three were: technology, library instruction, and leadership/management skills.
To probe further into these three areas in our new survey, we asked a question for each theme, asking survey respondents to choose their top three choices among a list of options. We discovered the following:
- In the area of technology, 59% want to learn about integrating library resources into online courses, something that will be especially prevalent in the age of social distancing, and 48% want to learn how to run an institutional archive.
- Library instruction received multiple high percentage choices. 81% of survey respondents request opportunities geared toward tutorials (print or online); 66% would like to learn about assessment tools (quizzes, surveys, assignments); 60% want opportunities geared towards face-to-face in person or online interactions; and 51% are interested in sessions on subject guides, whether individual web pages or lists of LibGuides.
- Finally, in the area of management/leadership, 60% of respondents are looking to build their skills in strategic planning and 40% are looking for opportunities for budgeting and negotiation skills.
In the earlier 2020 survey, 88% of members identified that they received financial support from their intuitions for professional development.
Due to anecdotal evidence that professional development funding was being drastically cut or eliminated due to the financial impact of COVID-19 upon academic institutional budgets, we wanted to re-survey that question.
From the April survey, 53% of respondents expect “some financial support, at a reduced rate”, while 21% expect “no longer receiving support for professional development” in the next 12-18 months.
If professional development budgets are cut or eliminated, would Atla members be willing to go into their own pockets to pay for opportunities in the next year to year and half?
Prior to COVID-19, 58% responded “No.” However, in the April re-survey, we wanted to know what the limits were to self-paying for opportunities, knowing that the Atla Annual will be offered online in some fashion, and in-person opportunities are not an option for the foreseeable future. Our re-survey question was free text and the responses were categorized. There was considerable drop off between the first and second place responses.
From the April survey, 60% of the respondents said that Free and up to $50 was their limit. From there, 18% were willing to pay $100 and up for opportunities, while 12% were unsure about paying for opportunities themselves.
PDC Past and Future Actions
In early March, the PDC sponsored a webinar entitled “Telling Your Story: Articulating Your Value as a Technical Services Librarian.” Since posted, it has received twenty-six views in the last two months.
As Atla plans on transitioning the bulk of the Atla Annual online, PDC will be working with Atla staff to host elements of the conference in an online setting throughout the year.
We are also planning upcoming webinars on time management and information literacy.
The original survey and the COVID-19 response survey provide valuable information for PDC in developing programming. With all the changes happening right now, we as a committee want to be responsive to the professional development needs of the membership and bring you the programs that you find valuable.
The PDC values your experiences and greatly appreciate the valuable time you took to make your professional development needs known to us. Your feedback is the nucleus of the work of our committee and we thank you very much for your input.
If you have any further comments, and especially if you have specific suggestions and topics for future programming, please direct them to Michael Bradford, the current chair of the PDC.
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