CHICAGO – The American Library Association (ALA) has started collecting member demographic information in a voluntary online survey. ALA will use the information to plan improved programs and services, present ALA statistics to policymakers and potential funding groups, and respond to questions from the press and members themselves. The survey is located at http://www.ala.org/ala/ors/researchstatistics.htm.
Why does ALA need better demographic information? According to Denise Davis, director, ALA Office of Research and Statistics, “Questions may come from ALA units within the membership who are planning an activity or developing a policy. It also may come from outside organizations that want to understand our association. In all cases, the interest is not in individual members, but in ALA as a whole. Some of the questions to which we will respond: What percent of our members are male versus female? What percent are under 30? What percent are of a specific ethnic group? How many of our members have disabilities?”
The key to success in the effort is, of course, member response. Strong membership response will result in ALA having improved demographic knowledge. As ALA moves ahead and gathers information, it will update members on the findings, according to Davis.
For further information on the background of ALA's demographics survey, see the article “Association, Know Thyself,” American Libraries , December 2003, or online at: http://www.ala.org/ala/pio/alademographics/demographics.htm .
Members of the task force were: Vivian Pisano (chair), former Diversity Council chair and chief of automation and technical services, San Francisco Public Library; Mary Jo Lynch, former director of ALA's Office for Research and Statistics; Lorna Peterson, associate professor, University at Buffalo; Tess Tobin, member ALA Committee on Diversity and administrative services librarian, New York City College of Technology; and Satia Marshall Orange, director of ALA's Office for Literacy and Outreach Services.