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ALA Ahead to 2010



The American Library Association contracted with the Allegheny Marketing Group in 2004 to conduct research to identify communications areas with members where improvements can be made.  2,251 randomly selected ALA members completed an online survey (response rate 17%; confidence level 98%).

The research objectives were:

  • Determine the methods currently used to communicate with ALA members.
  • Determine the frequency of communication with members relative to the method of communication.
  • Assess the response times it takes ALA to provide members with the information requested.
  • Obtain members' satisfaction level with the overall speed and accuracy of communications.
  • Determine the frequency of access to ALA's website.
  • Obtain members' opinions regarding ALA's website.
  • Obtain suggestions from members on ways to improve communications.

The results of this study are being used internally to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of ALA's communications with members.

Major Conclusions:

  • 23% of members participate in or use ALA programs and services at least monthly.  When conducting studies with large associations, it is important to segment answers between very active members and not so active members.  In most associations, the inactive (infrequent users) members outnumber the active members 4 to 1.  ALA has a slightly more active membership than most associations.
  • Website:  Members are not very satisfied with ALA's website.  A large percentage of members find the website hard to navigate and find what they are looking for.  This is true for all age groups and both frequent and infrequent users of the website.  This in turn results in more phone calls and frustrated members.  Data:  28% satisfied, 50% somewhat satisfied; 22% not satisfied with website.  26% have difficulty finding what they are looking for.  Only 23% find the website easy to navigate.  28% call the 800-number when they cannot find what they are looking for.
  • Website use:  The ALA website is very important to members.  Members use the website for different types of information as indicated by 24 different functions they use it for.  Usage of the website is higher than the 800-line and emails.  Usage would be even higher if more members could find what they are looking for.  Data:  24% use the website at least weekly.  69% use the website at least monthly.
  • Website:  The functions most used by members are: professional tools; issues/advocacy; products/publications; conferences; news.  These are also the functions members have the most difficulty finding.
  • ALA 800-number: A high percentage of members (58%) use the 800-number.  However, the frequency of calls is low (4% use the 800-number more than once a month; 3% use it monthly; an 16% call about 4 times a year).
  • Most 800-calls are for conference information and membership.  Much of this information should be on the website.  The types of questions the 800-number might be better used for is placing orders for books and graphics.  Data: 58% use the 800-number for conference information; 49% for membership information; 18% for placing orders.
  • Telephone calls:  The recorded message on the 800-number does not satisfy 35% of members' needs during non-office hours.  .  Frequent callers get transferred about half as often as infrequent callers. 41% of 800-number callers get transferred to another person about 50%-80% of the time.  38% of these members say they get transferred to more than one department.
  • Telephone:  When members leave a voice mail message, 93% say it should take 1 day or less for ALA to return the call.  83% of calls are returned in 1 day or less.
  • Email: 85% believe it should take one day or less to respond to an email.  67% say ALA responds in one day or less.  Frequent email senders get a response back in one day or less 78% of the time; infrequent senders only 65% of the time.
  • When all respondents are asked in general whether they are satisfied with ALA's speed of response in communication, only 5% are not satisfied.  However, only 55% are extremely or very satisfied.  65% of members who are active and frequent communicators are extremely or very satisfied.

Allegheny Marketing Observations:

  • There is no doubt it is difficult to establish good communications in an organization as large as ALA.  But it is easier today than 10 to 20 years ago due to the world of electronic communications.  ALA needs to make take much fuller advantage of the digital age.
  • When a member cannot find information on the website, the ensuing process of emails and/or telephone calls are be frustrating and time consuming.  In the twenty-first century, the vast majority of all information needs should be readily located on a website.  The best solution for ALA is to fix the website.
  • Despite the fact that ALA has room for improvement in the communications area, there is a high percentage of members who truly want to see and help with changes.

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Major Conclusions, Allegheny Marketing Observations
The American Library Association contracted with the Allegheny Marketing Group in 2004 to conduct research to identify communications areas with members where improvements can be made. 2,251 randomly selected ALA members completed an online survey (response rate 17%; confidence level 98%).