By Ellen J. Platt, 1998-1999 ALL-SIS Membership Committee Chair, Director of Public Services, Heafey Law Library, Santa Clara University
WHY WE DID ITIn the past few years, this SIS - and many other segments of the AALL - have undertaken strategic planning initiatives. It seems fairly reasonable, as part of the process of deciding where and what you want to be in the future, to figure out where and who you are now. To achieve the latter goal, and in close consultation with Tory Trotta, I began the process of figuring out how to analyze the present membership of the ALL-SIS. The focus of the inquiry was to identify member characteristics that would be useful to the executive board for strategic planning, (based on the information available on the AALLnet in the member profile database), and to confirm or dispel some myths about the SIS.
WHAT WE EXAMINEDWithin the constraints of time and the information available in the online member database, these were the characteristics of ALL-SIS members upon which we focused:
WHAT WE EXPECTEDWe expected to see several things about our members: They were more than likely administrators; they were more likely to be public services librarians; that other SIS memberships would be related to job duties; and that leadership activity, at all levels, would be limited. We didn't know what results to expect from the other questions.
HOW WE DID ITInitially we approached AALL Headquarters to see if they would be able to extract the required information from the member database for us; they were not. This initially caused us consternation. Fortunately, Norman Davidson, Santa Clara University's Law School Webmaster saved the day by discovering an inexpensive survey package, (called WebSurveyor), which allowed us to create an electronic survey, with a variety of question formats (yes/no, one of several choices, more than one choice, or open-ended response boxes). [Stay tuned for the next newsletter issue, which will focus on surveys, and include a short article about this software and its potential for use in the law library and law school environments.]
One final question we asked ourselves was: Is it better for a committee to enter all the data from all the member profiles, thus getting 100% of member information into the survey data pool; or to ask each member to enter their own data? Despite the fact that the AALL member database was somewhat inaccurate (members don't always update their profiles) and not complete (the data included only went back to 1995), we decided on the former course of action.
After tinkering with the questions and their format, Norman put the final questionnaire up on the law school's server. The Membership Committee (comprised of Tory Trotta - Arizona State University - and Prano Amjadi, Marilyn Dreyer and me - all from Santa Clara University) was ready to begin its work, Using a list of ALL-SIS members from May 1999, pulled from the website, we began keying in the data. Member profiles were placed on one-half of the screen, and, with the survey on the other half of the screen, we entered data. The completed survey was then sent to the server. It took about two weeks for the 800+ member profiles to be keyed into the survey. (There was some inaccuracy - we analyzed 102% of our members! The most common error was data keyed twice when the committee member was interrupted while working at a service desk.)
WHAT WE FOUNDAfter all the data was entered, the software tallied the results automatically. Norman and I looked at the data and chose graphics to represent the data from a variety of display formats. See the displays of data at the ALL-SIS website: http://www.aallnet.org/sis/allsis/index.html. Choose ALL-SIS Member Survey from the list on the homepage. This is the narrative summary of the survey results:
CONCLUSIONWe are an SIS composed of many administrators, primarily from Public Services, and generally we have not and are not involved in leadership activities. The software that made compilation of the data so easy to crunch and display is reasonably priced and surprisingly flexible. I look forward to seeing how this year's executive board, under the able guidance of Tory Trotta, utilizes the information gathered by our survey.