Friday, March 09, 2007

Question about ALA conferences

I just read an interesting article in the online Chronicle about childcare at academic/industry conferences. I must admit, the thought of this issue has never crossed my mind before. Even though I have plenty of colleagues and librarian friends with children. So let me ask the floor--> Is there a big need for onsite childcare at large library conferences, such as ALA or ALA MW? (What about small ones, like OCLC Members Council meetings?)

I guess I had always assumed that if you had young kids, you left them with a trusted spouse, parent, family member, etc. and came anyway. With today's phone conferencing, video and podcasting options, you can worst case attend remotely if the conference organizers know you are interested and they're willing to work with you.

Still, I'd be curious to know what libraryland thinks of this issue. Do we as an industry need to consider childcare at our conferences?


Cathy said...

Well there has been child care or reimbursement for child care in your room for the 25 years I've been going to conference. If something happened to my husband it would be hard for me to leave my daughter behind.

Rosario said...

ALA has been providing arrangements for childcare at both Annual and Midwinter meetings for many, many years. I haven't been to many other national conferences so I'm not sure about PLA, LITA, ACRL, etc. But I would not be surprised if some of the divisions also had arrangements at their national conferences.

Because the library profession has a large number of women, this issue was addressed long before it became hip to talk about it.

Yesterday I was at a meeting where about 20-30 vendors were demonstrating. I was talking to one vendor rep who has an 11 month old daughter. She routinely takes her daughter with her to meetings across the country. Now that may change as the daughter gets older.

Anonymous said...

As Cathy already noted, ALA has provided child care reimbursement to registered parents for years, and there is onsite day care, 8-5 ("Camp ALA") at the Annual Conference. Typically the division conferences do not provide child care.

As a single parent, there are many, many conferences I decline to attend because of the difficulties in arranging good 24/7 care--or the complexities of travelling with kids and finding child care on site (and hotels do have rosters of sitters). Once children are in school, it becomes even more complex, and often staying away from the conference, or doing in-home arrangements, is the only option.

Alice said...

Ah ha, this is so interesting! And good to know! Perhaps someone at ALA should chime into the Chronicle to let them know (ever so gently) that librarians had this issue sorted out years ago...!

Cool, even one more reason why librarians rock!

rochelle said...

When I first started attending ALA conferences, as a single parent with two grade school-aged kids, I was pleased to see that childcare was offered, but have never used it for several reasons: 1) I was lucky enough to live next to trusted friends and family; 2) Workplace paid for my conf. attendance, but I'm sure would not pony up for transportation, child care and food for my girls; 3) As a single parent, I valued that conference time. I knew if I brought my girls, I would miss out on the best part of conference--the networking and schmoozing that takes place outside of sessions and meetings. I didn't want to have to have my attentions divided at conference. Still, it gave me warm fuzzies to know that ALA offered that service to parents/families who needed it.

Michelle said...

And mothers of younger children who are breastfeeding would also need to bring their little ones along... said...

ALA began paying attention to child care in 1985, when the association began providing a list of registered child care providers in the conference area. Since then, "Camp ALA" has become a standard feature of the ALA Annual Conference. mg

Anonymous said...

I wonder...does ALA extend that service to its staff? My recollection is that it does NOT. ALA staff -- most of whom are women, some of whom are single parents, many of whom receive moderate pay -- go away for about 14 days to work the conference and have to make their own arrangements.

Anonymous said...

Short answer: no, I don't need this.

Of course, then, I'm verging on being an "old guy" as my youngest is in the process (one of these days!) of wrapping up her college career.

Furthermore, I was just musing to myself yesterday for some reason that there are a lot of childLESS librarians -- both single and married -- in my circle of friends and co-workers. Maybe it's something in our water.

And, generally, isn't it the more established-in-their-profession folks who get to go to Annual and Midwinter anyway? (has been in my limited experience) And if 'more established' equals 'older, with grown kids' ... I'm still not seeing reason for a big child care program.

- - Pennsylvania Librarian

Alice said...

I dunno--I think ALA is a richer conference when you have everyone from library school students to retirees coming to talk and participate.

I do want to second what anonymous from Pennsylvania said: there are a lot of people in the profession who are childless, seems like. I don't know if that's simply a factor of life in *every* profession (is it a social/cultural thing), or is it something endemic to library staffers? (That goes for OCLC staffers, too, BTW!)

Brian C. Gray said...

"And, generally, isn't it the more established-in-their-profession folks who get to go to Annual and Midwinter anyway?"

I do not think this is true anymore. With today's economy, now more than ever, we have more distinct generations of professionals working in our libraries at the same time. With future retirees holding out, people entering library schools at younger ages, new technologies bringing in new roles, etc. the profession has become more competitive. You cannot wait to be "established" to start attending conferences.