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Henry Raine's picture

RBMS New Members Social

After careful consideration, Katie Carr, Chair of Membership & Professional Development, has sent me her recommendation on how to manage the RBMS New Members Social at next year's and future preconferences.  Please read the attached document, let's have a discussion about it if needed, and then let's vote on it by Friday, Nov. 5.

Thanks,

Henry

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Victoria Ondrla (staff)'s picture

I spoke with ALA’s lawyer Sept. 29 about the RBMS New Member event and the ways in which it could possibly be handled. As she described it, there are two feasible options:

1.       ACRL Staff manage the event. ACRL does a contract with the selected venue; puts the RBMS New Member Event on the registration form with a price tag on it, pays the restaurant a deposit, communicate swith attendees about the location and logistics, etc. Important to note here that the incoming funds for this would be what ALA calls, “deferred revenue” (just like tour income), there would be no overhead on it, just the cost of the event according to the venue. It would cost a little more in staff time charged to the preconference budget given additional hours to arrange it. It would also mean people would have to sign up in advance (when they register, and given the arrangements with the restaurant, may not be able to decide to attend the night of).

2.       RBMS Members can continue to arrange this event however, in ALL notice about the event, there must be some language to the effect of, “This is not an official RBMS event. It is organized by a group of members and meant to be spontaneous and fun.” Of course, the member group organizing this event cannot enter into any contract with the venue using the RBMS name. They also cannot pay a deposit using RBMS funds. These two things - contract & deposit, are fairly critical in any well-run restaurant event. With the permission of RBMS Exec, I can still provide the organizing group of members with the list of first-time (and/or previous) attendees to invite. They can also still do an e-vite using the language above. The event cannot go in the Program book or on the Website.
 
The lawyer said that as the governing body of RBMS, this is a decision for RBMS Exec. Something else she mentioned to take into consideration is that regardless of the fact that we would say, “This is not an official RBMS event,” the outcome of the event still reflects on RBMS – and to a critical population; first time attendees.

Please let me know if you have any further questions as RBMS Exec. makes its decision.
 
Best regards,
 
Tory Ondrla, CMP
Conference Supervisor
Association of College & Research Libraries
50 East Huron Street
Chicago, IL 60611
tondrla@ala.org
Phone: 312-280-2515
Fax: 312-280-2520

Nina Schneider's picture

Katie's recommendation is to be commended. After our experience at the last Preconference, it became very obvious that the current model is unsustainable, and as someone else noted, a very poor introduction to the Section. I would recommend that we make it very clear on the the registration form whether or not the event is open to new members only, or if big buddies can join their little buddies, or if it's open to anyone attending the Preconference. Have these scenarios been considered? 

 

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Nina Schneider
Head Cataloger
William Andrews Clark Memorial Library
University of California, Los Angeles
 
Henry Raine's picture

Thanks for bringing that up, Nina.  I don't think we've discussed the issue of who can go to the event, but it sounds like up until now it's been an informal mix of "new" and "old" members.  I don't think we can restrict attendance without getting into hairy definitions of who is "new," who is "old", and who is a first-time attendee.  Maybe what we call the event is misleading, and we should consider calling it something else: is it really a New Members Social, or is it a First-Time Attendees Social, or is it the Opening Reception Afterparty?  Comments and suggestions welcome!

Melissa Hozik's picture

Hi, I attending the preconference as a first-time member, and also attended the Annual M&PD committee meeting where these issues were discussed.

I know that, as a new member, that it was helpful to have a mix of new members and established ones (such as my "buddy") to help me learn more about RBMS, and to socialize.  Perhaps the term "Mixer" could be involved?

Deborah J. Leslie's picture

I think it was clear to just about everyone in Philadelphia that the New Members' Social needed to be organized differently.

Tory informs us that if we follow M&PD's recommendation, it will be an official RBMS event, handled by ACRL staff, requiring advance purchase on the registration form. I don't see how, in that case, we can possibly try to limit it to any particular category of registrant.

If I'm correct about that, I suspect an unintended consequence will be that it eventually falls out of M&PD hands (having lost its new-attendee character) and becomes part of preconference local arrangements.   

Is this what M&PD wants?

 

 

Deborah J. Leslie / Head of Cataloging, Folger Shakespeare Library

Henry Raine's picture

No, I don't think we can (or should) limit it to a particular category of registrant.  Hence my suggestion that it probably needs to be called something else than "New Members Social."   If there are concerns about the event getting even bigger once it appears on the registration form, the fact that you have to pay to attend it will probably limit its size, some people really don't like dinners in large groups, and then there are people like me who are ready for bed right after the opening reception!

Katie can correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe M&PD wanted Local Arrangements to be officially involved, because it makes a lot of sense to have someone who is local working with the venue.  So if we go with M&PD's recommendation, it sounds like it would become a joint M&PD-Local Arrangements-ACRL project.

Henry

Jeffrey Makala's picture

I'm gratified this can be done through ACRL as deferred revenue, and agree with M&PD's recommendation. If M&PD is willing to liaise with Local Arrangements to make this event happen, we should be all set.

All that's left then is nomenclature: "New and First-Time Attendees Afterparty?" "Post-reception (After)party"?  

Fernando Pea's picture

I also appreciate that M&PD has put so much thought into making these new members/first-time attendee socials more successful. However, like Deborah, I'm concerned that listing these gatherings, whatever we call them, in the official conference program and charging money will formalize and bureaucratize them too much. I attended some of these M&PD-inspired gatherings years ago--in Toronto, New Haven, Austin--and they were always very informal, low-maintenance affairs that brought together new and seasoned members after the opening reception, usually around beer, pizza, burritos, etc. If these socials are added to the conference program, as is being proposed, I fear they'll quickly become stuffy post-reception parties, probably restricted to big, expensive hotel-type restaurants able to accomodate the large groups. Is this really what M&PD wants? I can assure you that eventually you'll have to contend with competing--and cheaper and more fun--grassroots gatherings.

Why not consider Katie's other option more seriously, send out e-vites/postcard invites to new members and first-time attendees as Tory suggests and get M&PD committee members to chaperone the groups to local hangouts? It might require a little more work and planning from M&PD, and may mean that the group gets split in two or more, but it would give M&PD the control and flexibility it needs depending on the conference, the location, etc.

 

 

Kate Moriarty's picture

I like Katie's recommendation and how wonderful that ACRL is able to implement it efficiently. Thank you, too, to Tory for giving us ALA's lawyer's guidelines which are so helpful in this discussion. Making it a joint M&PD-Local Arrangements-ACRL event sounds like a great way to go.

Regarding what to name the event, my preference would still be to emphasize the new member aspect, since that was the original focus of it, but, as Deborah suggested, leave it open to everyone. Hopefully people will know, when they sign up, that welcoming and interacting with new members is part of the purpose of the event. What about "Welcome to New Members Social"?

Deborah J. Leslie's picture

"Social" implies something different than a sit-down dinner in a restaurant. If it's a dinner, why not call it a dinner? "First Night Dinner."

Deborah J. Leslie / Head of Cataloging, Folger Shakespeare Library

Deborah J. Leslie's picture

"Social" implies something different than a sit-down dinner in a restaurant. If it's a dinner, why not call it a dinner? "First Night Dinner."

Deborah J. Leslie / Head of Cataloging, Folger Shakespeare Library

Fernando Pea's picture

I like this--if the "dinner" is listed as a pay-extra option on the conference schedule, those looking for something cheaper and more casual can still organize their own outings to bars, dives, etc. This is bound to happen if we ask people to pay, which is why I personally don't like the formalized new members gatherings being proposed here.

 

 

Deborah J. Leslie's picture

I was feeling distinctly outnumbered, because I don't much like the idea of formalizing and bureaucratizing the event. So thanks, Fernando.

One thing that hasn't been mentioned here is the cost, which several folks brought up during the Exec discussion. I've only been to one New Members' Social, in Baltimore, where it was informal and you could have what you wanted based on what you were willing to pay. A few comments at the Exec discussion were that for first-timers, even for scholarship winners, food money had to be carefully budgeted and $25 was just too much.      

Deborah J. Leslie / Head of Cataloging, Folger Shakespeare Library

Fernando Pea's picture

Again I agree, Deborah, that too high a cost will keep the newbies away. If M&PD is really going to pursue this route, they need to keep the price well below $25. On my way to Philadelphia in the Bolt bus, I sat next to one of these first time conference attendees, also a scholarship recipient, who told me he was staying away from the new members dinner because he thought $25 was too steep. He's fortunate enough to be employed full-time, but he's a poorly paid librarian, not a bond trader.

 

 

Deborah J. Leslie's picture

I well remember my early days as a librarian, when $25 for a dinner was stretching it. Once another young librarian and I were embarrassed when we were invited to a dinner at a nice place with older librarians, and discovered that our share was $30 or $35 each. Luckily, one of the established librarians caught the semi-panic and offered to pay for the wine. Although eating and drinking well are are now one of my main pleasures in conferences, I hope never to forget what it was like just starting out.

Deborah J. Leslie / Head of Cataloging, Folger Shakespeare Library

Henry Raine's picture

It sounds like there are some unresolved issues and disagreements (what to call the event, the nature of the event).  I'd said we could vote on Nov. 5th; are we ready, or do we need to hash this out some more?

Fernando Pea's picture

I think we need to ask Katie to respond to our concerns and to resubmit her memo. I imagine she'll have to get M&PD involved, so it'll take a little time. Is this urgent? Can it wait until after M&PD meets in January?

 

 

Deborah J. Leslie's picture

I for one would like to hear M&PD's response to various issues raised in our discussion. 

Deborah J. Leslie / Head of Cataloging, Folger Shakespeare Library

Henry Raine's picture

I understand Deborah and Fernando's concerns about "formalizing and bureaucratizing" the event.  However, I want everyone to be aware that M & PD's recommendation to have ACRL manage the event with pre-registration and a deposit paid to the venue was made by Katie Carr and her committee after much discussion and consideration of the options.  

Yes, we'd all love to go back to the days when the "New Members" event was just a bunch of people casually descending on a bar and having some drinks and maybe some food together after the opening reception.  However, the event has just gotten too big in recent years, and it's unrealistic to think that it's possible to have a restaurant host 75, or even just 50 people without a contract and a deposit paid in advance.  

I think sending this back to M & PD at this point would be counter-productive.  Let's at least vote on the committee's recommendation, and then we can ask M & PD to respond to the specific issues brought up: what the event should be called; the cost of the event; the option suggested by Fernando to have not one big event, but several smaller gatherings.

I think we owe it to Katie and her committee, who've worked hard on reaching their decision, to hear whether Exec is for or against.  The details can be worked out later, and this is not written in stone: if institutionalizing the event in 2011 ends up making it something that we don't want it to be, then the 2012 organizers can decide to change it again.

Feel free to send in some last minute comments, but I'd like to put this up for a vote at the end of the day today.

Henry

 

Fernando Pea's picture

I obviously have my concerns, but I'm willing to vote on this and try it out for a year or two.

 

 

Deborah J. Leslie's picture

I'm surprised that we haven't heard from Katie or anyone else from M&PD, given that this is a public discussion. Perhaps we would be doing them a greater service by alerting them to the discussion and seeing whether they still want it to go through Exec as stands. They may have already talked through all the issues we raised, but there's no indication of that in the propsoal.    

Deborah J. Leslie / Head of Cataloging, Folger Shakespeare Library

Henry Raine's picture

All:

I've asked Katie Carr and Deborah Whiteman to respond to some of the questions that we've raised.  We can defer our vote until we've heard from them.

Henry  

 

Kate Moriarty's picture

I actually like the idea of formalizing the event as it would be another demonstration of our strong commitment to newcomers. So I was pleased to see M&PD's proposal and to hear that ACRL could do it so effectively. But I realize that I focused on that aspect and forgot about my hesitation about the cost. I think the first time we charged $25 was in Charlottesville and I remember thinking that it seemed too expensive and might cause several newcomers to miss the event. I don't have a solution but I'm willing to vote on it based on M&PD's work and experience.

Bob Kosovsky's picture

I agree with those who believe a social is not a dinner.  The socials I've been to (of other associations) have the people in a room (sometimes a more intimate room) with very light refreshment (water, soda, crackers), so they can focus on socializing (not eating).  I've been to a number of conferences where the social is just the hour prior to the opening reception - a way to break the ice for the new members/attendees.  I feel that more is not needed.  Setting a price to such a social sends a negative message (i.e. your networking comes at a cost).

Make it simple.

Bob Kosovsky, Ph.D. -- Curator, Rare Books and Manuscripts,
Music Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
blog:  

Katie Carr's picture

I agree with all of Henry’s comments, made in his latest post (11/8/2010). Deborah Whiteman, who worked with me on planning last year's social, and I both feel that making the New Members Social an ACRL-managed event is a wise and viable solution. This event is very popular and it has outgrown the very basic structure that M & PD has had in place for organizing it. Given the large numbers now attending (recently averaging 70-75 persons), a contract and a deposit with the host restaurant have become essential. Without these, we are asking the local restaurateur to take our word for it that 75 people really are going to show up. Our “verbal contract” with Time Restaurant fell apart this year basically because the owner got cold feet, at the last minute, about recouping his costs and did not prepare the group menus we had planned. It’s become a very risky way to proceed.

The points that have been made about the price and name of the event are valid and deserve discussion.  At this point, however, I support Henry’s suggestion that Exec vote on the recommendation, which is the critical piece here. The details of pricing and naming the event can be worked out once a decision has been made.

Nina Schneider's picture

Although I hate to see the event lose its spontaneity, it would be better for RBMS to avoid the problem we had in Philadelphia, so my vote is for M&PD's second recommendation: integrate the event into the Preconference in an official way, putting it on the registration form, website, and Preconference program.

That said, I'm going to suggest that we either keep the price of the dinner under $10, or have the dinner on a sliding scale (probably more complicated, but not impossible). Perhaps a no-host bar would be the key to keeping the cost low. Alternatively, we could encourage (but not force) big buddies to pitch in to help, especially if their little buddy is fresh out of library school, or have a check box on the Preconference registration form indicating a contribution to help with the cost of the opening night dinner.

I don't know how many first-time attendees register every year, but perhaps their dinner could be covered either through contributions or through ACRL...

 

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Nina Schneider
Head Cataloger
William Andrews Clark Memorial Library
University of California, Los Angeles
 
Lara Friedman-Shedlov's picture

I was a first-time attendee and scholarship winner to the preconference in Los Angeles in 2008.  If attendance at the new members reception had required pre-registration and $25, I doubt I would have gone.  I enjoyed the event, but as I recall, I ordered a bowl of soup to keep costs low.  If you really want to make new members feel welcome and give them an opportunity to socialize, I don't think they should have to pay for the privilege.  I understand that in order to have a dinner the logistics probably require pre-registration, etc., but why does a new member event have to be a dinner?  How about a mixer with snacks in a room set aside in the hotel? How about an inexpensive bagel breakfast?  An afternoon cookie break, even?

 

 

Jared Camins-Esakov's picture

Fernando asked me to comment, in light of my strong opinions on this. I was a first-time attendee and scholarship winner in Philadelphia this past summer. If there had been a registration fee, I would not have gone to the New Member's Social. Actually, I was rather displeased that the New Member's Social in Philadelphia was at dinner time at an expensive restaurant. It meant I had to choose between being hungry and attending the event. So I got an appetizer and a glass of water. I think a lot of first-time attendees will make this decision, because there's a lot of under-employment in our profession, and even people with a regular job are increasingly less likely to receive institutional support for conference attendence (and, as Fernando so elegantly put it, librarians aren't paid on the same scale as bond traders).

I understand that restaurants large enough to accomodate RBMS tend to be expensive, so I really like Lara's suggestion. Do something inexpensive, not at a meal time.

My two cents.

Regards,

Jared

Christian Dupont's picture

Since we're all being encouraged to offer comments, here are a few observations from my experiences attending and helping to organize some of the recent preconference socials.

With regard to price, it does not seem that the $20-$25 amount that has been advertised for recent socials has kept potential participants away. Judging by the growing numbers of people who have come, it seems like it might actually be the right price point for a light supper and drinks following the conference opening reception, which has generally been designed to function as an appetizer course in terms of food and drink.

Depending on the city, it can be really hard to find a restaurant -- with a decent menu and bar that can accommodate a sizable group -- that will offer you a per-person rate of less $20 including tip.

The ACRL proposal would greatly help to make sure that a large social event of this kind comes off successfully. Without the ability to contract with a restaurant and hold a large group reservation with a deposit, I would have to recommend against trying offer such an event again.

When we hosted the event in Charlottesville, the number of people who came was somewhat less than the estimate we gave the restaurant based on the RSVPs we had received, which led to some awkwardness when we went to settle the tab. It was also a challenge making sure that everyone paid or was paid for during the course of the evening. It would have been much easier all around had we been able to collect money in advance.

The opposite happened last year in Philadelphia, with more people coming than predicted, resulting in very slow service and lots of frustration for attendees, organizers and restaurant staff.

So if the desire is to host a big party, it really needs to be done with advance payment and contracting. Otherwise, Fernando's suggestion of organizing several smaller chaperoned events would be the way to go -- but that is what we've been doing already with the "restaurant night" that many preconferences have included.

The advantages of the large gathering, as I see it, are the following:

It can be billed as an event for new members and first-time attendees to meet one another and some more experienced members of the section (I like the idea of calling it a "mixer"). Having looked at the evaluation forms from the preconferences I helped to organize over the past couple of years, I noted that many first-time attendees and new members value meeting each other as much as meeting more experienced members. The "mixer" gives the opportunity to do both in a setting that is smaller than the general opening reception, which is now built around the booksellers' showcase.

Many conferences I have attended offer an opening night new members social just for these reasons. And putting it on the registration form lets them know immediately that it is an option and makes it easy for them "lock in" their first social event at the conference (they don't have to worry about what else to do that evening unless they want to look for something else to do). We could even offer a ticket exchange for those who end up changing plans to take further take the worry and commitment out of the process (by ticket exchange, I mean a way for attendees who by a ticket to the social to be able to offer it to someone who decides at a later time that they want to go -- the section could even buy a few tickets to sell at the registration table for those who may have neglected to purchase a ticket when they registered).

Having a big event doesn't preclude having smaller independent or "grassroots" ones as well. They don't need to be seen as competing with one another. Some prefer the big events, some prefer the smaller ones. Best of both worlds.

The only tricky thing I can see with the ACRL plan is how to coordinate having "buddies" communicate with one another about going to the social. From my experience, lots of buddy pairs have come to the social together, but the buddy matches have generally been made after the registration process has been started. But maybe that could be changed?

Anyway, these are some my observations. Hope they're helpful.

 

 

Christian Dupont, Burns Librarian and Associate University Librarian for Special Collections, Boston College | https://bc.academia.edu/ChristianDupont

Deborah J. Leslie's picture

To clarify: I fully agree that if we are going to offer a sit-down dinner, then it will have to be organized by ACRL. There's no other viable option. What I am questioning is whether a sit-down dinner is what we want to offer.

What are we trying to achieve with the social? The original purpose was to facilitate new attendees meeting each other, and which I think ought to continue to be its focus. The successful buddy system exists to help new members meet and get advice from experienced members, and I think that most senior buddies (for lack of a better word) feel responsible for introducing their junior buddies to other established members. So we don't need the social for that. 

What I fear is that by making it a dinner and putting it on the registration form, where anybody and everybody may sign up to attend, the event will lose its distinctive "new member" focus, and that the cost may discourage many of the very people the event exists to serve.

 

Deborah J. Leslie / Head of Cataloging, Folger Shakespeare Library

Diane Warner's picture

 I agree with Deborah that putting it on the registration form will cause it to lose its "new member" focus.  I only attended one New Member dinner, and it was very informal, very small.  I think there were some "buddies" at dinner, but not many.   When I was new to the profession, I had to budget more than I do now, and that, coupled with my introverted, don't-like-big-crowds nature, would make me hesitate to attend an expensive large-group dinner, added to the other expenses of attending the pre-conference. 

I do like Fernando's suggestion, posted earlier:  

Why not consider Katie's other option more seriously, send out e-vites/postcard invites to new members and first-time attendees as Tory suggests and get M&PD committee members to chaperone the groups to local hangouts? It might require a little more work and planning from M&PD, and may mean that the group gets split in two or more, but it would give M&PD the control and flexibility it needs depending on the conference, the location, etc.

This might work.

 

Henry Raine's picture

I want to thank everyone for your thoughtful comments regarding what has up until now been called the New Members Social.  You've raised many important points, and clearly there are unresolved questions about the event: whether it should be a sit-down dinner or a reception, how much it should cost to attend, or if we should even have such an event.  I really appreciate that you've taken the time to participate in the discussion and offer your frank opinions.  Those responsible for organizing the event will definitely take your comments into account in their planning for Baton Rouge.

I think, having heard everything you've said, that we're still in a position where Exec has to vote on the basic question, which is whether or not ACRL staff should manage the event.  I know that we all love the idea of an informal, spontaneous gathering where newcomers can mix in a more casual setting than the opening reception.  However, as several people including myself have noted, the event has gotten far too big in recent years (even at $25 a head) to happen without a contract with the venue and pre-registration.  My personal feeling is that we should follow the Membership and Professional Development Committee's recommendation, and make this an official Preconference event that is managed by ACRL staff in consultation with M & PD and with the Local Arrangements Committee.

I'll be calling for a vote of the Executive Committee on ALA Connect shortly.  If we vote in favor of M & PD's recommendations, we can then ask that committee to work with ACRL and Local Arrangements to address the questions that have been raised: what to call the event, whether to make it a sit-down dinner or a cocktail party, how much it will cost to attend, etc.  And as I've said before, doing it one way this year doesn't preclude doing it differently next year.

Please watch for my announcement of the poll, which will open very shortly.

Best,

Henry