(Non)participation in ALA elections

20 May

Every year after the ALA elections, I feel like there’s a flurry of comments online about how disappointing it is that such a low percentage of eligible voters actually submit a ballot – approximately 1 in 5 people voted this year. It makes for a popular topic of lamentation for a while and then seems to be forgotten until next time. This year, however, after a conversation in the ALA Think Tank Facebook group, Oleg Kagan decided to do something to find out why. In the spirit of #makeithappen, he put together a short survey for ALA members who did not vote to indicate their reasons and what might prompt them to participate in the future. The survey had a good response, thanks to the efforts of various Think Tankers in spreading the word and its inclusion in the AL Direct newsletter. Oleg has posted the results, along with analysis, on his blog. He has also made available his spreadsheets of both the raw and cleaned up survey responses in case anyone else would like to perform their own analyses on the data.

By far, the greatest issue identified by the survey respondents is time. Respondents wanted to make an informed decision, and felt they were just too busy to adequately inform themselves on all the candidates. Among the other big issues for non-voters were not really understanding what the role of the different council positions would be, and feeling disconnected from ALA or from the candidates or both. As Oleg points out, ALA cannot really do anything about the lack of time issue. However, they can address several of the others; and in fact, have already started to do so:

  • Jenny Levine has started a series of posts on the ALA Marginalia blog called “ALA Civics Class” to help explain the mysterious workings of ALA to members (actually, the entire blog is a great resource for anyone curious about this topic). This could help people understand what the people they’re voting for will end up doing.
  • ALA has also put together a Member Benefits Guide that was posted to their facebook page recently, although I don’t remember seeing it anywhere else. It stuck in my mind because of recent online conversations (both related to the election and not) about the value of ALA to individual members. Having a clearly-laid-out list of the benefits one gets from membership might help at least some of the apathetic or disconnected non-voters to decide if it is worth it to them to remain a member.
  • The upcoming virtual town hall will have an open forum for members to ask questions about any topic regarding ALA.

I know it’s unlikely that we’ll get close to 100% participation in elections, but hopefully the information from this survey and the outreach initiatives from ALA will remedy the situation at least a little. Thanks Oleg for all your work!

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One Response to “(Non)participation in ALA elections”

  1. Oleg K. May 21, 2011 at 9:52 am #

    Howdy, thanks for shouting out the survey results! More importantly though, it’s good that you noted how ALA is moving towards engagement. By highlighting the stuff they, to a certain extent, have been doing (and will do), more and more people will find it easier to feel in touch with the organization. Keep up the good work!

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