Friday, September 08, 2006


Speaking Survey

I was chatting this morning with another librarian about giving conference presentations & workshops. When we took the bold step of talking about what we charge, it confirmed my sneaking suspicion that I've been somewhat undervaluing myself. (Of course, some of you who have heard me speak might beg to differ! ;)) I think a lot of us in librarianship do.

One problem here is, of course, that people are somewhat loath to share what they charge until a program organizer asks; like anything else having to do with money, talking numbers makes us all squeamish. Another is that many of us speak for free or for minimal compensation, in return for some intangible benefit (professional development, tenure requirements, whuffie), or we choose to donate our time and efforts in some circumstances (to an alma mater, to a specific group whose cause we believe in, to online conferences that let people attend for free, to promote our institution).

Nonetheless, I've thrown together a short online survey to try to establish an average range. If you speak at conferences, do workshops, or otherwise present to library groups, please take a minute to fill it out, and I'll share results here at a later date. The survey is deliberately anonymous, to encourage honesty in responses. If you have comments, post them here -- anonymously or otherwise.

Hopefully, this will be of use to anyone who's ever been asked what they charge to speak, or who isn't sure they CAN charge. Please feel free to pass on this post and/or the survey link.

I replied to this survey and will also link to it. I noted that there are a few other factors to consider. Also, you probably are undercharging :-) and feel free to email folks who routinely give talks. I'm happy to give the occasonal talk on my own time, but my personal time is worth a lot to me.

ALA and divisions/associations I belong to are one story--they can have my pound of flesh since it's association work. Divisions I don't belong to are another. I'm still resenting that I had to register to give a talk at PLA this spring.
Sometimes I charge, but more often I don't charge and I am starting to think I need to be more assertive about this. My time is increasingly more precious since becoming a Mom and my resume is already lengthy with speaking gigs (I have given over 100 workshops, presentations, etc in the last few years alone). I no longer feel the need to speak unless I want to or I am getting paid.

That being said, when I do get paid it varies greatly, but the most I have been paid is $500 for for a half-day workshop. I don't miind speaking for free at a conference if my registration is paid (for instance, InfoToday conferences) but I will no longer pay registration just to speak. Conference organizers who expect speakers to register need to rethink their strategy.
Thanks for doing this, Rachel. I just researched the question and found only minimal answers where I expected to find more:

I have yet to charge for speaking, but I got the distinct impression at one place that they would have been more than happy to pay for my service with money that was allocated for that purpose.
I filled out the survey and will also link to it. I think that there are probably at least a handful of of part-time librarians or non-librarians who speak at library conferences and the only other question I would have added for them was "How much support do you have from your institution for your speaking?"

Some places consider it part of the job (i.e. a day at a conference is a work day), some are lenient and will give you time off, some are openly annoyed at having an employee who speaks often. I'm also interested in dealbreakers for people, like travel to another country, speaking on weekends, that sort of thing.
Karen and Jessamyn - Yes, there are way too many factors here (and the survey started getting crazy long, so I stopped where I did -- I figure a snapshot is a good start). Good points, though, and I'd love to hear anyone address them here or in the "other comments" section of the survey. And, I'll note that it's not just part-time librarians who don't necessarily get institutional support for speaking.

Joy - Thanks for the link, interesting!
Sometimes I ask the conference host to make a scholarship or SPECTRUM donation instead of a fee. This especially if I would go to the conference anyway.
Thanks for doing this, Rachel. Very, very valuable.
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