Ask A Librarian: How does library presenting work? Who pays and when?

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Email from someone asking about how to merge librarianship and public speaking. I may not be the right person for this question…

Does your employer (if you’re employed at a Library) pay (travel, salary and credited work time) for you to attend those conferences when you’re presenting or do you pay out of pocket?

I mostly freelance. So when I worked in a library, I had a part time job at the library and if I was not presenting for the library then I’d just get unpaid time off. If I was presenting for the library like at a local event, they’d give me (paid) time off and usually it was an either/or about who would pay for things like travel and expenses. If it was part of my job, the library would usually pay for travel or at least reimburse mileage. Occasionally, rarely, I’d get paid for my time by the organization, and that money would go back to the library if I was getting my time reimbursed by the library.

This is definitely a tricky issue with full-timers and it’s worth making sure you’re very above-board with your library about doing professional work like this. Some libraries are thrilled to have staff doing a lot of professional development (teaching or attending) and some are less into it.

If you’re giving a presentation at another library (such as staff day or as part of Library program) how are you contacted? Do you pitch a proposal to those libraries or do they contact you first?

I’ve been in a weird lucky place where I think people mostly have heard about me and so reach out? So I got started in 2004 being asked to give a talk for a local ASISt event and then people saw me and invited me to more stuff. I have a lot of flexibility because of my freelancing and my rates are attractive/competitive (honestly they are probably too low) which always helps. Occasionally I pitch presentations, especially for my local conferences. Now it’s primarily word of mouth. And here’s how it breaks down:

If someone contacts me, it’s a job and I expect to get paid, reimbursed and accommodated by the org who contacted me unless it’s a *very* prestigious conference in which case I just ask for entry to the conference (SXSW used to be like this, some very remote library conferences will pay you to get there and put you up, but not pay you otherwise)
If I contact them I assume I am on my own dime but might get free conference entry especially on the day I gave a talk

I was thinking of searching for other libraries outside of my state and submitting a Suggest for Program Proposal directly to that library with my presentation/program description and contact information. Is this something that you recommend?

Depending on how narrow your topic is? A lot of libraries don’t have a lot of money to pay speakers (especially for things like travel reimbursement) but every state has an annual conference and they bring in people for those, so maybe start at the state level in more states especially ones which are nearby to where you are so wouldn’t be a killer travel thing. Assume if your proposal gets accepted you would get free entry to the conference but likely not get paid (is my understanding).

Things like in-service days at libraries are definitely the exception: they like having professionals who can hold up a good chunk of the day, they pay well, and you get to meet a LOT of librarians and really spend time with them, which is something I always feel is special about these events. I do some of the talking that I do at in-service days at local schools as well as libraries which you might consider, again based on your topic.

Also, if you’re asked to speak outside of the United States, does your library pay for your travel accommodations and salary while presenting or are you paid directly by the Library who ask you to speak? – Thank you!

If I go outside the US, the organization pays for me to get there, stay there and talk there. But again, my situation as a freelancer is very different from when people are full-time employed, You might want to ask other librarians like David Lee King, Meredith Farkas or Michael Stephens, people who are in my cohort of public speakers and also full-time employed in library professions.

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