The high cost of everything

This is one post about a few disparate topics that all congeal on one issue: money. See if you can follow it around this thread.

  • Brian talks about the high cost of databases. In all my thinking about what database access costs — a difficult number to really hone in on because of the bundled pricing and difficulty getting concise statistics like the ones in his post — I never thought we were talking about several dollars per session. Now Brian works in a mid-sized public library so maybe there are economies of scale with larger libraries or consortiums but still. When your patrons wonder where the money goes, you can tell them what you’re being charged for databases.
  • Meredith has a crabby post about the costs and expenses associated with giving conferences and speaking at conferences. Again the real interesting part, to me, is in the comments where we find out that the TX library association is billed “$995 for a day for hard-line (internet) access for the presenters.” No that is not a typo. How does something like this happen? A thousand dollars? To plug into a wall? Unless I am missing something, this is unconscionable and library associations should immediately stop paying these extortionate fees. I realize that sometimes are hands are tied when we are purchasing services from vendors and conference service providers, but I think we can all look at that dollar amount and the service provided and say “This is too much.”
  • A little tooting my own horn by association, Dan Chudnov talks about speaker’s fees and I chime in a little. I love public speaking and it helps me get the word out, but this year I’ve also started saying “no” just a little. Steve and Dorothea and Sarah also have fine posts on the topic.

    My take on the speaker thing is more along the lines of Dan’s in that I don’t feel the need to speak anywhere, but I often enjoy it, get to travel a bit on my otherwise low income, and get to talk to people who haven’t heard it all before. I have fees that I consider “hassle expense” which is more compensation for travelling, getting up early, not sleeping in my own bed, and getting someone else to fill my birdfeeders. I like giving talks so much they could pay me in sand and I’d still do it, but getting on a plane to do it, that’s what I like some compensation for. This year I’m doing much more local speaking which is lower-cost from my end and less-compensated from a strictly money angle and it’s just fine with me.

    I realize this doesn’t address the larger issue of people who get invited and are then asked to pay (a bad practice imo) or the weird in-state/out of state divide (also a problematic minefield) or the “we are going to invite you to give two talks in two days for us and will offer two nights hotel but we’re five hours away from your home” almost-right offers because I’m not sure what to think, honestly. It’s a diffcult issue to discuss because for every nitpicky issue I have about having to pay for my own wifi, there is someone else who is saying “hey I’d be happy to come talk and I promise to be lower maintenance and lower cost and just as interesting” and you know what, they probably can be. Until we decide what roles speakers are playing at these conferences — paid high profile talent, experience for newer professionals, skillsharing with experts, honors for esteemed colleagues — we’re going to have a hard time figuring out what people are “worth” to us.

6 thoughts on “The high cost of everything

  1. You state that the AZ Library Association is charged $995 per day for Internet access. The commenter is referring to TxLA. Can you change your post for accuracy? Thanks, Ann

  2. I am surprised that someone as information-savvy as you did not realize the cost of library databases. This is not a personal insult– nobody can know everything.

    I have noticed that most of the library blogs are written by librarians in reference or public services. I think many libraries do not communicate among themselves very well, especially across that outdated but sometimes still cavernous divide between “technical” and “public” services. Just an observation.

    Pat Thompson

  3. I’m info-savvy but have rarely been in a purchasing position in the library jobs I’ve had.

    When I worked at a public library job, we spent a lot of time trying to figure out which databases to keep, but the bulk of them were through the state so we didn’t pay costs directly. The few that we did pay for included Novelist and, I think. Heritage Quest and one other directory-type service. It may have been that the people I worked with didn’t have the numbers to do dollars-per-session breakouts because I remember overall numbers [costs per year or what have you] but I may have assumed much higher usage rates.

  4. I have to say that I am sometimes surprised by the disconnect that people have between the costs and the usage. Myself included.

    Since I became a systems librarian, I now have much more access to the stats and the costs involved. But as Brian points out just giving a value based on cost/usage can be somewhat misleading.

  5. I’ve asked around, and people who organize a lot of meetings don’t think that the $995 for Internet access is that insane. The problem is that TLA has refused to pay those prices in the past, with the result that we haven’t had Internet access. My approach is to build those costs in to the price of the workshop or conference. If TLA did this on a conference-wide basis, we’d probably even get a discount, as we did on the A/V equipment (which *only* cost $309 for the day; catering makes up the bulk of the cost, at almost $20 per person). I’m happy to say that although LIRT isn’t making a lot of money, we aren’t losing any, either!

    Danielle Cunniff Plumer
    Chair, Library Instruction Round Table
    Texas Library Association

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