If COVID has taught us anything, it is that just about everything can be driven onto an online virtual format; and by and large professional development has been all online for nearly a year.  Even in the before times the ‘market rate’ for webinars had been driven into the ground by for-profit companies offering up “free” PD as a loss leader to side promote a product, program or service.  Librarians could be participating in a webinar nearly continuously if so inclined, and many without opening their wallets.

Forgive me whilst I grumble a bit.  Can we all agree to stop talking about free webinars? 

As the old adage goes, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. (Wikipedia article) And it holds true for “free” webinars.  There is always a cost on both sides of the equation.  Producing a webinar certainly incurs less overhead than an in-person event; but the speakers' time to develop the content, to the registration and logistics, to the simple cost of the delivery software, the costs persist.  So how are many programs offered up for free?  The real cost of developing and delivering the content is shifted from the attendees to some other place.  A for-profit company that is absorbing the costs in order to gain access to an audience, or non-profit underwriting the activity with other due, grants or donations, or a state-entity providing tax dollars to offset the expenses.

Under a fully-allocated cost analysis, a one-hour webinar cost over $350 to produce, with ascribing only a very modest value to a single speaker and their preparation time.  NYLA’s ‘going rate’ for webinars is $25 for a member and $35 for a non-member for a one-hour program.  Even at that rate, until a threshold of participation is met, the true cost of producing and delivering that content is being off-set by membership dues.

So what’s to be done?  Probably nothing.  Aside from thinking twice about what it means when you sign up for the next “free” webinar.  Or wonder why you’re being asked to pay for a webinar as opposed to it being free.
Our organization is built on a model of everyone ‘kicking in’ to underwrite the collective infrastructure, and for-better-or-worse, monetizing professional development as a revenue source.


Libraries: We’re ALL In!
This year’s conference theme is one we can all lean into – Libraries: We’re ALL In!

The development of this year’s content is well underway. Collectively the Conference Curators strive to ensure that we are bringing forward the most relevant and impactful programming possible.  The process of bringing together over 75 programs, with over 100 speakers, takes time – and that leads to a process that takes over ten months to complete.

For 2021 the Conference Curators are charged with the task of reviewing over 115 proposals using a six-point rubric to help us identify the best content possible.  Our goal remains steadfast, to produce NYLA’s best conference ever, every year.

The shape of things to come?  Well, it depends.  As of today, our intention is to put on an in-person event in Syracuse November 3-6.  And barring an ‘impossibility’, that is exactly what we will do.  If current conditions make it impossible, we will pivot and go all virtual as we did in 2020.  The final decision on the format will be made before registration opens on August 1.  Keep your fingers crossed that we can come together and soak up the much-missed comradery and serendipitous sharing that comes with an in-person event.


One More Time from the Top 
The 2021 Legislative Session is now in full swing.  Governor Cuomo has yet again proposed $91.6M in Library Aid, which represents a 7.5% CUT from last year’s enacted budget.  This places funding at year 2000 levels.

Your action is needed!  You are all familiar with NYLA’s Online Advocacy Center, which makes it quick and easy to connect with your elected representatives.  This year we are calling on all of our advocates to leverage your social media connections to encourage your family, friends, and patrons to join the fight.  

Post a link to the NYLA Online Membership Center on your Facebook wall, tweet about your support for library aid, and urge your colleagues to do the same.  Together we can send a record number of messages to the NYS Legislature regarding library issues – make sure your voice is part of the fight!

Library Advocacy Day 2021 will be an all virtual affair!  This means you can participate from anywhere, and we need you to.  Join an online meeting, send in an email, post to FaceBook, do some Tweeting – it all counts!!


Looking Ahead
A year ago we were looking forward to a typical jam-packed spring of library conferences.  Here in 2021 we are still canceling events, or converting them to virtual.  The Library Skills Academy had to be reformatted into a six-week webinar series.  The Developing Leaders Program has been remade for all virtual delivery (while maintaining the all-important team projects).  

For this Spring we can look forward to:

YSS Spring Conference
March 26, 2021

Urban Librarians Unite Conference
May 7, 2021


As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Jeremy Johannesen, CAE
NYLA Executive Director
518-432-6952 Ext. 101