Volume 12, Number 3, Sept 1990, pp.21-22

WAAC Newsletter Reader Survey Results

by Chris Stavroudis

The number of survey returns is spectacular, and everyone seems to have put thought into their responses. On behalf of WAAC, thank you for taking the time to respond. If you haven't yet sent in your survey, please do so. We are interested in your comments and will continue to tabulate the results. The surveys will be saved and become part of the WAAC Newsletter archive.

The following results are based on the 109 surveys received as of July 25. The results are gratifyingly positive, for the editors and for the organization. Perhaps the most important statistic is that the WAAC Newsletter is fulfilling the expectations and desires of the membership--only 5% thought the length should be limited, and 94% did not think the newsletter is too long.

Here is what you thought. The counts are followed by percentage of total surveys returned--as not everyone answered all questions, most percentages do not add to 100.

0-2 years: 32 (29%)
3-4 years: 25 (23%)
5-6 years: 14 (13%
7-8 years:  8 (7%)
over 8:    26 (24%)

cover to cover: 70 (64%)
just skim it:   27 (25%)
just sections:   9 (8%)
never:           0

The Newsletter is presently too long:
no: 102 (94%)
yes:  5 (5%) It should be limited to 24, 30, 24-28, 8-10, 10 pgs.

I read the Feature Articles:
always:              34 (31%)
most of the time:    58 (53%)
only if of interest: 15 (13%)
hardly ever:          O  (0%)

Feature articles are more appropriate for other publications:
yes: 3 (3%)
no: 92 (84%)

Only talks from the Annual Meeting should be reprinted:
O (0%)

Should the column be kept?
yes: 102 (94%)
no:    O (0%)

I like seeing the abstract reprints in the January issue:
yes: 94 (86%)
no:   7 ( 6%)

The abstract reprints should be published separately and mailed:
with the January issue:     28 (26%)
Immediately after The mtg.: 19 (17%)

Should the column be kept?
yes: 93 (85%)
no:   6 ( 6%)

The Health and Safety column should be:
left as is: 69 (63%)
expanded:   23 (21%)

It should address these issues: no replies

Should the column be kept?
yes 97 (89%)
no:  O ( 0%)

I read Dear Xylene:
yes: 88 (81%)
no:  16 (15%)

I like Dear Xylene:
very much:  33 (30%)
it s ok:    49 (45%)
don't care: 10 ( 9%)
not at all: 13 (12%)

Should the column be kept?
yes: 75 (70%)
no:  17 (16%)

Do you read Zora's Column:
yes: 99 (91%)
no:   5 ( 5%)

Who is Zora, anyway?:
11 (10%)

Should the column be kept?
yes: 99 (91%)
no:   O ( 0%)

Would you like to see more interviews?
no:    23 (21%)
yes, on individuals:   12 (11%)
yes, focusing on labs: 12 (11%)
both:  57 (52%)

Should the column be reinstated?
yes: 65 (60%)
no:  18 (17%)

The Tech. Exchange column is too long:
yes: 5  (5%)
no: 59 (54%)
the longer, the better: 47 (43%)

Items should be limited in length:
no: 78 (72%)
yes: 9  (8%), to 2, 2, 3, ?, 4, 5, 2, 1, 2 paragraphs.

Should the column be kept?
yes: 98 (90%)
no:   2  (2%)

I read [these] sections:
yes:       48 (44%)
skim them: 52 (48%)
no:         0

Have you ever sent in a clipping:
yes: 13 (12%)
no:  73 (67%)
didn't realize I could: 20 (18%)

Should the columns be kept?
yes: 99 (91%)
no:   3  (3%)

I read the Conferences in Review:
always:  33 (30%)
when in my specialization: 69 (63%)
never     1 (1%)

Should the column be kept?
yes: 101 (93%)
no:    1  (1%)

I consult the Events Calendar:
often:  75 (69%)
rarely: 24 (22%) never: 3 (3%)
Should the column be kept?
yes: 99 (91%)
no:   2  (2%)

I read the Positions Available/Training Opportunities listings:
always:    66 (61%)
sometimes: 33 (30%)
never:      5 ( 5%)

Have you ever used the listing:
no: 81 (74%)
yes, to offer a position: 11 (10%)
yes, to find a position:  10 ( 9%)

Should the columns be kept? yes: 101 (93%)
no:    1 (1%)

Should the Membership information appear as a separate sheet to
be appended to the Membership Directory?
yes: 62 (57%)
no:  28 (26%)

Should the column be kept?
yes: 68 (62%)
no:  17 (16%)

For what it is worth: 68% of the surveys were filled out using black ink, 24% blue, 4% pencil, and 2% each typed and green ink.

In addition to the responses tabulated above, a number of you jotted down comments. I even received a couple of letters--thank you.

About Dear Xylene. First, I am not Xylene. It really is a person who really is an otherwise well respected conservator. I must also confess that the idea for such a column was mine, but the name and specific persona was the work of Xylene. The model for the column was "Dear Tibor," which appears in the AIGA Newsletter (American Institute of Graphic Arts). What is appealing about Tibor is he is snide, humorous, often insulting, and brings up issues that couldn't be addressed elsewhere. That is what I thought would be good for a column in our newsletter--and I think it has been very successful. Because we (Xylene and I) thought that the field was too small for a known person to be offering these types of opinions, the column would have to be anonymous. One member objects to anonymity in the newsletter, which is a fair comment.

Not surprisingly, the survey responses to Dear Xylene have run towards both extremes. Many of you were unsure, lots liked it very much, most thought it was ok, and there were a number of dislikes. Comments included: "This is a big waste of space!"; "Has too much of a negative slant. Seems sometimes to pit private and museum people, or apprentice and program people, against each other"; "Dear X is an insult to our intelligence!!!"; "Main complaint here is the style--the idea is worthwhile--Xylene-- whomever--is just too windy and not that clever."; and "I think it could be improved so that it reads less like a bunch of restorers sitting around gossiping and trying to be funny."

Less negative comments were: "Topics are important, the attitude is a little hard to take"; "brings up interesting issues at times"; "I'm still skeptical about the booze and sex in the lab. Working alone does have its drawbacks, I suppose" and "Yes, but I groan a lot." Favorable responses were: "It is amusing; like reading Ann Landers or Miss Manners. " And a letter which in part said: "Dear Xylene is not only innovative and bright but its informative, educational and insightful as well as lighthearted. Even the column logo is clever and communicative."

A few members expressed concern about reinstating the profiles section. One member put it best: Should the column be reinstated? "Only if it does not become elitist."

The general comments were most encouraging! Unfortunately, space does not allow all to be included in this column. A number of members compared the WAAC Newsletter to the AIC equivalent and, well, not to boast, but we got the better side of the comparison. One of the comments I liked read in part: "I particularly appreciate 'Technical Exchange', 'Dear Xylene' and 'Zora's Column'. I think these less formal approaches to information exchange and dialogue on conservation related issues are generally far more valuable than heavy pseudo-scientific studies in depth with scads of useless charts and graphs. Thanks!"

Also to be considered: "I feel that the conversational, punning, and jocular tone of Chris Stavroudis' editing style is not appropriate to a professional newsletter. Although certainly appealing in personal exchanges, it does not belong in a professional forum. These remarks are not meant to be taken personally; it is just that a simple, clear straightforward style is recognized good editing practice." Well, I have written my share of straightforward, reportorial articles, the "Proposition 65" article (Volume 10, No. 2; May 1988), for instance. Elsewhere, I'm very proud of the tone of my contributions to the newsletter--that's studied jocularity.

A number of readers expressed support of the editorial style of the newsletter. "The mix of material makes the Newsletter very readable and useful typical of the casual, but efficient character of WAAC. Keep up the great work." "I think your Newsletter is fabulous as is and a great bargain at that."

And finally, "Great Newsletter. Good luck Elizabeth Welsh!"

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