SLA 2019 Conference Recap

From June 14th - 18th, SLA celebrated its 110th anniversary in the heart of Cleveland at the SLA 2019 Annual Conference. Mutuality, diversity, and sharing were the key themes discussed and SLA President, Hal Kirkwood, emphasized the value of SLA to make connections that can lead to deeper relationships and partnerships with industry colleagues.

"I’ve been a member of SLA since 1985 because it’s vital to my career. I’ve been to most of the conferences and I always find good vendors in the INFO-EXPO. SLA is simply wonderful, and I believe everyone in our field should belong to it.” - Theo Jones Gordy

"As a solo librarian, the annual SLA conference is where I recharge, reconnect and reaffirm my value as a librarian and information professional.” - Gabriele Hysong 




Awards and Honors

SLA presented 13 members with the following awards and honors:

  • 2019 John Cotton Dana Award - Guy St. Clair
  • Fellows of SLA - Geraldine Clement-Stoneham, Nick Collison, Ulla de Stricker, Heather Kotula, and Kendra Levine
  • 2019 James M. Matarazzo Rising Star Award - Natasha Chowdory, Angela Pagliaro, Kristin Petersheim, and Mea Warren
  • 2019 Rose L. Vormelker Award – Eve Wider
  • 2019 SLA Hall of Fame - Marilyn Bromley and Bill Fisher

"One of the best conferences to date - well planned and thought out."
- Nick Collison



Connecting with Peers

We're all about building connections at SLA. This year, over 1,200 attendees connected by attending social events and business meetings, learning from colleagues, building their professional networks, exploring Cleveland, celebrating the 110th anniversary of SLA, and dancing the night away at the infamous IT Division’s dance party.

"I’ve been a member of SLA for two months and I’m so impressed by the number of special librarians and different sessions and courses this association has to offer.” - Hannah Fye

Diversity and Inclusion

SLA welcomes all attendees to the Annual Conference. Our members, both new and seasoned, came together to develop new skills and hear fresh perspectives from peers in diverse industries – more than 622 different organizations and institutions were represented. Seeing longtime digital colleagues in person contributes to the connectedness that is very present in our vibrant SLA community.

SLA promotes diversity, inclusion, community, and equity in association activities and is committed to making the annual conference accessible to all. We were proud to hold several sessions focused on diversity, including the closing keynote, which focused on Racial and Sexual Bias in Digital Media. To support gender identity equity, SLA provided personal pronouns ribbons which attendees could attach to their badges and made available gender neutral bathrooms. Also provided were a prayer room and nursing pods, and children were welcome on the tradeshow floor.

If you are an SLA member, we encourage you to participate in the Diversity, Inclusion, Community, Equity (DICE) Caucus.


"That core idea - that I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and vice versa - should guide us as we seek to create a new SLA. We are tied together in a single garment of destiny. We have come together through SLA to share experiences tackling key challenges. But we can only achieve our common goal if we help each other be what we ought to be." - Hal Kirkwood, SLA President


"The workshops and discussions helped me put my work into context. I learned a lot and met so many wonderful people." - Ciara O'Shea

Education Sessions and Social Events

SLA 2019 included the latest and greatest courses in the field. This year we offered over 200 education and social events for participants to learn, connect, and grow with their peers. Attendees took away discipline-specific knowledge, lessons learned, best practices, and other relevant skills.


Did you miss a great session? Later this year, SLA will hold the Best of SLA 2019, an online learning series consisting of the top rated education sessions from the conference. Stay tuned!



This year's INFO-EXPO granted attendees full access to over 100 exhibitors showcasing the latest products, services, programs, technology and trends. It was also a chance for attendees to catch a breather between sessions, enjoy live music (and spontaneous karaoke!), meet up with friends, and learn about SLA’s many communities (units) and other membership benefits in Main Street SLA.

the third consecutive year, the SLA Annual Conference included a FunZone Competition in the INFO-EXPO. Teams of four players squared off against each other in ping-pong, foosball, Jenga, and cornhole, with each round lasting five minutes.

 was fierce but friendly. The winning team at SLA 2019 (pictured below) was the Jello Jigglers: Liz Frickelton, Lacey MacLean, Emily Pillar of Aurora WDC, and JP Ratajczak of Nationwide Financial.  



Musician Sam Romano and the SLAP Jazz Trio provided lively live music in the INFO-EXPO on all three days. Some attendees even participated in spontanous karaoke! Performer Cynthia Cheng Correia swept the crowd off its feet, accompanied by Sam Romano.


All Star Poster Session

At SLA 2019, a fourth poster session was added to the mix. The All Star Poster Session featured the most popular posters from the three division sessions and was held in the INFO-EXPO on Tuesday. Attendees were able to vote on the best poster via the conference mobile app.

When the final votes were tallied, Dana Eckstein Berkowitz (pictured below) of Yale University came out on top with her poster, “Wayfinding in the Library.” She will receive a complimentary year of SLA membership in recognition of her achievement.



Opening Keynote: Leon Logothetis

Author, TV host, and global adventurer Leon Logothetis inspired everyone to “Go Be Kind” with stories from his travels and clips from his Netflix Show, The Kindness Diaries. He brought an SLA attendee onstage to help him demonstrate to the room how it feels to stand before supportive faces versus a crowd with its back to you. SLAers connected with his message of the value of kindness, vulnerability, and community. Afterwards, attendees were able to meet with Leon one on one as he signed copies of his book, Go Be Kind.

Chat: The Information Professional of the Future

The second general session discussed the Information Professional of the Future. Hal Kirkwood, SLA President, and Bodleian Business Librarian at the University of Oxford, moderated the fireside chat with panelists Kendra Albright, professor and director of the School of Information at Kent State University, Jon Gant, dean of the School of Library and Information Sciences at North Carolina Central University, and Sandra Hirsh, professor and director of the School of Information at San Jose State University in California.

The panel discussed the future of the library and information profession and the skills the workforce needs going forward. They shared their perspective on how the profession can prepare for the next generation and navigate its way through the ongoing digital revolution.


"SLA is the best organization I have belonged to. The emphasis is on belong. SLA is my professional home." - Branwen Drew

Closing Keynote: Safiya Umoja Noble

Dr. Safiya Umoja Noble served as the closing keynote speaker with an address about racial and sexual bias in digital media. An Associate Professor at UCLA and a visiting faculty member to the University of Southern California's Annenberg School of Communication, Dr. Noble is the author of a best-selling book on racist and sexist algorithmic bias in commercial search engines, Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism.

During the session, she discussed what our algorithms say about our society by providing findings from her investigations on how biases are revealed in search engine results. She argued that we should be skeptical of the algorithms we rely on every day and spoke about how we can work towards mitigating bias. 

Dr. Noble provided the following suggestions for how information professionals can help: 

  • Demand healthy, factual, and socially just information as a pillar of democracy
  • Require digital literacy of policymakers 
  • Fund critical digital media research, literacy program, and education.
  • Leverage librarians and archivists to curate the indexable web, and create multiple paths to knowledge
  • Reduce technology over-development and its impact on people and the planet


Giving Back to Cleveland

At every Annual Conference, SLA members come together to give back to the local community. This year, attendees helped mitigate a root cause of poverty in urban areas – illiteracy – by supporting of Seeds of Literacy, an award-winning 501(C)3 organization that provides critical one-to-one tutoring and support for reading and literacy skills in Cleveland. With your donations, we raised $1,067. SLA matched $1,000, for a total of $2,067 raised for Seeds of Literacy. THANK YOU! If you would still like to contribute, please make a donation directly to Seeds of Literacy.

Save the date for Charlotte 2020

We’re excited for the SLA 2020 Annual Conference, June 6th-9th in Charlotte, NC and can’t wait to see you there! In the meantime, keep the conversation going and keep practicing mutuality, diversity, and sharing! Here’s a few ways you can do this:
  • Keep us in your loop. Tag us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
  • Summarize a session you went to and share it on the Open Forum in SLA Connect
  • Attend a local chapter event
  • Participate in a division or caucus learning opportunity
  • Mentor or coach students and young professionals
  • Volunteer with SLA


SLA would like to thank all who made SLA 2019 an enriching and memorable experience:
  • Jeff Bond and the Annual Conference Advisory Council
  • SLA Cleveland Chapter
  • Unit planners
  • Presenters
  • Our keynotes
  • All of our sponsors and exhibitors