The idea for SLA Academic started as a conversation among several academic librarians in a bar at the 2008 SLA Leadership Summit in Louisville, KY. Those members felt SLA was a strong choice for specialized content as well as leadership and networking, but we were missing out on the opportunity to more easily connect with other professionals in academic libraries. We also felt we needed more general programming related to our organization type in addition to the specialized content which is one of SLA's greatest strengths.
The Petition Process in Seattle
In May 2008, Stacey Greenwell drafted the scope note for SLA Academic. She met via phone with the cabinet chairs, Tom Rink and Robyn Frank, on May 30, and again in person on June 15, and they discussed the process for creating a division. On June 17, 2008, at the SLA Annual Conference in Seattle, the scope note was presented to Joint Cabinet, and the call for signatures for the petition was announced with 100 signatures being required. 63 signatures were collected in person at the conference, and an additional 124 individuals signed the online petition. 71 indicated their interest in getting involved in the division.
Concerns and a Town Hall Meeting
During the 2008 Annual Conference and throughout the summer, several members and two divisions expressed concerns at the formation of this division. A town hall meeting was held via phone conference on November 12, 2008 for members to share their concerns about the proposal to form the division. Following that meeting, the cabinet chairs presented a board document on November 30, 2008. The SLA Board of Directors approved the formation of the division at the monthly board meeting call on December 11, 2008. Members could join SLA Academic beginning on January 6, 2009.
The Division is Official
In December 2008, the first SLA Academic Board was formed. Officers included: Stacey Greenwell (Chair), Anna Burke (Chair-Elect), Chris Miller (Secretary), Leoma Dunn (Treasurer), and Juliane Schneider (2010 Program Planner). The first SLA Academic Board meeting was held on January 17, 2009 at the SLA Leadership Summit in Savannah. The board meeting was followed by a lunch meeting to begin planning programming for the annual conference, and the division logo was designed at that lunch on the cocktail napkin pictured here. Without an allotment at that point, options were limited, so the three events planned for the SLA Centennial Conference in Washington, D.C. were a board meeting, the first business meeting, and the first of what became an annual Academic Division Roundtable.
The first funding for the division came not as an allotment, but as a check for $1000 from the Centennial Video Contest. Noni Vidal was chosen as the student winner of the contest for the video, “The More Things Change." Noni designated Academic as her division, for which the division received $1000.
Annual Conference Programming
The first Academic Division Roundtable was well-attended with over 70 individuals participating. While the moderator planned to have a vote for topics, the topics were ultimately self-organized at the roundtable, and topics included information literacy, promotion/tenure issues, the evolving reference desk, building faculty relationships, and others. In 2010, 56 members responded with these topics for the roundtable which was even larger than the first: exciting innovations, outreach and marketing strategy, collaboration across institutions/departments, supporting users at a distance, using mobile applications, digital preservation/preservation of digitally-born data, antagonists to advocates: how to wow demanding patrons, faculty or donors without compromising your institutional standards, and collection evaluation and assessment.
Perhaps following in the footsteps of one of its chief co-sponsoring units, the Information Technology Division, the Academic Division has developed a reputation for fun and friendly open houses. At the 2010 Annual Conference in New Orleans, the Academic Division held its first open house, Academic Dance Party. Two dance parties were perhaps too much for SLA, as in 2011, the open house was Karaoke Night and has been a conference staple ever since. In 2013, the IT division joined forces with Academic to co-sponsor Karaoke Night and Trivia Night which are both continuing in 2014.
It hasn't been all parties though, as the division has led or co-sponsored at least one Spotlight Session every year. Some examples: It's a Brave MOOC World: Challenges and Opportunities for Librarians (2014), Academic Libraries: Supporting Innovation and Entrepreneurship (2014), E-Books and How They Effect Special Libraries (2013), The Digital Preservation Network (2013), Reinventing Library Skills (2012), Improv!-ing your Library Using the Principles of Second City (2012), Best Practices in Self-Assessment: Offering Sustainable Value to Users and Clients (2012), Collaborations Across Disciplines (2011), Teaching Generation M (2011), All Your Copyrights are Ours: Scholarly Communication and Open Access in the21st Century (2011), Tenure: How to Get it and What it Does for You (2010), and Nuts and Bolts of Contract Management (2010).
A Growing Division
At the 2010 Leadership Summit in St. Louis, Stacey Greenwell spoke on a panel focused on SLA unit formation and described the period of growth the division had seen in its first year. The division continued to grow in 2010, and several new initiatives were launched. Leslie Reynolds began work to establish Practical Academic Librarianship: the International Journal of the SLA Academic Division (also known as PAL) which was first published in 2011. Read more about the history of PAL.
Anna Burke, 2010 Chair, worked with Springshare who generously provided the division with access to its popular LibGuides product, and Springshare agreed to sponsor the Springshare Innovation in Academic Libraries Award which was first given at the 2011 SLA Annual Conference in Philadelphia. The awards program continued to grow under Catherine Lavallée-Welch's leadership as Awards Chair with the presentation of the division's first Outstanding Member Award in 2011 which was awarded to and named after the division's founder, Stacey Greenwell. At the 2012 Annual Conference in Chicago, the division awarded the Practical Academic Librarianship Award for the first time.
At the 2012 Leadership Summit, the division was the recipient of two awards from SLA Headquarters: the largest increase in total number of members and the largest percentage increase in membership.
Joe Kraus worked with Chair Catherine Lavallée-Welch in 2013 to propose the creation of the division's first section, the Scholarly Communication Section. The section was open for members to join in May 2014.
In 2014, the division co-sponsored with SLA Europe an SLA Early Career Conference Award (ECCA), and the division's awardee was Michelle Bond. The division co-sponsored the award again in 2016 (Helen Monagle), 2017 (Amy O'Donohoe), and 2018 (Bethany Sherwood).
The division launched this website in June 2014 to display its public archives as well as share division history and milestones.
In January 2015, the Higher Education Administration section was approved at Cabinet at the Leadership Summit.
At the 2019 SLA Annual Conference, the division celebrated its tenth anniversary. This section is currently inactive.
In 2020, the division transitioned to a community as did all other units of SLA. The Academic Community also participated in SLA's first fully online Annual Conference.
In 2021, the Academic Community merged with the Education Community to become the Academic and Education Community.