New England Chapter

SLA Leadership Symposium

By Dana Eckstein Berkowitz posted 03-25-2019 18:27


SLA Leadership Symposium

SLA Leadership Symposium

Recently President Elect Kayleigh Bohémier attended the SLA Leadership Symposium in New Orleans. Read about her experience below!

As I traveled to the airport the day before the SLA Leadership Symposium, I had many nebulous questions and only a few goals: I wanted to know what was expected of unit leaders from SLA and to network with colleagues and fellow SLA volunteers in person.

The next day, Dana Eckstein Berkowitz, Michael Sholinbeck (one of the DICE co-conveners), and I encountered one another in the lobby. We were all interested in seeing the Voodoo Museum, and we had a bit of downtime before we needed to be anywhere. The Voodoo Museum is small, with about two rooms of space and a gift shop. From the mobile web site, it wasn’t obvious that it was an active sacred site, so if you have the opportunity to go, I recommend making sure you have a few dollar bills and coins. We walked back through the French Quarter, which has classic architecture similar to other former French colony cities like Montréal.

That night, there was an opening reception where many of us took photos with Mardi Gras beads and masks. After the reception, I tried my first Escape Room with some colleagues in the Physics-Astronomy-Mathematics Division. There was a sports game that day, so we made our way past overflowing bars and street parties until we reached the location. We solved the puzzle well within our time, and I am pleased to report that you’re not actually locked into a room — they have to leave a door accessible to comply with safety regulations.

On Monday morning, leadership consultant Jon Hockman began the program with a presentation and guided prompts to help us clarify why we were there and what we wanted out of the experience. This was great for tackling my nebulous and vague ideas, and it forced me to think hard about what I needed out of the program to be an effective leader.

In our leadership workbook, I wrote down that I wanted to connect with others entering unit leadership, current leaders who have insight into how communication in SLA can be improved, and those in very different volunteer roles from me. I also wanted new ideas about being an engaged President Elect and a better sense of the core goals that will have the most value for our chapter given the realistic limitations of time and energy for both our volunteers and our members. 

Sunset in New Orleans. I was walked from the hotel my first night because the conference Marriott was having overflow problems from winter-storm-delayed travelers. They sent me to the other Marriott, which had many floors. While a bit annoying logistics-wise, I had such a good view!

A big part of the current President Elect’s responsibilities centers on engaging with SLA New England membership and working to keep people engaged. Engagement requires reconciling my own values (digital minimalism) with the overwhelming number of tools we could use. I don’t have a Facebook, Snapchat, or Instagram account, and the only social networking tool I use professionally is LinkedIn. How do we ensure that all of our members are included and feel like part of the SLA NE community while encouraging healthy boundaries?

SLA Connect, which I learned to appreciate and embrace during the symposium, is a great solution to this. One of the best takeaways from the Leadership Symposium (for me) was to think about good ways we can use it to stay connected. Unlike a Facebook group or list of people on Twitter, we license a platform and can control our content, which makes SLA Connect (or whatever comes next) resilient to the ebb and flow of social media platform popularity. It keeps us intergenerationally accessible, too, given that not all generations are on all social media sites equally. SLA Connect is our own place focused on making us better professionals, connecting us to volunteer opportunities, and enabling communication with other information services colleagues who have jobs and lives both like and unlike our own.

On Monday, I participated in a lunch discussion about diversity and inclusion (at the DICE table), and on Tuesday, there were two sessions during lunch  — one on membership and the other on rewards and recognition of volunteer efforts/achievement.

The Tuesday nuts-and-bolts training session is something I would highly recommend to anyone coming into a unit leadership position. I learned so much about how the President Elect position fits into the larger SLA organization.

Finally, Hal Kirkwood, our SLA President, discussed the SLA Board’s goals and strategic planning. SLA’s membership has decreased due to the 2008 financial crisis and changes in the information profession, and this year’s SLA Board wants to blaze a trail forward from instability to renewal. They are currently in an incubation phase in which all ideas are on the table, no matter how weird, and the discussions are happening behind closed doors to give them some brainstorming privacy. Later in the spring and summer, these discussions should have coalesced enough to make SLA member feedback necessary (and encouraged). If you want to keep informed, please read the emails from the SLA Board and President so you can attend webinars or give asynchronous feedback once they reach that stage.

My hope is that you will all join me in thinking about SLA Connect a bit more, perhaps committing to posting a bit more often, just to see how it goes. I still have a ways to go in consolidating my SLA Leadership Symposium notes, but am looking forward to taking what I learned to make our chapter stronger!