Posted on August 26, 2011.
By Kathy Drewes
A few weeks ago we asked for your questions for the two candidates for president elect of the SLA. We received some wonderful questions. Below are the candidates’ answers to your questions.
1) What is your personal view of the value of SLA?
“I value the diverse network, the learning opportunities, and the chances to lead that SLA offers to all members. The network has supported me throughout all of my positions while being able to learn about trends, new techniques, etc., at conference, at local programs, or virtually, has helped me move forward in my career. Being able to develop my leadership potential by taking on a variety roles from chapter President, to conference planning committee member has enhanced my confidence allowing me to take on more professional challenges.”
“I’ve been a member of SLA since 1986 and continue to find value in SLA. When I first started out, I was a newbie, learning the ropes, getting involved in my local chapter and the Engineering Division and learning from colleagues who generously provided advice, mentoring and examples to me of the variety of career opportunities in our profession.”
“25 years later, I’m still involved in SLA and still learn from my colleagues, whom I also value as friends. More importantly though, for me, has been the opportunity to give back to the profession by mentoring others, serving SLA association-wide, and in divisions and my local SLA chapter. My term on the SLA Board of Directors from 2008-2010 included the creation and team leadership of SLA’s 23 Things. The 23 Things contributed to a mindset change for SLA members and enabled us to embrace new technologies, new tools, get ahead of our users and to lead rather than follow. I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve.”
“My career has taken many twists and turns and SLA has been there for me every step of the way.”
2) A) What do you enjoy most about the Information Outlook magazine?
“Timely, issue-wide topics such as the “fragmentation of the profession” in the April/May 2011 edition appeal the most to me. And I enjoy the member interviews as well, especially if they are tied to the overall topic of the issue. I also gain a fair amount of information from the columnists, Lesley Ellen Harris and Stephen Abram, and I am very much looking forward to more in the Market Share column by Jill Strand.”
“I like the mix of research and practical articles from my colleagues. I learn a lot about what they are doing and how I can incorporate their insights and experiences into my own career. I especially look forward to the regular columns which provide continuing education in an informal way for all our members. Information Outlook is a valuable resource and part of my professional development strategy to keep learning and stay current.”
B) Would you like to see any specific changes to this magazine in terms of access, strategy, or content?
“I enjoy receiving the magazine in print as it is easiest for me to browse and return to the articles, but having it available online should continue to be an option. In fact, it might be worth exploring to see if some members might want to only access IO digitally which could mean a savings in production and mailing for SLA.”
“Additionally I think that IO could be promoted more effectively so that when an issue is released digitally, there is a quick rundown of the content that is sent or made available to the members. Also, efforts should be made to be sure that IO’s content is written from a global perspective since SLA is an international association.”
“The cost of printing and postal mailing each issue is expensive. However, I feel there are advantages to both the print and eformat. I like to be able to mark with a highlighter my print issue, but searching makes it easy to access the content of the digital version.”
“Pros and cons of the print edition include:
-portable and readable for those without digital access on their portable or other devices
-expensive to print and postal mail
-takes a really long time to be delivered to members outside of North America”
“Pros and cons of the eformat:
-little cost to produce
-no cost to email
-faster delivery worldwide
-easier to ignore or forget to read it if not received in print”
3) A) Should SLA work with other associations to co-host or co-sponsor events?
“When I was President of SLA Southern California, I often sought partnerships with other organizations whose members I felt would benefit from attendance. Other units are doing the same as is the case currently with SLA DC which is partnering local chapters of AALL and ALA on a joint spring program. Moving co-sponsorships from the unit to the association level should definitely be explored especially if content would be appealing to members of other associations.”
“Yes, [SLA should work with other associations to co-host or co-sponsor events]. This is already happening in some units and association-wide, but there needs to be a central clearinghouse so that all units can see who is doing what, which associations are willing to partner with us, etc. SLA has co-sponsored events in the past. With the current budget constraints, ROI [Return on Investment] will need to be thoroughly researched in order to make sure SLA profits, both in terms of finances and member-benefit.”
B) When planning conjoint programming, what principles are important to maintain to show respect to other organizations?
“If a program is co-sponsored, then every effort must be made to show that the program is being staged by multiple organizations. This needs to be indicated in publicity, welcoming remarks, and all announcements related to the program. And members from all participating organizations should be recruited to offer presentations.”
- “There needs to be representation by all parties involved. For example, the Northern California and Nevada Medical Libraries Group (NCNMLG) and the Southern California and Arizona Medical Libraries Group (SCAMLG) come together annually for a joint conference. Both organizations, which are MLA chapters, plan the conference, secure sponsorships, and alternate hosting every other year. “
- “Coordination of sponsorships is really important so that sponsors receive only one request rather than multiple ones for the same event”
- “Each organization needs to give, but also get back so that one organization is not taking on the entire or a disproportionate part of the workload”
- “Honest and frequent communication is needed to keep everyone on the same page”
4) What are some new services or strategies that you support that might provide outreach to isolated librarians?
“Whether librarians are feeling isolated because of geography or industry, they need to realize that they are connected to a larger network of information professionals within SLA. It may be challenging to identify those who are feeling isolated, but once such individuals have been identified, they should each be contacted by members of their units to create informal partnerships. These one-on-one contacts can be quite meaningful and offer a gateway into other ways of being connected to the larger organization, such as virtual seminars.”
“Having been a solo librarian and now self-employed, I know that there are two types of isolation: physical/geographical and job type. I’d like to see SLA continue its virtual presence on the SLA site and on FaceBook and LinkedIn. One area where we can improve is by offering more online ClickU courses at a reasonable cost and repeated 2-3 times at different times of day so that members in some parts of the world can ask live questions without having to be online in the middle of the night their time.”
“ClickU low cost webinars such as the one Rebecca Jones recently did cost just $49 for members. The Illinois Chapter recently hosted a guest speaker and the cost to attend that webinar was $10. These low cost webinars often sell out and are just what our members need at a cost they can afford. And the SLA Europe Chapter provides valuable free continuing education podcasts in 15-minute segments that cover timely topics for our members.”
“I think the Asian Chapter does an amazing job reaching their members in several countries. They have board members from many countries, which I think is key to bridging huge geographic and cultural differences. I know the same is true of the Western Canada Chapter where you have board members from different provinces. I’d like to hear YOUR ideas for how to better reach our members who are far away from other members.”
5) The current economic downturn is negatively affecting conference attendance rates. What should the SLA do to address this issue at our own annual conference?
“The conference revenue model needs to be reviewed to see if it is sustainable, and if it is not, then alternatives should be explored. Options include shortening the conference by a day or so and rethinking the layout of the conference with CE courses preceding the formal start of the conference. Another possibility would be having a full conference every other year, while in the off years there are regional meetings or virtual meetings. Collaborative meetings should also be considered.”
“We need to look at how other associations are thriving in this economic environment and learn from them. Then, we need to make some tough decisions of what works best for SLA and its members so that we are sustainable both as an association and as a profession. Everything, from the annual conference current model to continuing education, must be on the table for review. Are there ways to make the Virtual Conference more appealing to members with a price they can afford and an attractive package of sessions to view and have this available after the conference? It won’t be easy, but we must make tough decisions to survive and even thrive.”
“Like other professional associations, SLA is experiencing a downturn in member numbers but people will join and stay if it’s a sustainable and valuable professional association. “
6) How do you propose to engage new information professionals?
“New information professionals should be engaged while they are still in school by encouraging members to offer internships and independent study options to students which are some of the best ways in which to expose the students to the diversity of our experiences. We can also reach these students via guest lectures in established courses (face-to-face or online); participating in panel presentations; volunteering for resume review sessions; and, offering tours. For those just out of school, one of the best ways to connect with them is through one-on-one contacts at the unit level suggesting that they come to programs or utilize a resource supported by SLA such as the Future Ready Toolkit.”
“SLA as a whole and SLA units need to continue to interact and collaborate with other information and library associations. I believe we can learn from their successes and also recruit new members, especially when we show them the ROI on our membership fees with member benefits such as the Alignment Toolkit, the 23 Things, the FutureReady blog and ClickU.”
“Unfortunately, library and information schools are not geared to teaching about specialized libraries and some even give 1 year free ALA memberships to their students. SLA’s Professional Development Advisory Council, of which I’m a member, is updating the SLA professional competencies and is working with library and information school faculty to include the competencies as student learning outcomes so they are part of the curriculum.”
“A new SLA initiative that I was able to broker between SLA headquarters and San Jose State University’s School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) is a way for chapters to send event announcements to the SLIS listserv and it will automatically send it to the students within the geographic region of that chapter. SLIS has 2500 students who reside in many parts of the world (it’s an all distance learning program) and we can tap into them as members, now and for the duration of their careers. Stay tuned for more information about this.”
7) (A) What value do you feel non-American Chapters such as the Western Canadian Chapter add to the larger organization?
“One of the principle values of SLA is that it is an international association and, as such, members bring to SLA not just the diversity of their experiences, e.g., corporate, non-profit, academic, etc., but also the variety of their geographic perspectives. And it is this variety that can easily shed new solutions on continuing challenges, such as responding to users’ needs in a multi-lingual environment. It also allows for the possibility of real-time answers to questions posed to colleagues regardless of the local time because, at any time, somewhere on this globe, there is an SLA member ready to lend a hand.”
“I believe ALL our members have much to offer to enrich SLA. We all are working in the information profession, but we have many different job types, skills and ideas to share, yet so much in common too. The geographic distances the WCC successfully navigates for communications and events are a model for other chapters with members over a large area.”
(B) How do you plan to support and nurture this value?
“To best position SLA as an international association, it would be noteworthy for SLA to host an annual conference outside of the U.S. and Canada – but the challenges of attendance, mostly tied to tight budgets, would be significant. But regional conferences focused on timely topics with the majority of the planning at the local level might work. And virtual meetings with times set by local chapters so as to best accommodate their members are an option. SLA can also encourage its units to jointly fund stipends for international members to attend the annual conferences. These scholarships, such as the ones developed by the Business and Finance Division, SLA Europe, and the SLA Asian Chapter, can help lower the major cost of traveling to and registering for conferences.”
“We should not assume that we are all on the same page. We have a very diverse membership in terms of jobs, culture and geographic area, and we need to be focused on being less America-centric.”
“Here are some things SLA can do:”
- “Provide more low cost webinars which I mentioned above and at different times so that they are not during the middle of the night for some of our members. The SLA Europe podcasts are an excellent example of free valuable professional development for members that are just the right length and in a format that makes them easy to listen to at any time.”
- “Poll our international members to see what they want and need from SLA so we can engage them more fully”
- “Identify growth areas and opportunities for all geographic areas”
- “Reach out more to our international members”
Kathy Drewes is EMBA / MBA Liaison Librarian at the University of Calgary’s Libraries and Cultural Resources.