SLA Annual Meeting 2009

Last week was the annual meeting of the Special Libraries Association (SLA) on the occasion of its 100th anniversary. A friend from Simmons won a stipend from the SLA IT Division to attend the conference. It was part of an award for a class paper she submitted on the suggestion of a professor. In exchange for the stipend she was required to do a short presentation explaining her paper on cloud computing. Supportive person that I am, I decided to also attend the conference; but there were ulterior motives at play. I’ve always been curious about SLA and was eager to learn more. (This is also how I ended up attending ICHORA 4 and the ASAannual meeting last year.)

The conference was a great investment. Not only did SLA and the vendors put on a great show to celebrate the anniversary (dancing in the International Spy Museum, receptioning in the Zambian Embassy and touring the Decatur House after hours), but we also met a number of really great professionals. Truly, the value of the conference manifested itself in its networking opportunities. By talking to everyone we could pull aside, my friend and I learned about current trends in libraries like competitive intelligence and the wide range of possiblities in the library profession. We were inspired, motivated, and encouraged. Here are a few samples of the conference happenings:

General Powell was the opening speaker and he had a lot of powerful things to say:

He reminded us that in a pinch we all turn to Google for a fast search, and that successful organizations move at the speed of transactions. Currently, like our Google searches, transactional speed is the speed of light. The question is how to keep up!

More importantly, Powell reminded us that good leaders give a sense of purpose, show positive attention, and provide the tools necessary to accomplish organizational goals. I wish my H&M compatriots were there to hear it – if they wouldn’t believe me, they surely would believe the charismatic man on the podium!

Powell also reminded us that our greatest power in America is our openness. In regards to issues ranging from immigration to technology, so long as we proceed with the values of tolerance and fairness, then we will be unstoppable.

On a lighter note, Powell divulged that he really misses his plane. “They gave it to Condi, now Hillary has it, and I’ll never see it again!” Now he has to go through TSA security like the rest of us. Turn about is fair play, and since he was responsible for the new regulations, the audience (the majority of whom just finished hurdling security obstacles on flights in from all over the country and beyond) found it fitting that the first time the General flew as a civilian, he got the full pat-down treatment. No one told him that paying cash and showing up late were huge red flags! Making a show of “fair treatment for all” the guards were very polite, but very thorough. Exasperated he cried, “They knew it was me! Couldn’t they just let me go?” Brings to mind a family favorite.

The sessions I attended varied from full lectures to the unstructured “Un-Conference” sessions (I’ll leave out the latter, since they are on the wiki. ). Below are some highlights:

At the Diversity in Leadership: Gen X – The Changing Paradigm session, a question arose about how we motivate employees if we can’t offer them traditional promotions. An audience member answered: play up the whole package. The simple answers are usually the best: tell them about the lifestyle, the flexibility, the learning opportunities. Send employees to training, to a class, or let them teach a class. A little creativity goes a long way towards retention.

At the Web 2.0 has Something for Everyone session Kent Anderson introduced us to the New England Journal of Medicine’s website features. He said we need to anticipate our users needs and turn search into discovery. My favorite part was when he suggested we “engineer” solutions for our users. Brilliant! The interface is innovative; attempting to create a one-stop-shop for medical news.

The Globalization: Emerging Opportunities for the Library Profession was by far the best session of the conference. First, Larisa Brigevich explained the success of outsourcing library services. By treating the outsourced employees as an integral part of the team the organization is able to manage risk, improve the process, and increase productivity. Next, Jane Meyers, president of the Lubuto Library Project, described the process behind establishing a library for orphaned and homeless children in Zambia. Finally, Saule Omarova talked about the broad context of globalization, particularly its effect on lawyers and law firms. One of Omarova’s points that stood out was that as clients become more international, lawyers must also become international. Adapting to clientele base? I’m sensing a theme…

We learned a lot over the week, but, considering our location, felt we needed time for sightseeing too.

In front of Lincoln Memorial


Outside National Archive


Vietnam Memorial

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