Taking a Global View: The Information Profession Is Increasingly Speaking with Different Voices and Identifying New Perspectives on Common Concerns

Article excerpt

It was fitting that the 2010 SLA Annual Conference was held in New Orleans, that most international of American cities, a place where the blend of cultures and cuisines is more apparent than nearly anywhere else in America. The conference hosted a rich and varied collection of attendees, with representatives from 26 countries, and provided opportunities to exchange ideas and experiences from around the world.


As you may know, SLA has a truly global membership. This is a point of considerable focus for our association and is evidenced both by the growth patterns of our membership--the Asian Chapter is the fastest-growing unit within SLA--and by the increasingly diverse membership of our board of directors and the candidates who run for office.

My favorite talk offered to SLA chapters, student groups, corporate enterprises, iSchools and international conferences is called "Five Global Trends All Knowledge Workers Should Understand." The first of the five trends is a good warm-up topic for the remaining four, and it is that we live in an increasingly global culture. Business events that occur in Asia affect Europe and, in turn, the Americas. Economic concerns in Greece influence markets in Singapore. Chinese negotiations with Google have repercussions in Mountain View, California, as well as Mumbai.

Political and social events are eroding national boundaries, and developing countries are fueling a tectonic shift in the economic engines that drive world economies. Global trends are also driving the use and exchange of information, the use of social media, and the expansion of future markets. Facebook, which recently passed the 500 million-user mark, counts more than 70 percent of its users outside the United States. Poland and Thailand were recently the fastest-growing markets for new Facebook users, Iceland boasts the largest per capita percentage of users (slightly more than 41 percent), Turkey has the third largest number of users overall, and the Philippines is in the top 10.

What does all of this mean for information professionals? At a minimum, the accelerating movement toward a global information and communication culture means that what we do, read, consume, create and disseminate crosses almost all borders and cultures. …