Magazine article Information Today

SLA 2009: 100 Years and Counting

Magazine article Information Today

SLA 2009: 100 Years and Counting

Article excerpt

The Special Libraries Association (SLA) is back in a big way. And to celebrate SLA's 100th anniversary in style, the organization pulled out all the stops for its SLA 2009 conference from June 14 to 17 in Washington, D.C. High-profile individuals such as former U.S. secretary of state Gen. Colin Powell and Judy Woodruff, senior correspondent on The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer, were keynoters at the event. Even the SLA's first president, John Cotton Dana, who served from 1909 to 1911, was there ... sort of. (He was portrayed by former SLA treasurer Richard Geiger, who bears a striking resemblance to Dana.)

"A hundred years is a really big deal," said SLA CEO Janice Lachance. "But as you can see, we're always thinking ahead."

Despite the rough economy, the conference had its highest attendance in 6 years. More than 5,856 registrants from 30 countries showed up, and there were 462 booths representing 299 companies on the exhibit floor.

"In an era of this terrible economy and when most associations comparable to ours are having drops in attendance of 30 to 40%, I am incredibly excited," Lachance said. "There's so much spirit, and people are so pleased to be here."

The ITI blog team covered the events and interviewed key players during the conference. Here are edited excerpts from their posts at

SLA News

"Alignment" was one word that was heard frequently in Washington, D.C., this year. The SLA Alignment Project is designed to "bring clarity and unity to the core identity and values of the association and the profession," according to the project's website ( SLA/alignment/index.cfm). Using research from Fleishman-Hillard, Inc.; Social Technologies; and Outsell, Inc., the SLA is finding a better way of positioning itself and its membership.

SLA president Gloria Zamora discussed the project in more detail, describing the tribal forces and encouraging everyone to join with the board and staff of SLA ("The Tribe") to change the image of the information profession.

"I really see the board and staff right now as a tribe, and we are trying to get more people to join us in this tribe, to get this movement going, to change the image of information professionals and what we do, and to make sure that all the companies really understand how vitally important information professionals are," she said.

Research conducted for the Alignment Project clearly shows that the name Special Libraries does not align with the outside world's perception of the value information professionals bring to their organizations, according to Zamora. So when SLA convenes in 2010 in New Orleans, there will likely be a vote on a name change. She mentioned that the last vote on a name change caused acrimony on occasion and failed to produce the desired results. This time, the grounds for the name change will be established by the Alignment Project and its research, although Zamora said that potential candidate names couldn't be disclosed yet.

In the exhibit hall, SLA's 3D Centennial Showcase was displayed in a glass case. The showcase was designed to resemble an open book while featuring original pieces and miniature reproductions of archival materials dating from 1909, the year SLA was founded. It described the history of SLA and the information profession, giving attendees a few minutes to spend reminiscing and thinking about how far we've come and where we might go next. There was also a useful printed handout that identified each of the 142 items in the exhibit case.

Coping With the Economy

The economy still remains a hot topic. Following the opening ceremonies and Powell's captivating keynote, the delegates who were present shared aspects of their work and what brought them to the conference this year.

Many of the delegates remarked about their respective employment situations. Some worked at places that were in the process of being downsized, some were just getting back into the game, and some said they were now telecommuting. …

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