Magazine article Information Today

SLA's Philadelphia Story

Magazine article Information Today

SLA's Philadelphia Story

Article excerpt

SLA returned to Philadelphia in mid-June for its 102nd annual conference (the last in the city was in 2000), celebrating what it sees as a vibrant future for the library, information, and knowledge profession.

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In the opening keynote speech, New York Times columnist and best-selling author Thomas L. Friedman warned attendees that average doesn't cut it anymore and admonished them to be careful using social media (he follows his own advice by not using it at all). Later, in the closing keynote, James Kane laid out the key components of loyalty. In between the keynotes were 3 days of business meetings, information sessions, and social events, supplemented by a full exhibition hall. The result was an overwhelming but exhilarating event with potential conflicts at every turn due to the high quality of programming.

For those SLA attendees who came early to the exhibit hall for the 2011 SLA Annual Conference & INFO-EXPO on Sunday afternoon, they definitely knew they were in Philadelphia. Prior to the grand opening, Benjamin Franklin (a contemporary character actor, that is) gave a speech about some of his experiments and the circumstances surrounding the birth of the nation. Once the hall opened, it filled with information professionals eager to learn about the latest developments from 222 exhibitors, 25 of which were new to SLA's conference.

The sessions on social media, finding business information, and vendor updates proved to be popular with overflowing rooms. Various sessions introduced attendees to social media tools and instructed them on best practices for using the tools within their organizations and libraries. A comprehensive review of public records data for research, provided by Bridget Gilhool and Jennifer McMahan of the U.S. Department of Justice, covered everything from free web directories to legal dockets online.

Additionally, the matchup of new Rising Stars and Fellows, moderated by J. J. Keller's Webb Shaw, elicited insights as panelists traded opinions on the four pillars of SLA's Future Ready theme: collaboration, alignment, adaptable skills, and building community. They agreed that it's critical to anticipate and to respond to an evolving marketplace, but they also cautioned that predictions about the future can be short-sighted. The notion of community requires focus so that multiple conversations do not become overwhelming. Sara Batts summed it up: "Community is; collaboration does. …

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