Library Associations on Parade

By Ojala, Marydee | Online Searcher, September-October 2016 | Go to article overview

Library Associations on Parade


Ojala, Marydee, Online Searcher


IF APRIL SHOWERS bring May flowers, then I suppose May flowers blossom into June and July library association conferences. The spring and summer parade of library association meetings in 2016 started with SLA (Special Libraries Association) in Philadelphia, moved south to Orlando for ALA (American Library Association), and then headed to the Midwest for AALL (American Association of Law Libraries).

The 2016 annual conference of SLA, held at the Philadelphia Convention Center, attracted some 2,500 attendees, including exhibitors. That's small potatoes for Philadelphia, which experienced the Pope's visit in September 2015--it essentially shut down the center of the city--and the Democratic National Convention at the end of July 2016, with many thousands of visitors descending on the city. SLA was last in Philadelphia in 2011, with an attendance figure of 4,300.

The SLA conference parade was led by a new management team this year, with a newly hired, in late May, executive director, Amy Lestition Burke, and a new management company, MCI USA, in place only since March 1. Logistics ran very smoothly despite all this newness, and attendees, overall, seemed pleased with the conference and the direction in which SLA is headed. Given all the drama and trauma of the past few years, coupled with the news that the headquarters building sold for $4 million, relieving SLA of a major financial headache, association members were ready to relax and to look forward with positive thoughts.

Rather than describe the opening session of the conference, I'll direct you to SLAs video of the opening session on its website (sla.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/SLA16%20 Opening%20GS.mp4), which includes remarks from association president Tom Rink and executive director Burke, award presentations, and the keynote address by Erika Andersen.

Andersen is an author and founding partner of the consulting firm Proteus International. She takes the position that failure is endemic to successful leadership. That may sound counterintuitive, but she makes a good case. Learning new things involves a willingness to fail and to embarrass yourself in public. Particularly as you grow older, you are less willing to start again, to admit that you need to learn new things rather than to rely on prior expertise.

Her acronym for the learning process is ANEW: Aspiration, Neutral self-awareness, Endless curiosity, and Willingness to be bad first. That willingness to accept you're bad at something when you're just beginning the learning process is an attitude that's hard for information professionals to accept. It's necessary, however, for true learning to take place.

Armed with the ANEW process, SLA attendees proceeded to sessions, visited the exhibit hall, and networked with colleagues. The session I chaired, The Write Stuff, gave attendees tips from journal editors on writing for publication. The panelists discussed the differences between peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed publications, the time it takes from manuscript submission to finished article, style sheets, and expectations.

Other sessions during the conference reflect the wide range of interests of SLA members. Since conference programming is up to individual divisions, disparate topics--from new technologies, food research, sports, management techniques, assessment, leadership attributes, and competitive intelligence to science, legal research, cybersecurity and and taxonomies--were in evidence. …

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