Washington, DC Chapter

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Reflection – A World of Possibilities

Reflection – A World of Possibilities

By Rick Kowalski

I have been a member of SLA now for 11 years. Over the years, my membership has meant many things to me: friendship, camaraderie, education, networking, travel, leadership, volunteering and more. But my SLA experience to date has been overwhelmingly memorable for making me aware of what is possible in the profession.

When I first joined, I had just a vague notion of the library world outside of public and academic libraries. Joining as a student at the University at Buffalo was a great idea, as it helped me learn about the various roles that librarians can play. There I attended library tours of the university’s special collections and job fairs organized by the student chapter. I remember being extremely excited to meet REAL special librarians and information professionals in the wild!

During this time, I took a Business Intelligence course taught by (now) DC/SLA member Karen Reczek. I was able to use what I learned in Karen’s course to land a job in the Business, Science and Technology department of the central branch of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library. Karen was very involved with the local SLA chapter and she encouraged me to apply for a student stipend to attend the annual conference in Toronto. I jumped at the opportunity and was able to attend my first SLA conference.

Even though I was only able to attend the conference for a day and a half, it was an eye-opening experience for me.  People there were talking about all the latest and most interesting topics in library and information science. I learned about competitive intelligence and metadata and digitization. I met librarians with job titles I had never heard of before. I was so happy to know there was a vast world available to information professionals.

Eventually my stay in Buffalo ended, as my prospects for landing a job in the area were limited. However, I knew of one place that was full of opportunity: Washington, DC. In 2006, that’s where I took my job hunt, along with my SLA membership.

I immediately looked for events held by the local chapter. DC/SLA did not disappoint. Within a few weeks, I was attending an event focused on finding jobs in DC. There I learned where to search, had my resume reviewed, and was able to meet with job recruiters from around the area. Within a week(!), one of those recruiters called me with a job opportunity. Ultimately, I did not take that job, because I had received an offer from another agency (one that also happens to be heavily involved in DC/SLA). But the experience left me with very positive feelings about the opportunities in this city and about the local chapter’s ability to help me in my career.

The job I ended up taking was a research librarian position at the Consumer Electronics Association, where I still work. While my job hunt ended, my involvement in SLA did not. I am fortunate that my employer sends me to the annual conference each year; I haven’t missed one since Toronto. My boss, Angela Titone, is an active member and has always encouraged my participation in DC/SLA events. Attending local events through the years, I have met librarians across the spectrum of disciplines. I have learned about opportunities for growth by talking with other members about their projects and experiments. I have learned how other information professionals have branched out and tackled new trends in business and technology. And I keep meeting people with new and interesting job titles.

SLA is a big-tent association.  How does the association manage to encompass so many job titles? I know it’s difficult to get us all on the same page sometimes. But at the same time, this diversity is SLA’s strong point. Learning about the variety of emerging roles for librarians has helped me stay relevant in my own organization. The association represents a world of possibilities for information professionals. That’s what sparked my interest in the first place and it’s a major reason why I have stuck with the association for so long.

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  1. […] development and connections are part of your goals, I encourage you take advantage of SLA’s World of Possibilities as Rick Kowalski talks about in his reflection. And Laura Choyce offers in her Warming Up […]


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