Washington, DC Chapter

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Reflection – Explore, Engage, Evolve: Growing Through SLA

Reflection – Explore, Engage, Evolve: Growing Through SLA

By Mary Talley, Principle, TalleyPartners. SLA 2016 Chapter Cabinet Chair-Elect

I’ve always had an adventurous side and am even a bit of a risk taker. But no explorer succeeds alone; taking risks requires a strong network of support. Throughout my years of exploring new approaches to information professionals’ roles and evolving my own career, my engagement with SLA and DC/SLA has rewarded me with a constant source of support.

In the mid-1980’s, I ventured off the traditional career path and into the unknown of entrepreneurship to start an information management consulting and staffing business in LA. When my work took me into industries beyond my experience in academia and law, I turned to my primary association for help. But I was surprised to discover it was uncomfortable with non-conventional librarians. So I went looking for a new professional home – and found the Southern California Chapter (SoCal) of SLA and the welcoming, generously supportive group of professionals that I had been missing. I also met a life-long friend, mentor and supporter, Doris Helfer.

Doris pushed me to go to my first conference, in Atlanta, and, then, took me by the hand and introduced me to the LMD Consultant’s Section. Where else would I have found a group of potential competitors who were actually invested in each other’s success? My giddy enthusiasm for this supportive group led me to say “yes” to becoming program chair for the next year and chair of the section the following. Looking for a panelist for one of my programs that second year, a consultant I didn’t know, Rebecca Jones, was recommended as a good speaker. We met in person, late the night before the program, when a hotel fire forced us down 17 flights of dark, smoke filled stairs. Outside, I introduced myself to my fellow evacuee and we began an animated conversation that continued in the bar for several hours more and is still going 20 years later. Shared adventures form strong bonds.

Through the years, I’ve found no safer place to explore and evolve ideas and roles than SLA chapters, with their on-the-ground support and ability to connect members to one another. And no place has been safer for me than DC/SLA. My DC/SLA friends and colleagues have embraced new approaches and worked with me to introduce different programming formats and content from speed-mentoring to alternative career paths to interviewing local leaders as models of leadership.

Presenting at the chapter level also gave me the confidence to take it to the next level at the Annual Conference. Participating in the conference, I honed my presentation skills – watching and learning from the great and not-so-great presenters. What I learned I applied to my work, improving my client presentations (It is far scarier to present to a hundred or more of my peers than to a room of executives). Many of my clients have told me that my leadership, speaking and writing and research activities in SLA enhanced my qualifications in their eyes.

I came to SLA to learn. But, I found something more – a community of fearless, generous and open professionals who have embraced and supported my explorations and risk taking and kept my unconventional career path moving forward.

[Photo credit: “Compass Study” by Calsidyrose used under CC BY]

[You can read other chapter member Reflections here]

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