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2015 SLA Annual Conference Recap-Recap

2015 SLA Annual Conference Recap-Recap

By Rick Kowalski, DC/SLA Communications Secretary

In case you missed the annual conference and the recap event that occurred last week, I am recapping the conference recap event. Jenner & Block, a Chicago-based law firm, hosted the event in their downtown DC location. They were kind enough to let DC/SLA use their big conference room and to provide refreshments before the presenters began; Jenner & Block Law Librarian Stephen Millen was there to greet us.

Tracy Maleef (a.k.a. Library Sherpa) kicked off the recap. As Chair of the Annual Conference Advisory Council, Tracy was able to provide statistics about the conference: there were 3,002 attendees (which was 24% higher than the year prior) and there was a 91% satisfaction rate among attendees.  The opening session keynote speaker, Leigh Gallagher, was a hit. Her five tips for information professionals resonated well with the crowd:

  1. Market yourself to your organization and colleagues.
  2. Use metrics to quantify what you do for the organization.
  3. Stay ahead of the curve.
  4. Offer high-end research products / go “artisanal” with your services.
  5. In alignment with the conference’s them: Be Revolutionary: be disruptive and innovative in what you do.

Tracy also mentioned that you can catch up on a lot of the conference activity on Storify; SLA HQ has its own account on which they gathered up many of the tweets from the event.

SLA2015Recap_Gruenberg_DessyNext, Mike Gruenberg (Gruenberg Consulting) and Blane Dessy (FEDLINK) rehashed their main points from their very popular session, Everything You Wanted To Know About Negotiating With Vendors. Mike has written a book all about this: Buying & Selling Information. He encouraged librarians to embrace the salesperson as somebody you can learn from and trust. In those situations where you feel you don’t understand the pricing of a particular product, Mike says you have every right to ask a vendor “Can you defend your price?”

SLA2015Recap_DavidSchumakerDavid Shumaker (Catholic University) recapped two of the sessions he organized. The first was a roundtable meeting of the Competencies Task Force, of which David is now chair. The aims of the group are to identify the unique skills that information professionals bring to the workforce that no other profession does. The task force will update the core competencies list that was written in 2003 and revised in 2014; the goal is to keep the list relevant as our professional roles change.

David also held a roundtable meeting of the newly formed Embedded Librarian caucus. The campaign to form the caucus was one of the most successful in SLA history; 109 people signed the petition to form the group. The concept of embedded librarianship is based on the notion that librarians can and should step out of the library and engage with specific populations within their organizations. You can learn more about embedded librarianship on David’s blog.

SLA2015Recap_ChrisVestalChris Vestal  (LexisNexis & immediate past-president of DC/SLA) enjoyed the Leadership and Management Division (LMD) sessions that he attended. Leading from the Middle (slides), Chris’s main takeaways were that everyone is leading from the middle – even CEOs are beholden to others (like a board of directors) – and that title should not dictate how much influence one can have. While CEO’s may bring more to the table in terms of strategic vision, middle managers can offer more in the way of bringing consensus between different groups (above, below & across the organization) and they can address practical matters while keeping the big picture in mind.

Chris also went to Up the Ante on Change, where Deb Wallace, Executive Director, Knowledge and Library Services at the Harvard Business School presented. Chris’s key takeaway here was that consistency is a key trait for any manager or leader, but make sure you don’t become predictable. Chris mentioned several books he heard about at the conference: First Break All the Rules, Disrupting Class, BiblioTech and The Lean Startup.

Being one of the key organizers of the East Coast Chapter Reception, Chris mentioned its success: 500 people attended. I can also attest to its success. There was a great crowd, I was able to catch up with some old classmates, and the food & music were excellent.

SLA2015Recap_ElainaVitaleElaina Vitale moderated the Astronomy Roundtable session, where panelist discussed the latest tools and trends in astronomy librarianship. Panelist Kelle Cruz talked about her professional development blog for astronomers, AstroBetter. She touched on the topic of how these scientific fields can be much more inclusive; as it stands, only a small portion of astronomers are female, and only 10% of physicists are female. Later, Alberto Accomazzi described the Astrophysics Data System, which contains 11.2 million records pertaining to astrophysics & astronomy. Jane Holmquist of Princeton University explained ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor ID). ORCID helps researchers by providing them with a unique identifier that they can associate with all of their publications. This is especially helpful for people who share names with other researchers or for those who have changed their name at some point. ORCID has been a big hit in the astronomy community, but hundreds of thousands of researchers in other fields are beginning to use these IDs, so you will probably start seeing them more if you haven’t already. [Sidenote: Elaina works at the Niels Bohr Library & Archives, where the major topic of conversation for several days now has been Pluto.]

SLA2015Recap_DeenaDC/SLA President Deena Adelman wrapped up the recap with the latest news on the SLA Recommendations Report. There was much discussion at the conference about the report in smaller meetings and at the general closing session. The board decided at the conference to extend the period for comments for an extra week. The board subsequently received over 200 pages of comments. Deena mentioned that the DC/SLA board decided to send its own comments after hearing that other chapters were doing so. Among DC/SLA board members, some of the proposed strategy sounded good (especially a focus on educational content), but they were concerned that the consultants didn’t place enough value on the chapters. For example, many members may only participate on the local level and may not attend the annual conference. There was also concern that the recommendations for centralizing decision-making and processes might overburden an already small and burdened staff at headquarters.

In any case, the SLA Board received the Board-Revised Recommendations, and approved a Road Map for the Future of SLA . The consultants put less stress on centralization of processes and structure, and emphasized the streamlining processes more so. The consultants also emphasized the importance of updating the association’s technology solutions.

Even though I had attended the conference myself, this event gave me further ideas to pursue at work, and my reading list has grown exponentially. If you missed any sessions, you can check to see if the presentation slides are available on the Online Planner; search for your session and look at the bottom of the description.

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Event Recap: Global Adventure: Tips & Advice on Getting a Top-Notch Library Job Overseas

Event Recap: Global Adventure: Tips & Advice on Getting a Top-Notch Library Job Overseas

By Jan Zastrow, DC/SLA Communications Team

[This event was organized by the International Relations Committee of DC/SLA. The mission of IRC is to help our members increase awareness and understanding on the international aspects of the library and information science profession, i.e. international librarianship. IRC’s  vision is to promote global understanding, communications and collaboration opportunities among our members and provide them with the knowledge and information they need to achieve professional success anywhere in the world.]

Gathering at Drexel University’s DC office the evening of Tuesday, June 30, 20-plus members met for a DC/SLA Jubilee program on pursuing a library career abroad. After a warm welcome by our Drexel DC host Trudi Hahn and International Relations Committee chair Julia Leggett, Layla Heimlich, chair of the Program Planning Committee, introduced the evening’s speakers: Naomi House, Lillian Gassie and Sharon Lenius.

Naomi House, founder and publisher of webzine and jobs list INALJ.com, presented virtually from her home in New Orleans. For starters, she suggests exploring the librarian options on the NAFTA website, considering jobs such as cruise ship librarian or volunteering as a stepping stone to gain experience. While language skills are not always necessary—especially in English-speaking countries—personality traits such as adaptability, patience and flexibility go a long way.

House recommends exploring “job families” related—but not limited to—librarianship. MLS holders should check out jobs in KM, Competitive Intelligence, Data Analysis, and visit the websites of large international corporations for openings in information professions. How about a corporate setting such as Coca-Cola in India?! Broaden your keyword searches to include: Taxonomist; Communications Manager; Social Marketer; Open-Source Trainer; Data Visualization; Information Recovery; Data Curation; and Market Analyst, to name a few. Don’t forget to use social media sites like LinkedIn, and learn who the “movers and shakers” are by following Twitter conference hashtags.

Drexel Global Adventures 1

Julia Leggett, Layla Heimlich, and Joshua Wilkens

Lillian Gassie, Assistant Director of Knowledge Services for the Congressional Research Service at the Library of Congress, focused on “Getting a Job in an International Organization.” She suggests looking for vacancies in aggregator sites such as the State Department; individual organizations’ sites like UN, the World Bank and NATO; or seeking international internships, which are often paid.

Gassie gave some very practical tips from her own experience working abroad. She notes that the interview will probably be in-person, so keep your passport renewed. Do expect personal questions about your family, nationality, age, etc., as many international jobs have a required retirement age. And while there are usually extra benefits that you may not enjoy stateside—annual paid trips home, for instance—it’s important to “go with the flow” and not to expect your host country (or employers) to change for you.

Sharon Lenius,  a happily retired Federal Librarian and Lead Program Planner for the Military Libraries Group, discussed how to look for a non-advertised military job overseas. She told us most army library jobs—especially suitable for new librarians or retirees—are in Europe, Korea or even Kuwait! They’re typically small public libraries on base but are not on the GS Schedule of the federal system. They’re part of the “Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation” (Family MWR) Civilian Services under Non-Appropriated Funds—do a search for “NAF” opportunities on USAJobs. Other websites to check out are the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corp NAF sites; often they list jobs that are not on USAJobs. Consider as well the DoD School system for military school library jobs (try “DoD Schools”).

Many thanks to our speakers for sharing their fascinating experiences and insights. And keep your eyes peeled for more web links and PPT slides here on the DC/SLA website from this program coming soon.

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Hunting for National Treasures at the Museum

Angela Gini Tim Liz American History Scavenger HuntBy Rick Kowalski, DC/SLA Communications Secretary

Saturday’s torrential downpours may have kept many people home for the day, but a handful of area information professionals, myself included, made it out to another DC/SLA  75th Jubilee event. The Watson Adventures scavenger hunt at Smithsonian National Museum of American History was a fun way to exercise our sleuthing skills and to get a chance to learn about some of the hidden gems in the collection.

When the scavenger hunt kicked off, we were split into several teams that would be competing against one another. (My team was “Rick’s Rovers”). Each team had 2 hours to find the answers to 30 questions/clues about the museum. I’m not at liberty to give details about any of the clues, as these are well-protected secrets of Watson Adventures. I can tell you that there were some very challenging clues, and what we were looking for was often well concealed. The devil was in the details and the hints were often riddle-like. When the answer wasn’t obvious, we had to talk through our thought processes and deliberate on our speculations – just the type of teamwork and problem-solving that I enjoy.

We were certainly not the only people in the museum. The building was a major attraction to thousands of tourists that were trying to keep dry. The steady flow of foot traffic created an obstacle course as our group flitted about the displays. I was initially worried that we wouldn’t have enough time to answer all the questions with all the maneuvering around the crowds, but we finished with about 20 minutes to spare.

The DC/SLA teams were up against some stiff competition; another group won first place, but the info pros scored very well and were very close behind.

The scavenger hunt was a fun way to experience the museum. We didn’t have time to take in every detail, but I was able to make mental notes of some of the displays that I’d like to revisit.

Luckily, the rain let up enough for our walk over to Elephant & Castle afterwards, and we were able to reward ourselves with a nice big dinner.

Keep on the lookout for future DC/SLA 75th Jubilee events. Rumor has it that there may be another TED Talks discussion, and don’t forget the Jubilee Gala on November  7th at Maggiano’s.

You can read about past Jubilee events here.

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SLA 2015 Conference Recap: Jocelyn McNamara

SLA 2015 Conference Recap: Jocelyn McNamara

By Jocelyn McNamara, 2015 DC/SLA Annual Conference Stipend winner

Thanks to DC/SLA’s generous stipend, I was able to attend my first SLA conference this year. I had a great time in Boston and am already looking forward to next year’s SLA in Philadelphia.

I work as a Metadata Librarian for LAC Group at the National Agricultural Library, so I attended sessions based on topics that are most relevant to my work. Those sessions focused on taxonomies, user experience, and data visualization. To drop a few names, I learned of MultiTes Pro, which is a taxonomy software tool. It’s notable because there is an option to purchase a single-user account for just under $300 if your organization does not have the capital, or commitment, to invest thousands of dollars in taxonomy development. As far as data visualization tools, Tableau Public stood out to me because there is a free version, it has an impressive range of functionality and a manageable learning curve.

The keynote speaker this year was Leigh Gallagher, who seemed to be universally lauded as one of the best keynotes in recent history. She knew her audience and focused on stories, particularly ones that highlighted the value of librarians at Fortune magazine; however, it’s worth mentioning that there is only one librarian at Fortune magazine, which is telling in and of itself. She envisioned knowledge work as a luxury (“artisanal”) service that needs only to be championed more loudly in order to not disappear. She closed by suggesting an on-demand, Uber-like disruption to the world of information service, which I’m not sure I agreed with. As exciting as “disruption” is, it sometimes results in a race to the bottom that would put a lot of us out of work.

Personally, the networking is what really made SLA special for me. I hate to harp on it for those who weren’t able to attend in person, but it was great fun to meet people with similar interests, who would indulge in nerdy librarian talk at length. I also discovered that SLA is dominated by corporate librarians, a field I’ve heard virtually nothing about in my MLS program, which was an eye-opener. It was interesting to hear the various stories from info pros’ careers, and how they ended up where they are from often unrelated origins. It reminds me to keep an open mind and to be receptive to new opportunities as I progress in my career.

Lastly, the East Coast Chapter Reception, co-hosted by DC-SLA, was the best! Thanks again to the chapter for this awesome opportunity.

Stay tuned for more SLA 2015 conference recaps; there will be a DC/SLA recap event Thursday, July 16, 2015, 5:30pm-8pm.

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Event Recap: Taco Tuesday Happy Hour at RFD

By Kathy Kelly

Kathy Kelly is a Records Management Specialist working for the DC Government.

happy hourSeven chapter members attended a DC/SLA Happy Hour at RFD in the Gallery Place/Chinatown section of DC on June 2nd. They enjoyed RFD’s popular “Taco Tuesday” offerings, such as 3 tacos for $2 each, and beer specials. RFD had been the site of a successful chapter happy hour about a year earlier, and the bar has been cited as having the best draft beer selection in DC.

Members came from a variety of workplaces – the Council on Foreign Relations; U.S. Patent and Trademark Office; American Institute of Architects; Office of the Comptroller of the Currency; the Smithsonian, and the DC Government. They networked and chatted on a number of subjects – jobs, area housing, commutes, DC/SLA programs, the upcoming SLA conference, an exhibit on alcohol in American History which some of them had enjoyed recently at the National Archives, and the popularity of the chapter happy hours.

Many thanks to Jon Fiencke, the chapter’s Social Events Coordinator, for organizing the event, and for keeping up an exciting array of happy hours and dine-arounds for the chapter throughout the year in a variety of venues and locations. Keep an eye out for more to come!

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Celebrate DC/SLA’s 75th Jubilee

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Photos on flickr

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