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Event Recap: Business Information Finder’s Lunch @ Websearch University

Event Recap: Business Information Finder’s Lunch @ Websearch University

By Kerry Martin

On Friday, September 18th, five information professionals took a break from Websearch University to meet over lunch with the Business Information Finders (BIF) group. Peggy Braly, of the Export-Import Bank, who organized the meeting, started off by giving us a brief background of the group. BIF is an informal group of information professionals whose interests include business and economic data and sources. BIF is made up of special, public, & academic librarians, information brokers, analysts, publishers, vendors, and general researchers. BIF events are free and open to the public. If you are interested in BIF, please email Peggy (Peggybraly57@gmail.com). You can sign up for the BIF listserv here: http://list.wrlc.org/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/bif-l

Over lunch we discussed the various roles we perform in our different libraries and information centers. As many information professionals have experienced over the past decade or so, Peggy Braly described how her role has changed over the years. Margaret Metcalf and Kerry Martin, of CEB, discussed their recent e-learning success as well as the challenges of working in a 24/7 global organization. Angela Titone, of the Consumer Electronics Association, shared her experience of having staff members eager for library training. Becky Steinhardt, formerly of Target Corporation, gave us a look into the online digital asset management of a major retailer. As always, it’s nice to discuss current issues, challenges, and successes with like-minded information professionals.

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SLA Presidential Candidates Share Their Thoughts On The Future Of The Association

SLA Presidential Candidates Share Their Thoughts On The Future Of The Association

DC/SLA held a “Meet the Candidates Happy Hour” recently, where the spotlight was on SLA presidential candidates Karen Reczek and Dee Magnoni. Dee and Karen agreed in advance that they wanted to talk to the group about four topics regarding the future of SLA. After some yummy appetizers and libations at Continental Pool Lounge, we took our conversation outside due to the noise level in the place. Karen and Dee wanted to be able to hear and be heard! They took turns sharing their thoughts and they listened to member feedback and questions. The four topics were:

In an effort to summarize the discussion, the candidates were kind enough to write up their thoughts on these topics. These are sure to be common themes in the upcoming September Board of Directors election. You can see the candidates’ answers to other questions here.

Topic 1: SLA’s Competencies and Professional Development

Dee Magnoni:
Do. Learn. Repeat. Professional development has been a core focus of mine from my earliest involvement in SLA. I began with chapter programming and a member survey, understanding that member feedback and engagement is critical to success. I twice served on SLA’s Professional Development Advisory Council, once as chair. When SLA’s Competencies were revised in 2003, I was one of the authors, and I blogged about their importance this past February. Once again the competencies are being revised, and I urge every SLA member to take part. Applying skills-based development in the workplace is a strategic management tool. This year I pulled together a team within the Los Alamos National Lab Research Library to analyze competencies and apply them across our team. We are taking two approaches. First, by creating a competency grid, staff members will be able to gain depth in a competency by working their way across the grid or they may learn a new competency by working down the grid. Second, by creating a staff competency database, new teams can be formed using a skills-based approach. My focus on development continues. I am the current professional development chair of the Leadership and Management Division. I am also chairing the Volunteer Experience Task Force (VETF). When putting together an August webinar on mentoring, I decided to crowdsource speakers. The result is a fantastic line-up of a dozen speakers and participants who will share vignettes and how-to’s in a rapid-fire, high impact format. Through the VETF we’ve decided to turn this into a series: Voices of the Information Professional. Once again I’ll be reaching out to members to find topics, volunteers, speakers. Together we take action, we learn, we repeat.

Karen Reczek: I will generalize, and say, as a profession, we struggle to articulate our value. I believe our competencies are what distinguish us from other employees in the workforce.  Our competencies are our value-add. As we know, the SLA Competencies document is from 2003 and is in desperate need of an update. I am thrilled to know that DC’s very own David Shumaker has stepped up to lead this Task Force that has been struggling for a few years with the “latest revision.” I strongly believe that SLA’s professional development opportunities should be tied to those competencies. LMD has been trying to take that approach with the existing competencies document and applying relevant skills to the Leadership & Management Division (LMD) conference sessions, and webinars.  I would love to see every SLA webinar, program slot and continuing education course be tied to developing a critical competency. If it doesn’t map, then maybe we shouldn’t offer it.

Topic 2: SLA changes and how to engage members as we move forward

Dee Magnoni: On a recent Board of Directors’ call, a Roadmap for engagement and change was approved. Directors urged members to roll up their sleeves and help move the roadmap and the Association forward. How can we do this? What first steps can be taken? The May release of the recommendations from the change consultants launched a debate amongst members and units that has rarely been paralleled in SLA history. Members shared views across lists, and chapters and divisions created responses and plans. I published my own early plan on my blog, and provide an outline of my vision in the final question. Building on this initial momentum, members and units can now consider specific questions. What business models should we consider? What are their pros and cons, and are there hybrids that might work for regions or subject areas? What pilots can be tried? At what level? The chapter? The division? The caucus? Across the Association? What about the conference? From my chapter visits I know that our members have forward-looking, creative ideas. Gather ideas to specific questions. Choose a few to pilot. Experiment, then implement successes. Continue with pilots in other areas. The Volunteer Experience Task Force (VETF) that I chair polled Cabinet members on priorities and directions. The response was phenomenal, and the taskforce will be working with members on stated priorities. This same cycle of engage, pilot and implement should be paralleled at the Board and Association level. Yes, SLA is at a critical time in its history. Specific answers to financial questions must be found sooner rather than later. Our finance committee is hard at work in this area, and is considering every aspect of the budget and the sale of our building. In the past, units have voluntarily supported specific financial initiatives of the association. We are seeing similar offers of support once again. Beyond the finances, we need to work toward a business model that represents our core values and our core uniqueness. I contend that our strength and our uniqueness are in our units. Membership is largely driven by areas of expertise and geographic locations. Let us work together to define the business model that supports this many-units to many-members structure.

Karen Reczek: I think there are two things vital to SLA turning itself around.

1) Support from its members – their ideas, reactions, and contributions. I can’t help but feel we are not very good at having the difficult conversations. In the Board Roadmap report it was noted that the Consultants’ report seems to have gotten this much needed conversation started. 2) SLA needs a better process for the intake of member ideas, for the input of member feedback, and for making decisions that are consensus based. I have spent a lot of time recently communicating and educating forensic practitioners on the US documentary consensus standards development process. It’s a process that brings a variety of stakeholders together and makes them agree on “something.”  Consensus doesn’t mean unanimity but means that people can “live with it.” I think SLA has a lot of passionate stakeholders. We need a better process to reach consensus. I say that – without a solution. But I have been thinking about it a lot!

Topic 3: What is your leadership philosophy?

Dee Magnoni: My leadership philosophy stems from my engagement with SLA and with community organizations, and through my work experience. I am mission-driven, and tie the work of my group or unit to that of the organization and the needs of its customers or members.  I learned early on that people want to be part of a solution, and will work hard toward organizational success when they help create the plan. I am an open leader. I want to hear ideas. At Los Alamos any of my 30+ staff members can come to me with their thoughts and feedback. If I were to close my door I would miss the heartbeat of the organization. I am a communicative leader. Communication is key to trust. In addition to an open door for my staff, I communicate back to them through team leaders, group messages and staff meetings. Over the course of this year, as a Board candidate, I visited several chapters and made site visits to hear perspectives and concerns, and to share ideas. I am inclusive; I look for partnership opportunities and build relationships. Several times during visits I heard about the importance of mentoring. SLA had a mentoring list years ago that I started as part of a diversity initiative. With the help of SLA staff I re-instituted the list, and sent an invitation to the Leadership list and to all past Rose L. Vormelker award winners. The list grew to more than seventy members in less than two months. Volunteers from the list will be working together to present a mentoring webinar in August. I am a responsive leader. I listen, then do. I imagine with a group, then create. I chair the Data Working Group at Los Alamos, made up of Lab data stakeholders — from big science, small science, high performance computing, IT, finance, to the research library and beyond. When we convened in August 2014, I held a brainstorming session for ideas. We then prioritized ideas, and created subgroups for the chief priorities. These subgroups created mandates and implemented projects. As we head into year two, we will evaluate progress and set new directions. I like to learn the lessons of other industries and apply creative solutions to current challenges. The taxi industry, for example, is being turned on its head through Uber. What lessons does this many-to-many business model hold for SLA? What ideas do you have to share?

Karen Reczek: I believe a good leader has:

  • Having a vision and being able to communicate that vision is critical. You need to inspire and motivate around a shared sense of purpose.
  • Communication is still a top-rated skill when it comes to leadership effectiveness. All relationships thrive with clear and regular communication.
  • The Ability to Create Value. A good leader adds value and making those around them better. What do you have to contribute? How do you create value for your organization?
  • Comfort with Ambiguity. Some say change is the only constant. The ability to navigate change – and handle ambiguity – is a critical skill for today’s leaders.
  • The ability to work effectively with others is important to good leadership. Today, leaders might benefit from thinking of themselves as being in the center of a web rather than on top of a pyramid. Lead by influence, not by command.
  • A good leader needs to able to navigate the formal and informal influences. Leaders must listen and take in both the negative and positive opinions, and ensure that all stakeholders feel heard. A good leader will aim to reach consensus, accept that this is not always possible, but continue to strive for it.

Ruth Kneale shared a recent article from Forbes with the SLA Open Board. The article was called Leadership is in crisis management mode by Glenn Llopis.  There isn’t enough room here to share the main points, so I encourage folks to read it, as it speaks to some of the current challenges confronting SLA leaders.

Topic 4: Vision for the future

Dee Magnoni: Looking at the broad business landscape, I see disruption in many centralized businesses and industries. An old business model is taking new form. Micro businesses are working through centrally branded platforms to connect to their customers. Examples? Look no further than:

These many-to-many infrastructures each offer products or services that customers want. We can apply this model to SLA. Our units offer volunteer opportunities, networking and professional development to their members through the SLA brand and platform. Many join SLA for a specific division or geographic region. SLA is benefiting from its units, as the units benefit from SLA. This synergy is critical, and must be remembered in planning. Our international outreach and impact succeeds through the initiatives of our global members, our staff, and our vendor partners. All members benefit from this broad perspective, and once again we must remember this strength as we create our future association. The financial infrastructure of many-to-many businesses should be modeled and considered for SLA. Turning from our member and unit structure, SLA’s dues structure is another core discussion that must be opened and thought through. One idea is to flatten our current tiers. This would, indeed, simplify our current structure. I contend that we should consider adding options to our tiers. For example, many members join several divisions. Why not offer a “museum pass” model where five divisions can be joined for the price of three? The core division would receive the full allotment, and sub-divisions would receive a partial allotment. What of our organizational memberships? Are they delivering value to information centers and employees? Let’s investigate this option and its benefits. Some members work across a number of industries, travel broadly, and are just plain curious. Let’s create the Golden Ticket. This super category would include membership to every chapter and division, along with other distinct benefits. SLA’s annual conference generates its largest revenue. Is the current model for soliciting programming still working? Are we getting the most cutting edge work from our emerging voices? How do we find them? As one DC member suggested, let’s turn conference programming into a competitive evaluation process. What tools would we need to accomplish this change? Let’s work together to explore this and our many other ideas for SLA’s future.

I want to thank the Board and members of the DC chapter for the opportunity to visit, to listen and to share ideas that will help us create SLA’s future.

Karen Reczek: I see a future SLA that has:

  • Greater transparency
  • More business rigor
  • Improved communication with members
    • Maybe, SLA should establish Ombudsman roles?
  • Implemented partnerships with other organizations/international orgs who share our “mission” and values
  • Established a non-paid advisory board of non-information professionals (marketing, IT, CEOs, researchers, etc.) to bring a fresh outside perspective.
  • Explored new revenue streams, new services, etc. through pilot projects and prototypes and then iterations to improve them; Pilots that will have been tested on small target groups and “debugged” before wider release.
  • Identified other conference themes or events to attract a broader market
    • SLA could partner with media or innovation lab e.g., like when we were in Boston, there is the MIT Media Lab. This could be a “be the first to know” type event, a must see! Come see the next best thing! We could have entrepreneurs showcase new technologies and keynotes from these companies/orgs. They might even pay us to let them participate.

Most of all, I see a future SLA that is more responsive to its changing environment than it has been in the past. An association that is ready to pivot as soon as the data shows it’s necessary. One that is continually identifying new business opportunity gaps. I see an SLA that continues to bring value to its members.

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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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Celebrate DC/SLA’s 75th Jubilee

DC/SLA Tweets

Photos on flickr