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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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Event Recap: The Right to Be Forgotten and Other Hot Topics in EU and U.S. Privacy and Security

Event Recap: The Right to Be Forgotten and Other Hot Topics in EU and U.S. Privacy and Security

By Carol Abrams

 Carol Abrams is earning her MIS degree at the University of Tennessee.

If you’ve ever been inundated with online ads for products you’ve just searched for then you know the feeling. Don Aplin, the senior legal editor of Bloomberg BNA’s Privacy & Security Law Report, used the phrase “the “ick” factor” to describe a common reaction we have when companies know too much about us. Aplin gave a relatable and vivid lunch-time briefing about privacy and data security to a group from DC/SLA.

Aplin’s point is that we have come to accept many things that once disturbed us. Our attitudes about and expectations for privacy change, and often shift as quickly as technology does.

Two agencies, the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission, can act when companies violate their stated privacy policies. Uber’s daring response to potential sanction was to issue a policy that says it will use customer data however it wants! In Aplin’s words, customers must strike a “Devil’s bargain” with Uber in exchange for a ride.

Aplin then talked about large-scale data breaches in the United States. Hackers who know how lucrative stolen personal information can be — combined with lax data security — have compromised people’s information. Many of us have been on the receiving end of letters from institutions like Target and Anthem advising us to change our passwords and sign-up for free credit monitoring (Aplin recommends that we do both).

Data breaches aren’t our only vulnerability. Emerging technology creates new areas for exploitation. Big data and the “Internet of Things,” (think about smart thermostats, connected cars that collect and transmit data outside the vehicle, and hubs that control multiple home appliances and alarms) set off their own “ick” factor alarms. Forbes.com reported on a study that determined that the majority of connected devices could be easy targets because of weak passwords standards, lack of encryption, or poor user interface. In addition, many companies, including those in healthcare, are collecting as much customer information as they can in the hope that some of it will prove useful. Alpin expressed skepticism that even the best-intentioned companies could – or would – keep data anonymous (or pseudonymous) 100% of the time.

Aplin then shifted the discussion from the U.S. to Europe, where European Union privacy regulators have implemented major privacy reform initiatives. Foremost is the landmark European Court of Justice’s “right to be forgotten” ruling. This is meant to impede the public’s ability to use search engines to discover potentially damaging information about individuals. The court ruled that individuals have “the right to silence on past events in life that are no longer occurring.” In practice, what this means is that Google and other search engines with EU domain names must remove links to data detrimental to individuals when that data is no longer relevant. Aplin emphasized that the original material remains online; it is the search engine link to the offending information that is deleted. About one million EU citizens per year are requesting that links to their information be removed.

By contrast, in the U.S., the public’s right to know typically outweighs an individual’s ability to limit access to derogatory information. Please note that this refers to information that is accurate and true. Both Europe and the U.S. protect individuals from defamation.

Aplin concluded by noting how uncomfortable Edward Snowden’s revelations about U.S. surveillance have made the Europeans. In addition, the EU has expressed concerns about the ability of U.S companies to adequately ensure the privacy of personal data transferred out of the EU.

Aplin recommends that people in the library community turn to associations such as the American Association of Law Libraries to learn more about privacy and data security issues.


Thank you to Layla Heimlich, who organized the event on behalf of SLA, and the event’s host, Michael Bernier, the director of library relations for Bloomberg BNA.


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TED Talks Curated by DC/SLA Past Presidents

TED Talks Curated by DC/SLA Past Presidents

By Jan Zastrow

More than 20 members and friends convened for the DC/SLA 75th Jubilee program at Drexel University’s DC office the evening of Tuesday, May 5. The program was unusual, and I hope the first of many more:  three illustrious past presidents from our chapter—Lyle Minter, Anne Caputo and Marie Kaddell—introduced specially selected TED talks (that’s Technology/Entertainment/Design) that we watched as a group and then discussed how they might relate to InfoPros. TED talks started way back in 1984 (who knew?) and their motto is “Ideas Worth Spreading”—and indeed they are!

Eileen Deegan introduced the speakers after a special shout-out to Drexel for again hosting us in its beautiful digs (the view of the White House from the rooftop is awesome!) with thanks to Sharon Lenius, for organizing this creative Jubilee event.

IMG_0559First up was Anne Caputo (DC/SLA President 2002-2003; SLA President 2010), who chose Susan Cain’s talk titled “The Power of Introverts” (2012) because many in our field are indeed introverted. That just means you gain energy and refuel by spending time alone—not that you‘re unsociable or don’t like people! Cain believes there’s a bias in our society toward extroverts. Introverts need a quiet, contemplative environment in order to create. Nowadays, the “ideal student” is thought to be an extrovert even though introverts get better grades! At work introverts are not really seen as leaders despite many historical examples such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Gandhi. A few lucky folks are “ambiverts”—in the middle of the spectrum—but that’s rare in our culture. Western society has always valued the “man of action” over the “man of solitude” and our contemporary society emphasizes personality over character. How can we turn this around? Cain suggested we:

  • “Stop the madness” for constant group work. We need much more privacy, freedom and introspection at both school and work;
  • “Go to the wilderness” as did religious leaders of yore who would retreat for insight and inspiration. A modern-day equivalent: unplug your devices and get inside your own head for a while;
  • Learn what’s important to you, what you “carry around in your suitcase,” i.e. your bag, your interests, your passion—whether that’s books, skydiving or …. champagne glasses!

IMG_0564Next came Lyle Minter (DC/SLA President 1993-1994), who chose “Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe,” by Simon Sinek (2014). Sinek pondered why some people are willing to risk their lives for others. He claims it comes from the necessity for a feeling of trust and cooperation based on prehistoric days when humans came together for protection from danger. Today it’s the same in the business world—good leaders make sacrifices so their staffs can thrive. Minter used a flipchart to note our comments as to what that means for us: our staff should feel valued and receive positive feedback/acknowledgement; there should be good “customer service” both for our patrons and in our interactions with one another;  and a sense that we’ve” got each other’s back” and are working toward a common cause.


Last but certainly not least was Marie Kaddell (DC/SLA President 2013), who generously filled in for Mary Talley (DC/SLA President 2011) who was unable to attend.  This intriguing talk by Brian Dettmer was titled “Old Books Reborn As Art” (2014), and it really got our crowd talking! Dettmer cuts up books to make art—they literally become 3D sculptures. Amazing … beautiful … but a little disconcerting to see our beloved tomes “bowdlerized” (look it up! :) ) We tend to think of books as a kind of body, as a technology, as a tool. Dettmer uses them as landscape, carving through the pages with an X-Acto knife to reveal pictures and highlight text. While he doesn’t think the book will ever die, he says it will change and become “freer” now that so much information is available in digital formats. He thinks the book of the future will be an art form, saying it could “lose its day job” and become something else

Many in the audience admitted to feeling a twinge seeing these books sliced up, but since Dettmer was using obsolete reference books such as old dictionaries and encyclopedias we mostly liked the result. One of us even posited that maybe that’s what books were always meant to be … and it just took us five centuries to figure it out! All these TED talks and many more—over 1,000—can be viewed at www.ted.com.

Finally, details of our 75th Jubilee Gala were announced by current DC/SLA President Deena Adelman: save Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, for a celebratory feast at Maggiano’s Little Italy in Friendship Heights.  Hope to see you all there … and certainly before!

Jan Zastrow
DC/SLA Communications Team

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