Posted on July 20, 2015.
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:
- Market yourself to your organization and colleagues.
- Use metrics to quantify what you do for the organization.
- Stay ahead of the curve.
- Offer high-end research products / go “artisanal” with your services.
- 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.
Next, 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?”
David 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.
Chris 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.
Elaina 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.]
DC/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.