By Megan Smith
It seems like every time I hit a pivotal moment in my career, SLA is lurking in the background with exactly what I need to move forward. Here are five examples of how SLA rocked my world just when I needed it.
I returned to the library world after five years in a non-traditional job and SLA got me back on track
I took a non-traditional job in research administration while I was finishing up my last semester in library school. Although I found the job rewarding and was still able to use many of the skills I learned in school, I wanted to return to working in libraries for the same reasons many of us go to library school: to serve a community and provide access to information.
After five years in research administration, I found a job in an association library and quickly discovered that I had failed to keep up on trends in library and archives. I attended my first SLA annual conference in 2011 in Philadelphia and was blown away by how much had changed since I was in school. I remember feeling so inspired after the conference by the ways librarians were innovating their services. The big take-aways for me were to think outside the box and always demonstrate your value. Applying these two things set me on a career path that has been extremely rewarding.
My association restructured and SLA helped me define my role in the new organization
Only two years after starting work in my current organization, we underwent a major restructuring. I was moved out of the library and into our public policy area. It wasn’t clear what my new role would be and I viewed this as a major sink-or-swim moment. Around the same time, I was reading an issue of Information Outlook and came across the SLA 2011 contributed paper, “Communicating Value through Strategic Alignment.” The article motivated me to draft a value statement for the services I could provide and create a proposal to conduct an information needs assessment for the public policy unit. My manager and leadership appreciated this proactive approach and gave me approval for the project. I figured out how to do the needs assessment by reading more articles in Information Outlook, the result of which was the formalization of me as an embedded librarian in the association and the opportunity to develop new customized services for staff.
I was appointed to lead a staff workgroup on metrics and SLA had just the webinar I needed
The only way to describe this moment was serendipity. One of our association vice presidents asked me to lead a staff workgroup that would create a standard process to report metrics for continuous quality improvement and demonstrating value. I was excited about the opportunity but really scared about how I was going to lead a team and accomplish this goal. Like magic, an e-mail came through the SLA listserv advertising a free webinar titled, “Metrics 101: Proving Your Value.” I registered right away and was not disappointed. It was the perfect primer on metrics and exactly what I needed to lead the workgroup. I was able to use what I learned to educate the team and set up process for the group to accomplish our goals.
I needed training in knowledge management and SLA’s KMKS certificate was the perfect solution
I was always interested in the theory of knowledge management but really struggled with how you put it into practice. I decided that this was an area I wanted to focus on for my professional development and enrolled in SLA’s Knowledge Management and Knowledge Services Certificate courses. The entire program gave me the language and framework to describe what I was already doing, what I wanted to do, and how I was going to do it. It gave me a way to talk to non-librarians in a language they understand and demonstrate how librarians can help an organization achieve its goals. Which brings me to my last example…
My CEO asked me what I thought state of the art knowledge services would look like and I was ready
After five years of professional development and growth with SLA, I found myself in a meeting with my CEO explaining how Knowledge Services has helped the organization and what we might be able to do moving forward. At the end of my presentation he asked me what I thought state of the art knowledge services would look like and gave me two weeks to think about it. I went back to my office, took everything I learned through SLA, and put it into a concept map (something I picked up from an SLA webinar). Then I pulled it all together and presented it to him. Could I have done that in two weeks without SLA?
Today, I am that association’s Manager of Knowledge Services and knowledge management has become one of the association’s top priorities. I thank SLA for that.
[You can read other chapter member Reflections here]