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SLA: Some Personal Reflections

SLA: Some Personal Reflections

By Tom Rink, SLA President-Elect

So, why did I join SLA? This really wasn’t much of a decision . . . I joined SLA because they were a good fit for me at the time, a fit that I wasn’t finding through any other library association, a fit that has helped define me as an information professional, a fit that continues to this day. Fresh out of library school, I was asked to build a library from scratch in an industry that doesn’t normally have or value libraries. As a solo librarian, in a highly specialized and non-traditional setting, SLA provided me with an avenue for professional development as well as access to an amazing peer network that has proven its value to me time and again.

Much of my success in life, both personal and professional, I would attribute to my involvement with SLA. Regardless of the channel you select (chapter, division, caucus, association), SLA provides the opportunities to get involved by taking on leadership roles, by developing new/existing skill sets, and by expanding your network of colleagues. Every time I have said “yes” to SLA by agreeing to serve in some capacity or another, I have stepped outside my comfort zone to embrace an opportunity to grow and to give myself an opportunity to succeed. Volunteering and “giving back” to the association has provided me with a lot of value and satisfaction. For me, as well as for many of you I would imagine, it all started by attending programs and/or volunteering at the chapter level which offers an easy and non-threatening avenue for getting involved. The importance of having the accessibility of programming and peer contact with other professionals on a somewhat more “local” basis cannot be understated either. And while I am not currently a member of the DC Chapter, I have been a member from time to time, and I marvel continuously at the amount, the variety, and the quality of the programming and truly wish I lived in the area so that I could take advantage of this wonderful benefit. Beyond the chapter level, SLA offers the additional benefit of subject (or function-specific) divisions and caucuses which allow you the opportunity to connect or collaborate with colleagues at the subject-expertise level — a benefit that also cannot be understated and a benefit that I have valued for advice and guidance on numerous occasions in my career.

SLA is about continuous learning. Whether you are participating in a webinar (live or recorded), attending conference or local programs, reading Information Outlook, or networking/collaborating with colleagues (in-person or virtually), continuing education remains a hallmark of SLA. One of my most enjoyable learning activities was taking part in SLA’s 23 Things initiative – here it was, the 21st Century and I was woefully behind on my Web 2.0 technology and skills. I progressed through this self-paced and fun online course, developed my blog (http://guncarryinglibrarian.wordpress.com), got involved with Twitter (@coplibrarian), and learned so much about so many other tools and technologies. And, while I would never consider myself an “early adopter,” SLA provided the nudge (and the curriculum) I needed to get more up-to-speed technologically.

What I like most about SLA is the relationships/friendships that I have formed with an amazingly diverse set of information professionals from around the world. SLA is family, and regardless of where we gather (local events, annual conference, virtually), it is always welcoming, educational, and fun. We all have our own unique story and it is great to meet new people and to hear their individual stories.

Happy 75th Anniversary, DC!

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Much Depends on Dinner*

Much Depends on Dinner*

By Lois Ireland

I first joined SLA as a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I wandered away from SLA for a few years while working in a public library setting, but came back to it when I moved to the DC Metro area.

I wasn’t what you would call an active member. I attended some training sessions, took advantage of the Joint Spring Workshop, but still found myself pretty detached from other members. An introvert by nature (as so many of us are), I would go to the annual conference and find myself wondering “how do all these people know each other?”

Living and working in Northern Virginia presents a certain amount of isolation from the local DC chapter, as most events are held downtown. I finally took a stand, took a deep breath and decided to host a dine-around in Tysons, primarily so I wouldn’t have to drive so far. And it was easy. And people showed up and had a good time. I did it again. I actually had people asking me when I was going to do it again. I started to get to know other members, at local events and annual conference. That rather humble beginning and pretty easy task of picking out a restaurant and sending an email started me on a path that led to serving on the Board of Directors in several capacities, including chapter president.

My biggest regret? That I didn’t get involved sooner. I met more people in the 7 years since I first hosted that dine-around than I had in the prior 10, and I’ve grown to appreciate so many people I wouldn’t have otherwise crossed paths with in the course of my regular work and social life. Now when I go to conference, I actually know people.

You don’t need to be chapter president to get involved. There are committees that always need members. You can participate in a special project like the 75th anniversary, or you can contribute to community service projects. You can say ‘yes’ when someone asks you to help out, or participate in some other way.

You can always start with a dine-around.

*With apologies to Margaret Visser, Much Depends on Dinner: The Extraordinary History and Mythology, Allure and Obsessions, Perils and Taboos of an Ordinary Meal

[If you’re interested in getting involved, just email volunteer@dc.sla.org and we’ll tell you about upcoming volunteer opportunities.]

[Photo Credit: “dinner.” Yamanaka Tamaki. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.]

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Reflection – Creating Delight

Reflection – Creating Delight

Anne Caputo, DC/SLA President 2002-2003, SLA President 2010

Sometimes late at night, when sleep is elusive, I entertain myself by thinking about friends or family or colleagues and try to come up with a word or short phrase that describes the secret inner essence of that person, a kind of characteristic not always obvious. Recently I turned that thought process on myself. How would I describe my inner being, a kind of “words on my tombstone” or epitaph? And the result was to say my greatest pleasure is in creating delight. While there are many avenues one could use to accomplish this goal, SLA and my long association with it on the local and global stage has been one of the most rewarding.

Like many others, I was first brought to SLA by a colleague at work in the Silicon Valley back around, let us say, the time between the invention of Boolean Logic and the introduction of the personal computer. Like many have described, this first meeting was intimidating, overwhelming and somewhat confusing.  This was partially true because unlike most of the Bay Area Chapter members I was not working in a library but rather was one of the first members of the Lockheed team creating Dialog. This was not because working on information retrieval systems was my career goal but rather because there were truly no library-related jobs in California during this period. The SLA chapter members did not seem to mind my non-traditional job and I happily stepped into the grassroots level of SLA membership. Moving to the Washington area a couple of years later I found the DC Chapter to be a welcome entry point into the world of big national libraries, research institutions, not-for-profits, news, legal, government, academic, military, intellectual property libraries and other players, many them famous the world round. In a year or so I joined the adjunct faculty at the Catholic University of America and later the iSchool at the University of Maryland. These avenues provided many opportunities to create and receive delight from generations of students.

After 22 mostly great years at Dialog I joined the marketing team at Dow Jones and finished the last 15 years of my career managing the training team and the professional development efforts there. Nearly all of this time was spent in close association with SLA, both at the local chapter level and the global SLA membership.

Creating (and receiving) delight in these settings has meant three primary things to me,

  • The power of serendipity or realizing the unexpected. I’d never planned to join the ranks of commercial vendors when working on my graduate degree at San Jose State. The Dialog job came along at a time of stiff competition for any information-related job in a tight job market. I was offered the position as the 6th member of the original Dialog team because of a teaching background and experience in public speaking as a member of my high school debate team. Who knew a last-minute addition of that fact in the large blank space at the bottom of my resume would single me out from the rest of the applicants? Serendipity led me to that first SLA chapter meeting and later to the DC Chapter and all the rest. This career path allowed me to work for giants in the information field, people like Roger Summit at Dialog and Clare Hart at Dow Jones who formed and nurtured my abilities and in turn allowed me to pay it forward to others.
  • The power of sharing and serving. SLA has been one of the most successful paths to interacting, teaching, leading and sharing in a profession that has been so dear to me. Leading workshops, managing training programs, teaching in LIS settings, speaking before several thousand people at SLA conferences (yikes!), traveling to many parts of the globe to experience, learn and be inspired by others in our profession have created delight for me and, I hope, in turn inspired and delighted others. I especially love seeing students and others I have worked with assume leadership roles in their organizations and in professional associations like SLA.  As others have mentioned, my deepest professional relationships and friendships are with the talented, smart, creative and awesome people have worked with via my SLA connections. You have made my life rich indeed and continue to do so.
  • The power of something new. Every communication method in SLA’s arsenal, including conferences, chapter events, webinars, Information Outlook, blogs, wikis and one-on-one conversations have never failed to introduce new ideas, new technologies, new practices and new inspiration to me and to all of you. The old aphorism – “you get in proportion to what you give” – has never been truer than with all levels of SLA interaction. It’s inspiring to read other reflections and know this is just as true of members joining SLA now as it was for me at that long-ago meeting in San Francisco. After years of managing SLA exhibits for my employers, for leading and attending SLA Board meetings, or for presenting at professional development events it is a great pleasure now to just be a person warming the seats and listening to others. Learning something new continues to create delight.

Thank you SLA, and especially my beloved DC Chapter, for the opportunity to be a part of all of this.  Thank you for the rich and abiding friendships you have provided, for the inspiration and delight you have given me and for the opportunity you have so graciously offered to allow me to share that delight with others.

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Reflection – Learning and Growing on the Job

Reflection – Learning and Growing on the Job

By Marilyn Bromley, DC Chapter President 1992-1993

After I graduated from library school at Catholic University, I landed my first professional library job at a consulting firm on K Street. It was a one-person library, and the previous occupant left the country my first week on the job. It was sink or swim time, folks!

The consulting firm hired college students as research associates, and like today, they don’t always come out of college with everything they need to know. I was new, they were new, and we all had to learn on the job every day. My education had trained me well, despite being green, and from the start I knew the value of what we librarians brought to the table. Funny story: my first search terminal (oh how long ago) was a Texas Instrument Silent 700, with acoustic couplers and a roll of thermal paper (see this museum piece here). I had done a long involved search on Medline for an RA, and the thermal paper rolled out the Library door and into the hall. When he came to pick up his search results he looked at it and said “but you didn’t fold this for me.” I replied: “I do the searching; you do the folding!”

My consulting firm had substantial research needs that couldn’t be met with the small, un-cataloged collection in my 20×30 foot library.  I needed to become an interlibrary loan wizard, stat!  So what did I do? I joined SLA and the DC Chapter and started to network like mad. Once you meet someone face-to-face (F2F) it’s a lot easier to call them up and wheedle something out of their collection – usually some government report or even harder, a $2k industry report written by some other Beltway Bandit!

My mother was a volunteer queen, and soon my fellow DC/SLAers were calling on me for Advisory Council/Committee roles and then elected office. In the coming years I served as Corresponding Secretary, CE chair, Chapter Treasurer (twice), Director, First VP, President, and Past President.  I also got involved in the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Library Council, the Washington DC LSCA Committee (at DCPL), and the CAPCON Library Network Board of Trustees.

But SLA and the DC Chapter were my first loves and always have been. I’ve made many dear friends and colleagues, learned so much, had so much fun, worked and worried so hard and it has all been worth it! Let’s continue our work to help SLA be the best information association it can be, for those we serve and for ourselves.

This is longer than I expected, so I’ll end with some:

Highlights from my Chapter presidential year

On August 10, 1992 the Chapter IT group held a program on the Internet.

That same month we made a request to SLA for funds to microfilm 50 years of Chapter Notes (our request was denied).

To manage our vibrant student loan program, it was decided that the Chapter 2nd year director would assume the duties of Chapter loan officer.

The October meeting was held at Brookings on strategic planning.

SLA considered a name change to ISLISA (International Special Libraries and Information Services Association).

David Shumaker continued his work on another edition of the Washington Area Library Directory, which was published in January 1993.

The Chapter’s 1991 Long Range Plan was reviewed by the Board and Advisory Council, and it was agreed that the most important goal was to “promote improved compensation and enhanced status for SLA members; Promote [the] concept that special librarians are key players in an information society.” Plus ça change…

As of September 30, 1992, the Chapter had 1,044 members. Later in the year we approved our ninth Chapter group.

The Chapter’s November program was a talk by Mary Ellen Bates on expanding library services by out-sourcing. Again, plus ça change….

The Holiday Reception was held at Blossoms restaurant at the Old Post Office in conjunction with DCLA.

At the January 1993 Board Meeting, I announced that I had Internet and Compuserv addresses.

The New Member Reception was held February 17, 1993 at SLA Headquarters on 18th Street NW.

At the February Board Meeting, a representative of Heisman Fine Arts Gallery made a presentation on the art auction as a fundraising method. We held our auction October 16, 1993 with the proceeds going to our Student Loan Fund.

The University of Maryland SLA Student Group was founded in March- Dr. Eileen Abels and Dr. Paul Wasserman, sponsors.

In March, during the blizzard of 1993, members spent Sunday afternoon at WETA answering phones during their Winter/Spring? Fundraiser. Because the rest of the population was house-bound, we helped raise over $25,000.

The Joint Spring Workshop was on the topic of maximizing user satisfaction.

The Chapter banquet was held May 19 at a hotel in Friendship Heights; the speaker was Sarah Booth Conroy, Washington Post staff writer.

A new Chapter logo was designed and stationary (!) printed.

Chapter Member of the Year was Mary Feldman; the Board of Directors award went to Chapter Notes editors and business managers Penny Heavner, Mary Nell Bryant, Peggy Garvin and Jeanne Hamilton.

In June at the SLA conference in Cincinnati, Roger Haley was awarded the John Cotton Dana award.

[Photo credit: National Network of Libraries of Medicine, Pacific NW Region]

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Reflection: Rubbing Elbows With Giants

Reflection: Rubbing Elbows With Giants

By Susan Fifer Canby, Vice President Emeritus, National Geographic Society

When I reflect on DCSLA, so many names and faces of colleagues and friends flood my memory. I had the opportunity to know and work with some of the Giants of our profession. It worries me a bit to write these reflections, knowing I will leave people out given space constraints. Hopefully you will appreciate that this is a personal highly macro level reflection.

Like many of us, I was brought to my first DCSLA meeting by a friend and mentor, Gene Kubal (Pentagon Library) in early 1975.  At subsequent meetings, I looked forward to getting acquainted with other leaders of our profession. Typically they came to chapter meetings and/or the division meetings.  When I first joined DCSLA, having just been hired by Virginia Carter Hills (National Geographic Society), I learned that the Society’s second librarian, Esther Manion, had been a charter member of the G&M Division, and I started there. I met and worked with Richard Stevenson (LOC) who later taught me two map librarianship courses at Catholic University and I recruited him to help edit “A Geographical Bibliography for American Libraries” with famed geographer, Chauncy Harris. I volunteered to write articles for the GM Division Bulletin long time editor Mary Murphy (Army Map Service).  The G&M Division was a vibrant unit, and I got my first opportunity to lead there…as vice chair and then chair of the DC chapter.

Another vibrant DCSLA group was the News Division thanks to all the news organizations in town. It was there I first met and collaborated with future Hall of Fame winners Cathy Jones (CRS) and Donna Scheeder (LOC), who would lead DCSLA and SLA and even taking on IFLA. I also enjoyed joining in Austria the late Hall of Famer Barbara Semonche (UNC) when we were selected as Knight Fellows for the Salzburg Global Seminar for a session on “Libraries for the 21st Century.”

And of course I enjoyed rooming for many years at SLA Conferences with my great friend Anne Caputo (Dow Jones), also a past president of SLA as well as DCSLA.

Looking back, it seems that each person who stepped forward to lead DCSLA took on larger and larger roles, not only in my life but in our profession. It was a great pleasure to work with so many great leaders of our ranks.

DCSLA provides an easy and excellent opportunity to network with the leaders in our profession. Even then it takes stepping up to a leadership role yourself to enable you to actually work with people who inspire you. Thank you for this opportunity to remember some happy early days with DCSLA and to serve as one of your past presidents.

[Photo Credit: “2012 06 14 – 2845 – DC – Flag Day” by thisisbossi, under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0]

[You can read other chapter member Reflections here]

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