Candidate Question #3
Candidate Q & A
The candidates will be asked a series of questions by President-elect Jill Strand. Read their candid thoughts about the future of SLA and the information profession.
Question 3: How has involvement with SLA over the years helped you grow professionally and personally?
Candidates for President-elect
My involvement with SLA has helped me to grow by giving me opportunities to broaden my experience beyond what my day to day work provided, and allowing me to view the world and the profession from new perspectives.
One of the first of these opportunities was serving as the Academic Division’s Communication and Social Media Chair. I’d thought myself reasonably social media savvy, but putting out interesting and engaging content for the Division gave me the opportunity to expand beyond my previous work, especially while keeping up with events at the Annual Conference and Leadership Summit. The responsibility prompted me to try out new social media networks, and determine which of the available multitude was worth our time and our content. Not unrelated to the aforementioned multitude, I also got more experience with recruitment by bringing colleagues in to serve on the Division’s Communication and Social Media Committee.
SLA has also given me opportunities to view familiar issues from new perspectives. In Chicago in 2012, I taught a Continuing Education course on digital repositories best practices. It’s a workshop I’ve run or co-run a number of times, but usually to a small room of academic librarians. This time, though, I was presenting to more than forty information professionals, most of whom were from the private sector. It meant I had to put aside my assumptions and expectations, ask a lot of questions, and really listen to the answers so I could make sure that the course would be truly valuable to the attendees and their organizations. It was challenging, but it ended up being one of the most engaging workshops I’ve run. Everyone, including myself, returned to their workplace with powerful ideas to implement.
Taking on the position of president-elect for the Upstate New York Chapter gave me the opportunity to develop a new skill set in event planning. Preparing a program, organizing speakers, and arranging locations all expanded and enhanced my personal and professional capabilities. I’m happy to say that the conference we put on that year connected our members with powerful perspectives on the profession.
When I assumed the role of chapter president the following year, my focus turned more towards the internal workings of the chapter. It was not only my responsibility to keep the board on track, but also to make sure that we were moving forward and making the chapter experience better for its members and its leaders. That meant helping coordinate a chapter member survey, keeping the membership abreast of developments on the Association level — as well as making sure that their thoughts and concerns were heard by the SLA Board and the Chapter Cabinet — and updating our reimbursement policies to make sure that future leaders would get financial support from the Chapter when attending the Annual Conference and Leadership Summit. It was important that such policies be sustainable, so I included a mandatory financial assessment that must be performed before the reimbursement policy can be extended past its third year.
SLA has also helped me meet people at every level who I could look to for guidance in meeting the challenges I faced. Whether they were serving on committees or boards with me, or sitting in a workshop asking questions that made me think about issues in new ways, SLA members have provided significant support to my professional and personal development. That development has paid dividends in my work at Cornell, be it managing my library’s Twitter feed, connecting with constituents from a wide variety of backgrounds, planning events as chair of the Reference and Outreach Committee, or running the Digital Projects Group. SLA has provided wonderful support for my growth as a professional, as it has for so many others, and I know that it will continue to do so.
SLA excels at creating occasions for growth by providing a completely safe learning environment coupled with a variety of opportunities for volunteering. In a member-driven organization comprised of numerous levels (chapter, division, caucus, association), there is always a unit or committee in need of some help. All that is required is a willingness on your part. Getting involved is as simple as asking “How can I help?” Or, by just being open to saying “yes” when asked to serve. I have been saying “yes” to SLA for many years . . . to parody a quotation by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, How have you [SLA] helped me? Let me count the ways.
Volunteering within the association has certainly allowed me to gain experience and develop a whole host of leadership and other skill sets. Regardless of the role – unit leader; committee/advisory council/task force member/chair; board member; etc. – SLA continues to provide me with stretch opportunities. Yes, there were times when I felt a little overwhelmed. But I quickly realized that help would always be available from the talented and experienced HQ staff and other leaders, colleagues, mentors, etc., and I was able to conquer the initial angst of these new roles/responsibilities, step outside my comfort zone, and take on the challenges. They have all been great learning experiences. SLA is a very nurturing organization; they want us to succeed and they will do everything within their power to help us succeed.
Mentoring has often times taken place behind the scenes, but this in no way diminishes the importance it has played in my professional and personal growth. My SLA mentors have offered encouragement, support, and counseling to me over the years and I consider myself quite fortunate to have had such valuable resources on which to rely.
Networking is one of the hallmarks of the association. Whether face-to-face via Annual Conferences, at local meetings, or virtually via email, discussion lists, and social media, SLA has introduced me to the world. The ability to network and build relationships with members and colleagues from around the world has been invaluable.
Collaborating is closely related to networking and provides for the “group-think” capability of the membership to exploit the collective wisdom when working toward innovative and creative solutions to the challenges of the day. Working on and chairing committees has certain taught me the importance of, and the need for, being able to work as a team toward a common goal.
Lifelong learning is made possible through a variety of channels. I have taken advantage of several: live and recorded webinars, continuing education courses at Annual Conferences, leadership training at Leadership Summits, reading articles from Information Outlook, and an introduction to Web 2.0 via SLA’s 23 Things, to name a few.
The opportunities for growth through SLA are limitless; all we have to do is engage with the association and invest in ourselves, our careers, and our futures.
Candidates for Chapter Cabinet Chair-Elect
From exploring and adopting new skills, to taking on progressively more demanding leadership positions, SLA offers me many opportunities to grow and succeed professionally. On a personal level, the leadership roles within SLA have helped me step out of my comfort zone by developing 1) the self-confidence to speak extemporaneously to previously unknown groups and, 2) the willingness to take on new challenges.
I have acquired new skills and learned innovative ways to accomplish projects from SLA conference presentations, chapter programs, division webinars, and conferring with fellow association colleagues. Most recently, I have overseen the redesign and launch of the UCLA Law School website, and one of the key aspects of this multi-faceted project has been the requirement that it meet the latest accessibility standards. During the latest SLA conference in Vancouver, I participated in a Speed Geeks technology session and was able to sit with a fellow presenter and learn about important resources for ensuring web accessibility and better understand required and desired functionalities.
From committee work, to serving as President of SLA Southern California, to running for Chapter Cabinet Chair-Elect of the association, SLA has provided me with more opportunities to lead than any of the positions that I have held professionally. And these leadership opportunities have helped develop my confidence and level of self-assurance so that I successfully applied for my current position of Web Services Librarian which continues to expand and stretch my skills. Without the skills and new ways of looking at our professional world provided by SLA, I am certain that I would not be in my current position.
And personally, SLA has gotten me out of a shell in which an innate shyness held me back from speaking with individuals whom I’d never met. It has also inspired me to face challenges which in the past might have seemed daunting but now are simply chances to learn and acquire more knowledge.
At the SLA Annual Conference this past June in beautiful Vancouver, BC, my friend and fellow SLA member, Brandy King, was part of a roster of speakers who delivered some great thoughts for the closing session. Brandy’s talk was entitled “Navigating Borders So You Can Have It All”, where she described how she approaches work and family responsibilities to achieve a winning combination that is uniquely hers.
Brandy’s perspective resonated with me, since I spend a great deal of time creating my own winning work-family combination. You may notice I do not use the word “balance” here–and that is intentional. I believe that many of us try too hard to achieve this elusive thing called balance, when instead we should create a mixture of work and family that is nimble and that can be adjusted for all the changes life brings.
SLA has played a significant role in how I approach both work and family, because so many of my SLA colleagues are also my friends. As colleagues we share common professional goals, and we also share similar family responsibilities. The learning I have gained from the leaders I look up to includes their leadership style in their organizations as well as how they succeed as parents to young children, how they deal with aging parents, and support siblings and cousins. We are all finding our own distinctive paths on our way to the next promotion, while putting our families first. For every individual, the journey is unique.
In a volunteer-driven organization like SLA, we place value in what we give and receive; as life ebbs and flows with tight deadlines and big achievements, deaths and births, and family challenges and celebrations, I am confident every single one of us has been fortunate to receive a helping hand from a fellow member when needed, and we do the same for others. We band together for strength in tough times and gather together to celebrate our achievements.
We are a close-knit community of people with big hearts and generous souls. Perhaps this is what makes SLA so important to us, and why we are so passionate about our association: the fact that our work together is characterized not just by who we are as professionals, but that our commitment to one another resides in the blurry territory in-between work and family. In many ways, my SLA colleagues have become part of my extended family, and I know many of you would agree. In this way, SLA is part of what helps me “have it all”: a rewarding career and loving family, each a priority that is always pushing and pulling, and that in the end, works.
Candidates for Division Cabinet Chair-Elect
SLA helped me right out of the gate! I went out West (far West, to Hawaii) right after being freshly minted as a new librarian (like, 10 days after), to set up a research library for a new observatory. It was at that point that I realized how much I didn’t learn in library school – where do you get those little stickers you put on spines? Who do you actually order books from? Were library cards still used? How do you keep track of your items when you have no money for an OPAC in your budget? My fellow observatory librarians – all members of the Physics-Astronomy-Math division, who had welcomed me warmly into the fold – were godsends.
Once I got my feet under me at my new job, I started feeling my way into being more active in SLA, starting small by moderating a session at Annual. As my confidence grew, I volunteered for more. At that point, as the webmaster for both PAM and my job, any time I learned something from one, I could apply it to the other. This turned into a type of feedback loop that I took as much advantage of as I could.
I firmly believe that my activities in SLA helped me land a new observatory job when the one in Hawaii evolved into something new. Being able to show that I could handle those types of responsibilities in addition to my work tasks was a great value. In these past years, I have continued the feedback loop. Being PAM’s Chair-Elect and Conference Planner reaped me many patience points I was previously lacking, which helped tremendously with a big software migration happening at work at the same time. Being the IT Secretary really taught me to pay much closer attention to side comments in meetings, as they often came with additional tasks. And working on the 2013 Annual Conference Advisory Committee let me bring some of my Excel geekiness to SLA, and take new tricks I learned from Caroline at HQ back to work.
Each iteration of my activities at SLA have been mirrored by increased responsibilities at my workplace. My supervisors see my work and activities in SLA as being very valuable, and my confidence in my place inside the overall workflow of the observatory has allowed me to take steps with SLA I couldn’t take before – such as standing for the Board. Every one of these things, plus each interaction with a fellow SLA member, benefited me personally as well. I have made new and lasting friends through SLA – people I would never have met otherwise, and who brighten my life immeasurably. Any way you look at it, it’s worked out well for me!
I am Valerie Perry and I am a candidate for Division Cabinet Chair-Elect.
In San Diego at the 2013 Annual Conference, I was asked frequently why I wanted to be on the SLA Board. The first time I was asked, I thought for a moment and then explained that SLA has helped me to grow as a professional through the opportunities to lead, network and learn. I had gained much through my involvement and I wanted to give back to the Association and members who have provided me with wonderful opportunities to grow into the information professional and administrator I am today. While I do believe serving is a form of giving, serving is also a practical way to meet other professionals and learn new skills.
I joined SLA in 1998 because of the warmth and inclusiveness that I felt at my first Kentucky Chapter meeting. It was held at the American Printing House for the Blind, which I had never visited nor realized that they had a library. Immediately I began learning about the many different types of libraries and information professionals that work in Kentucky and beyond. By the second meeting, I was elected as chapter secretary and began a productive, long-term involvement with SLA in a number of different roles. With each role I gained new skills, many of which have been transferrable to current or future jobs. In my Kentucky Chapter officer, including President, and committee roles, I have learned how to write strategic plans, increase fundraising, plan regular meetings, collaborate on a multi-day regional conference, lead the chapter, mentor fellow members including students and delegate chapter business as needed.
In my Food, Agriculture and Nutrition (FAN) Division, I began with the role of fundraiser which was completely out of my comfort zone. However, I quickly learned that our business partners are easy to meet, and that finding common goals was not as difficult as I had expected. Serving as FAN Chair helped me become a more effective leader and communicator since we only meet face-to-face at the annual conference. I learned the importance of communicating clearly, defining roles, and developing a nurturing collaborative culture to help build future leadership in the division. I have been fortunate to serve in many Division roles including FAN Program Planner, Science-Technology Division Treasurer and Sci-Tech News Business Manager.
Now that I am serving on the SLA Board this year completing Ann Koopman’s unexpired term as Division Cabinet Past Chair, I have learned more about SLA, its units and our members. Through my Board liaison roles with multiple chapters and divisions of which I am not a member of I have learned first-hand about unit and member needs such as how to revitalize a small chapter and chart a new course for its future, or how a large active division can become more re-engaged with its members. I have been able to share my past experiences to help these units as well as learn from them. In one of my Board conference roles I met with several new business partners to hear about their exhibit experiences and understand how we can improve our relationships with them. As a Board member this year, I have gained a breadth of understanding about the impact of SLA and shared in making important decisions about the future of our organization.
In all of these roles, I have developed skills which have contributed directly to my career successes. My SLA service experiences helped me to develop professionally, build my vita for promotions to the ranks of tenured and full professor. They have also provided me with leadership opportunities and valuable administrative experience. I have drawn on my leadership experience in SLA experience as I have moved from Agriculture Librarian, to heading the Agricultural Information Center and finally to serving as Director for eight branch libraries at the University of Kentucky. As a valued bonus, I have gained an excellent network of information professional colleagues available whenever I need assistance with a new challenge.
Candidates for Director (Two will be elected)
Having attended the SLA conference since 1996 SLA has been part of most of my professional life and as such has played a tremendous part in helping me grow as a professional and also personally. As noted in my first post I heard about SLA in the early 90’s but did not join until 1995 when I noticed an e-mail group I was in (Buslib), had many members of SLA. The sense of willingness to help fellow members and the ability of those members to answer all sorts of difficult and interesting questions was part of the reason I joined. I decided that if a group such as this could help me in the position I held, then what could an organisation that contained so many other specialised groups do for me both professionally and personally.
The greatest help SLA has given me professionally are many. Firstly, the networks I have developed over the years I have been involved with SLA have been invaluable to me. Having been a member, of a number of different divisions has meant gaining access to a vast array of fellow professionals who are involved in the same areas and the ability to tap into their expertise. Whether this is through the various electronic media that SLA members use to communicate with each other or at conference, the conversations or contacts I have had with SLA members have always added to my professional knowledge and thus have helped me grow in any of the positions I have had. When faced with a difficult problem or reference question to be able to reach out to such a vast network of fellow professionals for help has proven its value time and again.
Secondly, the conference itself has always been a tremendous help to me professionally and personally. The sessions I’ve attended have let me listen to a wide variety of fellow professionals and have given me insights into issues that we all face and learning how they have dealt with them. Also the personal networks and friendships that have been begun and strengthened at conference have proven invaluable to me over the years.
Thirdly volunteering for the various divisions in various capacities has further helped me grow as a professional. Being involved in the running of divisions and also in the organising of conference sessions has proven invaluable in helping me to understand what is needed to become a better leader and what it takes to organise conference sessions from afar.
Lastly while a member in a chapter and many divisions far from other members, I have never felt that distance has been an issue in belonging to SLA. Yes distance can be a challenge, but with today’s technology and the conference the willingness of members to be connected to each other from both a professional and personal point of view I have never really felt a disconnect from my fellow SLA members. One of the current pushes of the SLA board is that we are all one SLA. While it is good to hear that articulated I have to admit in all my years a member of SLA this is something I have always felt. SLA has always been my natural home and whether it was in old days when most communication was done via e-mail or today’s social media the gulf between myself here in New Zealand and other members has always been very minor.
Dr. Saif Al-Jabri
It is a universal rule that involvement results, at the very least, in experience. When I attended the SLA –AGC conference for the first time in 1995, I found this event to be very useful for me. I could not attend the following conferences at that time because of my studies abroad, but when I returned home I was involved in organizing the 7th annual conference in Muscat in 1999. In 2005 I joined the SLA –AGC board as president-elect; that was my first experience ever on a professional association board. I worked for one year preparing for the 11th conference and heading the organization committee. I realize now that this involvement gave me the chance to prove myself and provided me with a great experience in all aspects of conference organizing. Although I delegated the main tasks to other colleagues on the organizing committee, I still found myself doing bits of everything. I really can say that this experience developed my leadership abilities, and the conference was a great success. Some of our colleagues from other countries still refer to it as one of the most successful conferences in the history of SLA –AGC.
This experience helped me afterwards in leading the SLA –AGC in the following years. I worked with SLA headquarters to bring the chapter back to SLA, increased the membership and established more involvement by the chapter board in SLA. Experience gained from my first work on the SLA -AGC board gave me the courage to stand for other positions in other professional boards both locally and internationally. Involvement with SLA has increased the number of friends and colleagues I have and extended my network not only in the Arabian Gulf region, but worldwide.
Elaine Lasda Bergman
SLA has been essential to my development as an information professional since my first special library appointment in 2001. As the newly hired solo librarian in a health-related trade association/lobbying organization, it was vital for me to remain connected to other librarians in specialized and corporate capacities to get a sense of how to move my own organization’s library forward, make it adaptable and remain of value to the greater organization.
With the help of SLA’s publications, website and our semiannual Upstate New York Chapter meetings, I was able to stay current in areas of interest to my organization such as competitive intelligence, knowledge management, project management and other issues that allowed me to provide a framework upon which to launch new project initiatives for the library. Even on a very simple level, adopting techniques learned from SLA programs and Information Outlook articles which covered internet searching tips and tricks back in 2000-2001 made me very popular in my organization right off the bat!
I once heard someone in SLA state that our organization focuses more on personal professional development than any other library organization. I believe this is not only true, but also one of SLA’s greatest benefits when compared to other library associations. As special (or specialized) librarians and info pros, our subject knowledge may be diverse, but we can all come together to learn from experts and share our experiences in effectively serving our customer/patron/user base, demonstrating value to our organizations and users, promoting our skills, raising the profiles of our units and ourselves within our enterprise.
All of this great content from our conferences, webinars, meetings, publications, etc. merely scratches the surface of professional and personal growth opportunities through SLA. It is through collegiality, networking and interaction with other SLA members where real growth happens. A few years ago, SLA leaders released a five point strategic agenda which included offering “richer volunteer experiences” for members. Active involvement and leadership service in SLA units can help serve as our own personal “laboratory” to try out a burgeoning skill or “flex a muscle” that is not being used in one’s current paid position.
Participation and involvement in SLA at various levels has given me the ability to practice the skills I would like to acquire for both career and personal reasons. Because of SLA, I’ve learned how to read balance sheets and financial statements (through paying attention at board and cabinet meetings). I now know how to use a web content management system (through SLA’s adoption of Word Press). I’ve learned strategies for achieving consensus on group decisions (through leading chapter and division board meetings). Most recently, SLA has given me experience navigating organizational procedure to create something new – our brand, shiny, new Data Caucus! I know whatever SLA task I take on will develop and enhance skills which I can use to move forward on both personal and professional goals.
At this point in my career, I’m the director of an academic library. There is no doubt my involvement in SLA helped my advancement in my field. What I learned in SLA translated directly to my professional life.
What skills and attitudes did I develop through SLA?
- quick decision analysis
- vision development
- strategic planning
- robust communication skills
- meetings and events management
- agenda development
- argument and persuasion techniques
- talk with and present to large groups of people
- professional mentorship of future leaders
- work with new technology
- sponsor development
- minutes taking
- professional publication writing
All in all, SLA helped me gain confidence in my skills and capabilities.
Through SLA I learned about advancements and trends in our profession through attending the conference and rubbing elbows with my peers. Chance meetings often led to professional sharing and techniques that I could take back to my work environment.
From time to time, I hear academic librarians report their supervisor doesn’t consider SLA a “valid” professional association. That their activity in SLA could not count as “service” for the promotion and tenure process. Usually it is because it isn’t their supervisor’s own association. That saddens me.
As an administrator, I’d rather bring a diversity of experience and viewpoints to the table. Where better than SLA then, with our mix of work environments and international vision? When my personnel gets involved in a professional association, serve on a committee, or develops a presentation, I know their work improves our library. When I learn of a new SLA member wants to become involved in a unit, I know it will make our association progress.
I know that their work with SLA will help us in the short and, hopefully long term, but the greatest growth will be their own.
I know that because it happened to me and to so many people I’ve met at SLA.
By serving the association it turns out I was also serving myself. Plus serving is also a way of giving back for what I have received. That’s why I’m running for the SLA Board of Directors.
Any large business structure consists of several units, and local teams are formed in each department who are competing with each other. Spy app can play a key role in this struggle.