SLA Roles Helped Build My Career – Valerie Perry, Candidate for Director
Question 4: How has involvement with SLA over the years helped you grow professionally and personally?
I am Valerie Perry and I am a candidate for Director.
In San Diego at the 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 vendor 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, Sci Tech Treasurer and Sci Tech Business Manager.
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 FAN and 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 professionals available whenever I need assistance with a new challenge.