SLA: An International Community – Jill Strand, Candidate for President-Elect

Although most of our membership is in North America, SLA members hail from 50-plus countries.  Each year at the annual conference I am amazed that colleagues from India, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Australia and Europe travel so far and at such a great expense to attend.  It speaks to the need we all have for community and our shared identity as librarians and information professionals.

Several units are actively engaged in international outreach.  For example, the Legal Division’s International Relations Committee regularly describes differences in the legal landscape in other countries on their blog, newsletter and discussion list.  Divisions such as Business & Finance and Leadership & Management partner with international chapters to offer travel awards that help members from other countries to attend the annual conference.

As President-Elect I’d like to see SLA broaden and build upon these efforts by creating more opportunities to learn from and cultivate new relationships with members outside of North America.  Here are some ways we could get started:

  • Encourage units to partner on web presentations or blog posts that focus on different types of libraries, roles, and viewpoints of members outside of North America.  For example, a member in France may well have a different take on e-books than a member in Japan. This would give us insights into issues we have in common while also educating us on cultural differences.
  • Recognizing the tremendous travel costs to attend the annual conference for members outside of North America,  smaller units might join together to offer travel stipends.
  • Continue to highlight the activities of international chapters and members through blog posts or features in Information Outlook or the International Information Exchange Caucus on LinkedIn where members could connect and ask questions.  One example of this was sharing a video of the Arabian Gulf Conference during the closing session of the 2012 conference.
  • Explore and expand the Virtual Conference, maybe even creating a special panel of members outside of North America discussing a typical day in their library and taking questions submitted in advance from attendees or live via Twitter.

These are just some of the goals we could pursue to make members outside of North America feel a  more integral part of the Association.  Here are some others from our international colleagues:

  • Sushma Aurora of the Asian Chapter suggested exploring collaboration with international library associations and library schools.
  • Geraldine Clement-Stoneham of SLA Europe suggested encouraging more international members to speak and present at the conference and take on division leadership positions.
  • Mohamed Mubarak, President of the Arabian Gulf Chapter would like to see a new award that recognizes the achievements of international chapters and members.
  • Sonya Donoghue of the Australia / New Zealand Chapter said that she wants to be “an ordinary member of SLA International, not just an international member of SLA.”

Our members outside of North America greatly enrich the SLA community.  By seeing things from a different perspective we can deepen our sense of connection with one another.  Please share what you think of these ideas and what you might add to the mix – / Twitter – @jillinfopro


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