2013: Adapting to Challenges, Adding New Benefits

Members of the SLA Community,

Earlier this month, I traveled to Huntsville, Alabama, at the invitation of SLA’s Military Libraries Division to attend their 60th anniversary workshop and dinner. The theme of their workshop was “Resiliency and Adaptability,” and I told them I thought it had become a theme of sorts for us at SLA headquarters as well.

The financial challenges facing SLA and our members have forced all of us at headquarters to adapt to an environment with fewer resources available to meet growing expectations. Today’s information professionals must be agile and responsive to meet the needs of their organizations and customers, and they expect SLA to provide them with the tools they need to do their jobs well. So, even as we were tightening our belts at headquarters, we launched several new features and benefits this year to help our members become more valuable and productive.

In April, for example, we launched a redesigned Website that is more user-friendly and less cluttered (both in appearance and content) than its predecessor. The new sla.org was designed from the start to be a working tool for busy information professionals, not a warehouse of meeting minutes and research reports that document the history of the association. With action-based menu buttons such as Learn and Attend, the Website quickly links you to the programs and services you want. Over time, we will make some relevant historical content available as well.

In January, we debuted a digital magazine designed to better serve a membership that increasingly conducts both its business and personal matters online. The digital version, which mirrors the look of the previous printed publication, is the first step in the transformation of Information Outlook from a static, one-way information vehicle to an interactive, mobile-friendly professional development tool.

At SLA 2013, we introduced a compressed conference format that helped hold down costs for attendees while still delivering content of comparable volume and quality. The learning-packed three-day schedule, which will be repeated in Vancouver in 2014 and Boston in 2015, allowed attendees to do more in less time, reduce hotel expenses, and minimize time away from the office.

In September, we presented a virtual conference that provided attendees with fresh takes on some of the most successful, pertinent sessions from SLA 2013. The two-day event, which featured live presentations on topics such as best practices in competitive intelligence and strategies for enabling decision making, equipped attendees with knowledge and insights they could put to use right away.

Throughout 2013, we hosted popular and thought-provoking Twitter chats that take advantage of SLA’s global membership by encouraging participation from information professionals around the globe. The chats (#SLAtalk) address topics such as job hunting and career growth, measuring success, and providing access in an era of ever-changing information.

These new services and benefits are evidence of our ongoing commitment to meeting and anticipating the needs of a diverse and evolving profession. The coming year will bring more improvements, including one or more “special editions” of Information Outlook focusing on a single topic that cuts across job roles and work environments. These editions will contain shorter “how to” articles than regular issues of the magazine and will serve as go-to reference pieces for new and experienced librarians and information professionals alike.

We will also present “Spotlight Series” presentations at SLA 2014 that will build on the individual “Spotlight Sessions” from past conferences. The presentations will address three themes—embedded information services, digital content and big data, and leadership in the human age—that are designed to reflect trends and issues of high interest to conference attendees and their organizations. Also at SLA 2014, we will launch “Quick Takes,” which are short but intense 15-minute learning sessions on a variety of topics.

Early next year, we will be sending out our every-member survey to help gauge interest in other kinds of new benefits and programs we can offer. The survey answers will help guide our decisions, so be sure to respond to the survey and make your voice heard.

As we roll out these new offerings, we will also be adapting to another challenge—relocating our offices. As most of you know, the SLA Board of Directors voted recently to sell our headquarters building, which has much more space than we need today. We are hiring a commercial real estate agency to assist us with the sale, and over the next few months we’ll be packing up boxes and preparing to move into new space that better meets our needs. The sale of the building will no doubt create some uncertainty in our headquarters operations, but we will do all we can to minimize any potential service disruptions.

Selling the building will free up needed funds to invest where they can create more value for SLA members. One priority will be to work with our chapters and divisions to grow our membership and create new networking and professional development opportunities. The findings of the SLA Loyalty Project pilot study, in which six chapters worked with a consultant to identify ways to strengthen relationships with members, chapter leaders, sponsors, vendors, and “outside” communities, will help guide us in this endeavor.

The building sale and other challenges facing headquarters staff cannot and will not deter us from looking for new opportunities to help make SLA a partner in your professional success. We hope that, in the year ahead, you will take advantage of all of the many opportunities SLA membership has to offer.

Janice Lachance

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