‘Revolutionary’ Conference Encourages Inquiry, Learning
SLA 2015 Draws 3,000-plus to Boston to Discuss Change, Learn New Skills and Ideas
Alexandria, Virginia, 29 June 2015—Meeting in the city that served as the hub of the American colonists’ revolt against the British monarchy, librarians and information professionals from around the world debated whether to take a few revolutionary actions themselves in the coming months.
The 3,002 information professionals and exhibitors at the Special Libraries Association’s 2015 Annual Conference & INFO-EXPO, held June 14-16 in Boston, had unprecedented opportunities to learn, network, and explore and especially to inquire. Throughout the three-day conference, attendees were encouraged to talk among themselves and with SLA leaders about far-reaching proposals to change the association’s structure, business practices, and revenue models. The Annual Business Meeting, in a departure from the scripted speeches of previous years, used a town hall format to allow attendees to ask SLA leaders about association initiatives and finances. Although the business meeting was held late in the afternoon on the final day of the conference, it drew a standing-room-only crowd.
“I have been attending SLA Annual Conferences since 2003, and never have I felt the passion and intensity that I experienced in Boston,” wrote SLA 2015 President Jill Strand in a post-conference e-mail to association members. “There was a palpable sense that we are on the verge of a new era, and that revolutionary thinking and actions will create a brighter future for us.”
Opening keynote speaker Leigh Gallagher, an assistant managing editor and columnist at Fortune magazine, set the tone for the conference by describing the changing information landscape and envisioning new roles and opportunities for librarians and information professionals. Closing speaker Kim Dority, a consultant and author of Rethinking Information Work: A Career Guide for Librarians and Other Information Professionals, drew on insights presented at the conference and recent research findings on personal resilience and adaptability to create a framework for information professionals to develop career improvisation skills. In between, nearly 200 educational sessions, business meetings, and networking events kept attendees busy absorbing new ideas, making and strengthening connections, learning about innovative products and services, and sharing experiences.
In keeping with the conference’s “Be Revolutionary” theme, two new types of presentation formats—Master Classes, which covered topics geared toward management- and executive-level professionals, and Crescendo Sessions, which started with the basics of a topic and ended with advanced material—were offered to accommodate attendees’ different information needs and learning styles. Quick Takes, 15-minute overviews of topics ranging from using Twitter for legal research to researching private companies, were offered as well after proving popular at the SLA 2014 Annual Conference in Vancouver.
Awards and Honors
Prior to the opening keynote address, SLA honored 13 members for their past achievements and promise of professional excellence:
- John Cotton Dana Award: Margie Hlava
- SLA Hall of Fame: Jim Matarazzo and Ethel Salonen
- SLA Fellows: Amy Affelt, Praveen Kumar (P.K.) Jain, Janice Keeler, Tracy Z. Maleeff, and Mohamed Mubarak
- Rose Vormelker Award: Tom Nielsen and Rebecca Vargha
- SLA Rising Stars: Christine Coughlan, Kathleen Lehman, and Susmita Chakraborty
Immediately after the awards presentation and opening address, SLA President Jill Strand cut a ribbon to mark the opening of the INFO-EXPO, where 165 vendors showcased their products and services for attendees. Some of the exhibiting vendors also sponsored key events and services during the conference and were recognized at the opening session for their support:
- Platinum Conference Partner: The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET)
- Gold Conference Partners: Dow Jones and LexisNexis
- Silver Conference Partners: Law360, The New York Times Corporate Digital Solutions, and ProQuest
Conference Registrants: 1,739
Exhibits-Only Registrants: 352
Total Exhibit Hall Attendance: 2,091
Exhibits Personnel: 911
TOTAL ATTENDANCE: 3,002
Following the conference, attendees were surveyed about their conference experience. Preliminary results include the following:
- 91 percent of attendees reported being “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their conference experience; and
- 80 percent indicated that the top reason they attend is the networking opportunities (networking was rated highest among all conference features listed).
The Special Libraries Association (SLA) is a nonprofit international organization for innovative information professionals and their strategic partners. SLA serves information professionals in more than 60 countries and in a range of working environments, including business, academia and government agencies. SLA promotes and strengthens its members through learning, advocacy and networking initiatives. For more information, visit sla.org.
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