Candidate for 2018 President-Elect: Hal Kirkwood
Hal first joined SLA in 1992, and currently is president of the Indiana Chapter. He was previously a member of the Upstate New York Chapter. He was heavily involved when the Indiana Chapter hosted the Indianapolis Conference. Hal was the very first webmaster for both the Business & Finance Division and the Indiana Chapter. Serving in that capacity for over 5 years in the Business & Finance Division. He also took on the role of Mentor Chair for several years in the Business & Finance Division. He then chaired or co-chaired the College & University Business Librarians Roundtable (later Section) developing content for several annual conferences. In 2007, Hal served as the chair of the Business & Finance Division and coordinated all of the sessions, receptions, continuing education courses, and tour for the Denver Annual Conference.
He served as Director on the Board of Directors from 2012 – 2014, specifically involved with the Finance Committee and as chair of the Conference Re-envisioning Task Force. The Conference Re-envisioning Task Force developed an extensive report that analyzed the current state of conferences and made numerous recommendations to strengthen the SLA Annual Conference for the benefit of the members.
Hal’s experience as an information professional spans 24 years. He was initially a Business Librarian at the State University of New York @ Geneseo. Later becoming the Information Technology Librarian at SUNY @ Geneseo. He then jumped to Purdue University where he has held several different titles. Currently he is Associate Professor and Business Information Specialist at the Roland G. Parrish Library of Management & Economics at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. In this role, Hal is involved with an extension business information literacy instruction program that reaches both graduates and undergraduates in the School of Management, School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, School of Agricultural Economics, the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship, and numerous other departments that require business information support. He was a key member of the team that completed a major renovation of the library’s space to become a showcase for the modern academic business library.
Prior to this Hal received his M.L.I.S. from the University of South Carolina @ Columbia in 1992. He received his B.A. in History and Political Science from Indiana University @ Bloomington in 1990.
Hal has written extensively with articles and columns appearing in Online, Online Searcher, Library Journal, the Bulletin of the Business & Finance Division, Serials Librarian, and the Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship. He has presented at Online World, Computers in Libraries, Internet Librarian, International Internet Librarian, AACSB Annual Conference, and the Special Libraries Association Annual Conference.
A key focus of SLA is providing support, and a home, for the varied information professionals that are not adequately represented in other associations. It is this diversity that creates such value within SLA. Given the continuing development and expansion of the information and knowledge economy this continues to be an opportunity for SLA to reach out to these new information professionals.
Question 1: When did you first join SLA? What made you decide to join then and why do you still belong today?
As a student pursuing my MLIS at the University of South Carolina, I had the honor of working with Prof Bob Williams who was very supportive of the Special Libraries Association. He signed out a university van and took about 7 of us on a road trip to the Cincinnati SLA Conference in the summer of 1993, I think. The entire group was blown away by the variety of sessions, the incredible networking with librarians, researchers, and information professionals, the extensive exhibit hall, and the division receptions and vendor parties. It really did open up a whole new world for us as we later started to seek employment after graduation.
I joined at that point because of the diversity of experiences and careers, and the comradery of everyone I met. The entire conference was an amazing and enlightening experience of professional development and networking. Even at this early stage of my professional career, before I started my first job as a business librarian, I was drawn to the Business & Finance Division. There are still several people that I am friends with since that very first year. I continued my involvement with the B&F Division serving in a variety of roles. SLA remained a valuable resource and a place to, professionally, call home, meeting colleagues and friends every year at the annual conference.
I have remained a member because I believe in the profession of special librarianship and in SLA as a key resource and voice for the profession. There is no other organization that spans the diverse organizations, information centers, and special libraries. The incredible variety of expertise and experiences makes it an extremely valuable group of colleagues to associate, communicate, and collaborate with for both personal and professional development. I very much want to continue to build and strengthen SLA for the future.
Question 2: How has involvement with SLA over the years helped you grow professionally and personally? How do you feel SLA can help members grow into the future?
SLA has been, and continues to be, my professional family. Personally, I have developed friendships with colleagues that have lasted years. It continues to have a significant impact on my growth in so many ways. I started out as a newbie librarian serving on a panel discussion at the Montreal conference. I grew professionally by overcoming my fear of presenting in front of a group. I grew by discovering that I had something worthwhile to share with my fellow librarians.
I have served in a variety of roles and developed numerous professional relationships. As the first webmaster for the Business & Finance Division I learned how to manage long term projects. I also learned how it is never too early in your career to take a chance and make an impact. It was this activity that led to my being recruited by Purdue University and the start of a 20 year career.
As chair of the College & Business Librarians Roundtable I learned how to communicate with other colleagues to identify potential speakers for conference sessions. This led to a collaboration with a colleague where we presented several pre-conference workshops for several consecutive conferences.
As chair of the Business & Finance Division I coordinated the sessions, meetings, and receptions for the division at that year’s annual conference. This involved coordinating dozens of B&F members, collaborating with other divisions, communicating with conference planners, and negotiating with business partners for sponsorships. I grew by developing relationships with information professionals across the spectrum of position and library types.
This led to my nomination and election as a Director on the Board of Directors. Serving on the BoD helped me grow a much broader perspective of the profession and the association’s role within it. Serving as chair of the Conference Re-envisioning Task Force and on the Finance Committee helped me grow in my understanding of the scale and complications of running an annual conference. I also developed a stronger understanding of the associations finances and how they impact, and are impacted by, the membership.
SLA can help members grow into the future by providing access to career search and development resources. SLA must support the career development of its membership to aid each individual member along their career path, while at the same time benefiting from the strengthening of the profession.
SLA can help members grow into the future by providing opportunities for leadership. SLA can serve as a parallel source, to one’s actual job, for leadership opportunities within the units, with association-wide task forces, and at the Board of Directors. Association-level leadership opportunities can provide significant value to further one’s career, especially if similar opportunities are not as readily available at a place of employment.
SLA can help members grow into the future by providing access to a group of experts and colleagues that can support their professional practice and development. I have found SLA members are always willing to provide assistance and support when fellow members are in need of assistance. You are not alone when you have all of SLA backing you up.
Question 3: SLA’s membership has been in decline for the last couple of years; what can the board, staff, leadership and membership do to reverse this trend?
In the recent movie, Dunkirk, about the rescue of the British Expeditionary Force from mainland Europe, the movie is shot in a unique visual style where 3 primary characters are tracked at different points in time. A soldier is tracked for a week, a citizen-sailor is tracked for a day, and a pilot is tracked for an hour. As the movie progresses the characters all begin to converge toward the conclusion… resolving the situations they are in… and moving the broader story along. In subtle ways, the characters all cross paths and interact with each other. Who these individuals are is not specifically important, it is their connection to the broader story. It is that they are ‘every man’ or ‘any man’. Each in their own way they illuminate a facet of a story that most everyone has some concept of from history.
I bring this up to make the leap to SLA and its membership. We are all the characters in a broader story as members of SLA and as information professionals. There is the ‘what’ that the Board, staff, leadership, and membership can do to attempt to reverse this trend. Once the ‘what’ is determined then the ‘how’ can be debated, determined, decided and there will come from this a plan. But there have been many plans with varying degrees of success because we are not starting at the right point.
We must start with ‘why’. Why the Special Libraries Association? Why become a member? Why become involved?
I believe in the purpose of the association to bring people together regardless of employer, job, rank, ethnicity, gender, or geography. Despite these differences, we still accomplish similar work, we still overcome similar challenges, and we still speak a common language. I believe in our shared interests in this incredible, engaging, exciting information profession. I believe in the vision that is the Special Libraries Association to bring information professionals together to communicate, to share, to connect.
To move forward, SLA must tell its broader story in a way that connects with the characters…with the members… that shows our value… that shows our purpose. If we can show the ‘why’ then the ‘how’ and the ‘what’ will follow because people will care… they will commit… their time, and their effort.
So ‘how’ and ‘what’ can we do? We must create increased value for our members through the delivery of excellent resources, applications, and services. We must identify what provides the members value that they cannot get anywhere else, and we must deliver this with excellence. The technological environment we live in makes some historic aspects of association membership obsolete so we must change and adapt to create a story that people value and want to be a part of.
The Board, the leadership, the staff, the vendor partners, and the members all have roles to play for our mutual benefit. Early career members seek networking and leadership training and opportunities. Often, they seek social and societal opportunities to improve the world around them, in addition to improving their own career development. Mid-career members seek opportunities to grow their experience and exposure through training and certifications; and by creating opportunities to publish content which can be leveraged for their benefit and for SLA’s benefit. Late career members seek relevant expertise for solving their bigger problems and for dealing with the new challenges on the horizon, while bringing their own expertise to share. The conference must continue to iterate and innovate to bring current and relevant content to the membership. Continuing to utilize a dynamic program selection process that promotes inter-unit collaboration and diversity of sessions is desirable. Seeking information professionals in positions that may not see SLA as their home is crucial to our survival and future growth. Information professionals in corporate settings, academic settings, scientific organization settings must all be targeted to see SLA as the place they belong professionally. It is this professional diversity that has been a singular strength of the Special Libraries Association. We must all be able to explain what the value of membership in SLA is that cannot be acquired elsewhere.
Returning to our story of Dunkirk, we each come to SLA at different points in time in our career for our own individual reasons to accomplish our own individual tasks, as part of the broader story, the broader organization. We can converge together for ourselves, and for the profession, to cross paths and interact with each other. We are ‘every man’ or ‘any woman’ illuminating a facet of this complex profession. We can’t start with ‘what’ to do, or ‘how’ to do it… until we all realize that ‘why’ is where we must start.
Question 4: SLA relies on its leadership to develop its vision to move forward. What motivates you to help lead and build a better SLA?
My motivation to help lead and build a better SLA is based on the concept the pieces and parts together make a more powerful whole. Individually we are all professionals, accomplishing varied and great things in our jobs. We are striving to make an impact on those around us by providing resources, services, instruction, and expertise in the constantly changing and challenging information profession.
For me it is much more than just the job. From the very beginning of my career when my advisor, Bob Williams at the University of South Carolina’s LIS program, checked out a university van and took a group of not-yet-baby-librarian grad students to their first Annual Conference in Cincinnati. We were exposed to ‘The Profession’ in countless ways; vendor parties, division & chapter open houses, panel discussions, keynote speakers, and incredible networking, just to list a few. I belonged to something when I became a member of SLA. I could feel and see that this mattered, that our profession mattered.
After that trip to my first SLA as a grad student, I continued to pursue involvement when and where I could, by presenting on a panel; suggesting that the Business &Finance Division needed a web site in the early days of the World Wide Web (and thus being thrust into creating and running it!), by volunteering to chair the College & Business Librarians Roundtable, by assisting with the local chapter preparations for the Indianapolis Conference, by accepting to chair the Business & Finance Division, by running and being elected to the Board of Directors as a Director, and now being asked to run for President of SLA.
SLA has been through some very challenging times over the last few years, as have many associations. I was involved in the discussions and negotiations and the problem-solving that took place to get SLA moving in the right direction. The increased competition of networking and social media tools has made some aspects of associations unnecessary or redundant. However, I strongly believe in the value of membership in a professional association. There is tremendous value and opportunity to reach information professionals for their benefit and for the benefit of the association.
Along this path over my career I have benefited from the opportunities, the interactions, and the expertise available across SLA. I have tried to give back my own expertise and experiences, to engage and connect with new and old members, and to represent the association whenever and wherever I can.
These are the things that motivate me to help lead SLA. These are the things that motivate me to build a better SLA. We all belong, and I want to build an SLA that attracts information professionals that want to belong to something bigger. SLA is something bigger.