Final Day of SLA2020 Highlights Visibility, Relationships

For many people, 2020—the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, of social distancing, of remote working and schooling—cannot end soon enough. For attendees of SLA’s 2020 Annual Conference, on the other hand, 2020 might be ending before they’re ready for 2021.

SLA President Tara Murray Grove opened the conference on October 5 with a challenge to attendees to “try new things, open new doors, take new risks, and create new memories.” Eleven days, 100-plus education sessions, two keynote presentations, and dozens of networking events, product demonstrations, and business meetings later, many attendees probably had concluded that they face additional challenges—to quickly build new relationships (and strengthen existing ones) and raise their visibility so they’re positioned to take advantage of opportunities that arise in the months ahead.

That message was driven home by closing keynote speaker Debra Jasper, founder and CEO of Mindset Digital, a firm that helps employers and employees better communicate and connect. Starting from the premise that virtual networks matter more than ever in a distanced world, she devoted her presentation to showing attendees how to use LinkedIn to “power up” their online presence.

“What most of you are sharing on LinkedIn is your resume—your history at your organization, maybe how long you’ve been in business, your biggest achievements, your awards,” she said. “What do most people really want to know? We look you up and ask, Do we want to work with you? Do we like you? Are you credible? How can you help us? If we can say yes to those things, that increases your visibility and your influence in big ways.

“Your LinkedIn profile is a microsite of you,” she said. “At the end of the day, your profile should make you look like an influencer.”

David Golan, chief sales officer at Lucidea, the diamond sponsor of SLA2020, reinforced the value of building and strengthening relationships in a presentation on the “next normal” for special libraries.

“You need to prioritize and reimagine your library’s relationships with your users,” he said. “It’s becoming more difficult to create relationships with users now that we’re all working in a virtual and remote environment. Librarians have to develop skills in self-promotion and marketing so there’s awareness of the services and deliverables you can provide. . . You can’t afford to be out of sight and out of mind.”

The emphasis on building and strengthening relationships and heightening visibility, whether of librarians or their libraries or information centers, permeated SLA2020, as evidenced by the following session titles:

  • Triple Threat Collaboration: Librarian, Occupational Therapist and Graphic Designer Join Forces to Address Health Literacy in the City
  • Taking Communication and Collaboration to the Next Level Remotely Using Microsoft Teams
  • From Intern to Knowledge Manager: 5 Ways to Create Your Own Luck
  • Data for Civic Good: How Libraries and Local Governments Are Working Together to Make Community Data More Accessible
  • Best Practices for Collaborating with Colleagues, Industry and Information Seekers: The TRAIL Story

SLA2020 was the association’s first all-virtual conference, and while it lacked the visibility of an onsite convention, it made a positive impression on many attendees. Typical of the feedback was this from a first-time attendee:

“Enjoyed my first SLA conference experience! I was unsure how effective this event would be in a virtual environment. You exceeded my expectations! The use of ZOOM and other platforms offered the in-person connection I needed . . . especially during these trying times. Thank you. #SLA2020”

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