SLA Innovation Challenge

Submission deadline: January 19, 2021

Submit Your Proposal

Proposal Details   Recognition and Benefits   Code of Conduct   Questions and Answers

The Special Libraries Association (SLA) is hosting an Innovation Challenge. Members are encouraged to submit, either individually or in teams, innovations or ideas that could generate revenue and growth for SLA. Teams can be composed of members, non-members, industry partners, and other interested parties and can include as many individuals as needed or want to collaborate on the development of an idea.

SLA is looking for as many ideas as possible, and therefore will not limit the number of ideas an individual or team submits. The Board will take these ideas to build an action plan to move the association forward. Join us and help keep SLA looking ahead and moving forward.


SLA finds itself at a critical moment in its history. The growth and purpose of SLA have been affected by the evolution of the information profession, the ongoing technological revolution, and changes in society and consumption of information and content.

With SLA reliant upon membership dues and the annual conference as the main sources of revenue, the association faces a significant challenge ahead. There have been a variety of task forces, conference and leadership summit sessions, town halls, board meetings, and more related to these challenges. The SLA Board of Directors is calling on SLA members to join in the future-thinking process.

Proposal Details (Required)

Each proposal must include/address the following details:

  • Name of the innovation
  • Aspect(s) of SLA that the innovation or idea addresses:
    • Membership
    • Learning
    • Annual Conference
    • Knowledge (e.g., publications)
    • Partnerships (e.g., sponsorships or like-minded organizations)
    • SLA community development
  • Summary of innovation/opportunity (1,000 words or less)
  • Goals and objectives (3-5 bullet points)
  • Target audience(s) to whom SLA could sell this idea/innovation
  • Reason(s) this idea/innovation would be successful (250 words or less)
  • Would this idea/innovation produce a new revenue stream?
  • 3-year detailed plan overview that includes the following:
    • A consideration of the budget required for development and implementation, plus a breakdown of anticipated volunteer and staff time
    • Revenue projections for the 3-year period
  • Additional resources required to execute the idea/innovation (include a list)
  • SLA diversity/equity/inclusion (DEI) initiatives the idea/innovation enhances and/or incorporates into its goals and objectives
  • Level/type of engagement with the industry partner community
  • Contact information for the innovation lead or submitter of information (name, professional title, organization, e-mail address, phone number, city, state, country) and any additional contributors

Proposal Details (Optional)

Each proposal may also include/address the following details:

  • How the innovation/idea will foster a sense of belonging to retain existing SLA members
  • How the innovation/idea will engage information professionals and specialized librarians around the world
  • Additional value and benefits that can be added to help grow and diversify membership within SLA

Recognition and Benefits
SLA will create a new award called the Innovation Award (details to be announced later). If your proposed idea/innovation is accepted, SLA will—

  • Issue a press release recognizing your innovation and contribution to SLA;
  • Recognize you at the SLA Annual Conference; and
  • Award you a complimentary one-year SLA membership.

Code of Conduct

Innovation Challenge participants must follow these guidelines:

  • If a team is formed, the team must include at least one SLA member. Teams may include individuals who are not SLA members.
  • Ideas presented during the SLA Innovation Challenge are to be discussed in a spirit of cooperation and collaboration.
  • The SLA Code of Conduct applies to all SLA Connect discussions related to the Innovation Challenge.
  • SLA’s Anti-Harassment Policy applies to all Innovation Challenge participants and reviewers.

Questions and Answers

Why should I submit an innovation/idea?
Participating in the Innovation Challenge will—

  • Help future generations of SLA members;
  • Help ensure SLA’s long-term success;
  • Position SLA as a leader within the information and specialized librarian profession; and
  • Maintain a community of common knowledge and thought leadership.

What is the submission deadline?
The submission deadline is January 19, 2021.

How do I submit my proposal?
Click here to submit your proposal.

How will the proposals be reviewed?
Proposals will be reviewed by the SLA Board of Directors, Leadership Advisory Council, and staff. There will be two rounds of review—the first round will be an initial review by these groups, the second will take a deeper dive into the idea/innovation to assess its viability within the SLA community.

Round 1:

  1. Reviewers will be broken into sub-groups to evaluate proposals. Reviewers will be randomly assigned proposals without any identifying information about who submitted the proposals.
  2. Reviewers will be given 10 days to review the proposals. The subgroups will select their top three ideas.
  3. Should a proposal be selected to move forward in the process, the Innovation Lead will be notified if they are moving forward.

Round 2:

  1. Interviews will be scheduled with the Innovation Lead and additional contributors (if applicable) to discuss the proposal and conduct a deeper dive into the idea.

Final selection:

  • If your proposal is selected, you will be notified by SLA as soon as possible so that we may begin discussing next steps to implement your idea.

Note: If an idea is submitted and is later enhanced by someone else, all individuals involved in the idea will receive recognition for the idea.

What criteria will be used to evaluate the proposals? (10 points total)

  • Is the proposal clear and well formulated?
  • What does the proposal require in terms of staff/volunteer time and initial expenses compared to the estimated revenue generated?
  • Is the idea unique and innovative?
  • Does the proposal include DEI considerations and impact?
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